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052 - Why Every Bestseller List is Always a Lie!

bestseller truth Jun 19, 2020

Hi Guys! Hope you’re doing well and you’re hanging in there during these historical times.

As someone that is empathic and has studied a multitude of metaphysical and spiritual practices over the years I have a few habits I have developed. When I wrote my book Finding Your Inner Truth I knew that to master something was to teach it. I assumed as a writer I would also be asked to share what I wrote…perhaps the role of a teacher. I guess you could say that I was (and still am) seeking to master my truth. For me, truth has always been what is true for me and based on my personal experiences.

When I begin any new client project I hold each moment in a sacred space. I understand that, for most of my authors, writing a book is a bucket list item and one that is cause for great celebration. I cry right along with each author as they move through the process of writing and publishing their book. I celebrate their victory right along side of them. I know what it takes to make a book a reality. There are far more than words to every book. Each book is a collaboration of life events, dramas, traumas, victories, and stumbling blocks. Every experience shared is a life lesson learned. There is such a healing that occurs when you are holding that book in your hands!

I often light a candle (I have one burning now) and hold space as I listen to soothing music and peruse the words. I live in my clients head for those several days as I design and layout their book. I allow what comes through and aim for the highest and best with each effort. But, there has always been one thing that has driven me…the disclosure of truth.

Like so many things in todays world, false and harmful agendas that are not serving are combusting right before our eyes. It used to be that I would preach the false claims of the publishing industry and the coaching systems aimed at gaining clients with the fallacy dangling in front of them of becoming a bestseller. Perhaps people wondered what my agenda was. But, given the state of today, I think I may have your ear. So, here goes yet another attempt to persuade you to see the truth behind the concept of a bestseller and to further my goal of teaching you the most important reasons you should really write a book and how a best seller is a lie…

One of the most common subjects talked about with all things book is: ”How do I get my book on a bestseller list?” 

If you're an entrepreneur, you probably won't want to waste your time trying to get on the bestseller list. I can promise you when I’m done with this podcast you will see what a waste of time and money it is to pursue this rather pointless goal.

I am not being negative and saying it’s not possible to achieve this lofty goal, but I can tell you that everything else in your life