How Does The New York Times Bestseller List Work
Most people believe that The New York Times bestseller list is based solely on measuring actual book sales. That makes logical sense, right? But, you may be surprised to learn that the opposite is true. In 1983, an The Times claiming that they kept his book off the bestseller list even though he sold enough copies to qualify.
However, the judge sided with lawyers from The Times who countered that “the list was not mathematically objective, but rather editorial content and thus protected under the Constitution as free speech.” Therefore, bestseller lists are legally considered editorial content, rather that factual content. That means the New York Times has the right to exclude or include any book from a bestseller list at their discretion. At the end of the day, it’s their judgement call.
General Rules For The Bestseller List
There are just two major rules that are typically stated for making it onto the NYT bestseller list:
- The book must be traditionally published
- Minimum distributed sales must be over 5,000
There are other factors at play as well, including your category fiction, nonfiction and monthly lists are the three standard templates here.
Jazz By Toni Morrison 1992
There was no slowdown for Toni Morrison after the triumph of Beloved . Her subsequent book, Jazz , takes its cues from just that, riffing on one fateful day in 1926. Joe Trace shoots his lover, Dorcas, an event that would come at the climax of most novels but that Morrison boldly puts at the start of hers. She then revisits the incident and its echoes from multiple perspectives, treating her novels characters like players on a stage who are each gearing up for a big solo. Its a democratic approach to the Jazz Age you wont find the Cotton Club, Langston Hughes or other leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance in these pages. Morrison takes an era steeped in nostalgia and makes it new, writing of lives tightly circumscribed by daily routine You cant get off the track a City lays for you of regular folk like Trace and his wife, Violet, who arrived in New York so full of hope and promise. Their desires, frustrations and obsessions mirror those of the narrator, who bobs and weaves around the story, passing judgment on Joes crime of passion, the tragedy of Dorcass curtailed life, the rage that grips Violet and the unlikely path to reconciliation in store for husband and wife. Is this voice, so hungry to discover the forces that bond and split people apart, Morrison herself or some disembodied spirit of the metropolis responding to the want and hurt filling its streets? Whoever it is, it sets the novels pace, and Harlems music swells when it speaks. M.M.
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The Cellist By Daniel Silva
The Cellist, by Daniel Silva, is a contemporary spy novel that captures the present-day global atmosphere of espionage in the Middle East. It is the first book of a new series after the main character Gabriel Allon. The book deals with terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and renewed hatred between Israel and its enemies. The Cellist By Daniel Silva is a thriller.
In the book, Gabriel Allon is an art restorer and a spy for the Israeli government. He investigates a terrorist threat, which leads to uncovering an international conspiracy. The plot is engaging as the characters possess heightened aptitude and are experts in their respective fields. The Cellist is the latest best-selling book by New York Times best-selling author Daniel Silva. Its a spy thriller that takes readers into the world of Israeli agents and the machinations of Syrian intelligence officials and their terrorist allies in Lebanon.
Is The New York Times Best
All of the major best-seller lists have blind spots that serve certain genres poorly, especially genres that dont flourish in the traditional trade book market: gift shop books and toy store books. In that sense, all the major best-seller lists are biased, including the New York Timess.
However, the numbers do not back up Regnerys claim that the New York Times has constructed its best-seller list to penalize conservative books. According to data provided by the New York Times, of the 137 books that have hit No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction list since 2008, 16 have come from Regnery, or about 11 percent of the list. For a publisher that doesnt belong to one of the Big Five publishing houses that dominate the industry, thats a huge number of best-sellers. And conservative authors who dont publish at Regnery, like Bill OReilly, Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, also frequently appear on the list.
And as Callum Borchers and Kevin Uhrmacher point out at the Washington Post, the Timess list is actually sometimeskinder to Regnery than the Publishers Weekly list is. DSouzas 2016 book Hillarys America made it to No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction list but peaked at No. 2 for Publishers Weekly.
All best-seller lists are compromises and guesses and interpretations of fuzzy data, including the New York Times best-seller list. Theyre just very important, very prestigious, hotly debated compromises.
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How To Get On The New York Times Bestseller List
Regardless of which list you want to make, to land on any bestseller list, generally you must sell at least 5,000 books in one week. This is the minimum sales goal. You may need to sell 10,000 copies in one week. Depending on the list, the different requirements can get tricky.
If you want to be a bestselling author on the NY Times list, you must sell between 5,000-10,000 copies of your book in one week, but the sales cannot all come from one entity.
Your book sales must be distributed. For instance, if you have 10,000 followers on Twitter and every single follower buys a copy of your book, this does not count as diverse sales. All the sales came from one entity.
Similarly, if you sell 5,000 copies through one marketplace, this doesnt count either. Selling 7,000 copies through Target for instance, does not count as diverse sales.
The number of your sales copies must be distributed over a range of entities. Diverse sales could consist of selling X amount of copies through social media, your website, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.
That said, sales data is collected and sent in via all stores, big and small, from the last Sunday to Saturday period. This data is then taken and considered against the rules for landing on the NY Times lists.
Someone By Alice Mcdermott 2013
For a relatively quick read, Someone boasts a remarkably high body count. Its narrator, Marie, comes of age between the World Wars, then spends her 20s working as a hostess at the local funeral parlor. There, she acts as a consoling angel, bearing witness to the dead and those who mourn them, many of whom she knows from the Irish enclave in Brooklyn where she lives with her brother and their widowed mother. The job and the eras harsh realities acquaint her intimately with the countless, sometimes freakish ways a life can end. But it also tunes Maries narrative in to the small, sweet ways it can be lived, and the beauty of interdependence sometimes created simply by proximity. Following her elliptically through marriage, motherhood and old age, the book evinces little good old days nostalgia, though it does serve as a quiet meditation on the value of community and mutual care, which often takes the form of nothing more or less than sustained attention. Someone is precisely this, a fictional record of noticing, told in the mold of the matriarchs from Maries youth who gathered after funerals to discuss the deceased. There was nothing heavy or morbid about these conversations, Alice McDermott writes, but rather an eager, industrious, even entertaining, pleasantness in all of it. R.C.
Cunningham: I love Alice McDermott, and I love this book. I would certainly vote for it.
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Speedboat By Renata Adler 1976
There doesnt seem to be a spirit of the times, says Jen Fain, the books narrator, about the 1970s. Indeed, a deep respect for incoherence animates Speedboat , which eschews a conventional plot in favor of nonchronological and episodic storytelling. Jens job as a reporter for The Standard Evening Sun,a fictional New York tabloid, lends itself to this approach, with the character mingling observations from her own life with those of friends and strangers. Some are funny. Some, ruthlessly honest. Others are provocatively aphoristic. Many are no longer than a page. Taken together, these perspective-shifting passages recreate the cacophony not just of New York City but of modern life more generally, by the ever-growing glut of information and secondhand experience the average person must metabolize. Renata Adlers fragmented narrative demonstrates that a sustained attempt to do so democratically can be both pleasurable and perilous. The point changes and goes out, Jen says. You cannot be forever watching for the point, or you lose the simplest thing: being a major character in your own life. R.C.
Harris: I kept wanting there to be a Joan Didionesque New York book. It does seem like one of these choices should be fragmentary and jagged and alienated and nervous in the way that Speedboat is. It just feels like a great flavor of New York book that we dont have represented anywhere else.
Cunningham: I made a couple of nominations I will not be defending.
Why Is The New York Times Best Seller List Important
What Is The New York Times Best Seller List? The New York Times Best Seller list is published weekly in The New York Times Book Review. It has been published in the paper since October 12, 1931. In addition to paperback and hardcover books, the list now includes e-books and other formats. The Best Seller list is widely considered one of the most critical lists for authors and publishers. It is one of the few reliable measures of book sales in the United States, and it can have a significant impact on an authors career.
For example, appearing on the Best Seller list can help an author sell more books, get better book deals, and attract more media attention. Additionally, publishers often use the Best Seller list as a marketing tool. For example, a publisher might print A New York Times Best Seller on the cover of a book that has sold well or received good reviews. In short, the Best Seller list is an essential barometer of the state of the book industry and a critical factor in an authors success.
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Not A Happy Family By Shari Lapena
Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena is a crime fiction novel. The New York Times bestseller by author Shari Lapena introduced readers to her brilliant and fearless character, Angela Rossi. The novel is about the bond between a mother and daughter. How complicated it can be and how people who fall into this category cannot seem to help themselves.
The bond between human and child is embedded within the brain is a protective measure, but to what end? The book Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena will help you find the answers to these questions and many others. This book is about a dysfunctional Jewish family with secrets and a hidden past.
The main characters are the children of the family Benjamin, Sarah, Daniel, and their parents Simon and Charlotte. All of them have plans in their closet that seem to be coming back to haunt them. The mother suspected FBI involvement while the father was trying to find out who had killed his parents in South Africa forty years ago.
Native Speaker By Chang
Henry Park, the narrator of Chang-rae Lees first novel, is, in no order: the only son of Korean immigrants, an estranged husband, the father of a dead boy and a seasoned spy. What relationship these elements of his life bear to one another becomes an object of introspection when he is assigned to surveil John Kwang, a city councilman from Queens with mayoral ambitions. Kwang appeals to many of the boroughs working-class immigrants and to Henry, who sees in him an outlying version of himself and a point of comparison for his late father. Unspooling his fascination with the politician produces a hypnotically discursive exploration of assimilations toll and its characterological tendencies namely, a knack for compartmentalization and code switching. These qualities, of course, also make for an excellent spy. Though the books ending suggests they also provide little protection from hate. Rose Courteau
Michael Cunningham: I agree that Chang-rae Lee should be more famous.
Kitamura: But he is very famous, right?
Guadagnino: That leads me to my next question, and Id be especially curious to hear what the fiction writers in the group think about this: Does New York particularly lend itself to fiction?
Chotiner-Gardner: Sure, and how much you want to look outside yourself, right? How much you notice and put yourself into other peoples experiences, which is why, to some extent, I think we all come to books.
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Why Do You Want A Bestselling Book
All this being said, it does make a lot of sense for professional writers to focus on bestseller lists. It is a status marker for the writing and publishing industry, and it does help them get better deals from publishers in the future. This is all true.
The smart professional writers look at bestseller lists as a necessary evil in their industry. Get a smart long-term plan to hit the lists, work the steps, and then once they been on a few times, they ignore them. They focus instead on selling books directly to fans, which often makes them more money.
For entrepreneurs whose main revenue source is their business, and they use books as marketing tools, I can tell you this hitting a bestseller list creates very few tangible results for your book. It doesnt get your book much more attention. It doesnt help sales much. It doesnt get in front of many more clients or help your marketing.
Im not saying it has zero effect. It can have some. Almost all of the impact of hitting a bestseller list is personal and social impact. There is not much business or sales impact, and when you measure the low impact against the high trade-offs, its a bad decision. This is why almost all of our authors dont end up pursuing it.
Where The Data Comes From
Appearing for the first time in October 1931, the list gave a humble rundown of the five top-selling fiction books and four non-fiction books in New York City. By 1942, the Times ranked sales in 22 of the countrys largest cities, gathering information from regional bookstores, department stores, and wholesalers. Exactly which retailers are not disclosed in order to prevent publishing companies from artificially inflating numbers. Additionally, a sale of more than one copy to a single buyer is counted as a single copy sold. By the 1950s, the list was on its way to being the marketing behemoth it is today, curating a list of the countrys most popular books.
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Rosemarys Baby By Ira Levin 1967
Those who have seen Roman Polanskis 1968 film adaptation of Rosemarys Baby will be familiar with the books plot: A newly married couple, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, move into the Bramford, a storied Manhattan apartment building with a dark past. Soon after, Guy, a struggling actor, lands a plum role on Broadway, while Rosemary, who has become pregnant, begins to suspect their good fortune is the result of their nosy neighbors satanic foul play. Ira Levins descriptions of the Woodhouses new home are as clear as a set designers, and he deploys the exhausting, occasionally exhilarating ordeal that is New York apartment hunting to quickly establish the couples dynamic: Where Guy is smooth-talking, Rosemary is both dreamy and quietly determined a combination of traits that make her more than a mere damsel in distress. Subtracting the storys occultism, what remains is an elegantly simple arc of pregnancy and postpartum distress as a woman realizes that her husband is vain and duplicitous and her doctor indifferent to her complaints, so that finally she stopped reacting, stopped mentioning pain stopped referring to pain even in her thoughts. R.C.
Kitamura: I thought of Rosemarys Baby, as well. It captures something real about the experience of living in the city.
Harris: I was looking for something scary and I was looking for something about real estate, which is basically the same thing.
Have A Realistic Plan To Get 10k+ Pre
This cannot be a hope or a wish. If you dont have at least 10k pre-ordered booksthrough sales channels that The New York Times sees as valid and counts in their listyou probably wont hit the list.
That means books ordered or bought at a bookstore that reports its sales to the New York Times, or through Amazon or iBooks, or some of the other major channels that the New York Times counts. You cant just order 10k copies from your publisher. They wont count that.
Even if you get a corporation to sponsor you and actually buy 10k copies, you have to route those sales through a channel that The New York Times countsor they ignore them for the purposes of the list .
And even better, they often wont count any bulk sales, which means those sales have to be done individually.
Many experts will tell you that you only need to sell 5k books to hit the bestseller list. Thats not wrong, but it doesnt work many times. In my experience helping dozens of authors work through this process, if you are an unknown author, the bar is much higher than 5k. The 5k number is applicable to known authors and books that have already been on the list, but is very dangerous for first time or non-established authors.
How do you get 10k pre-orders? There are two basic ways to do this: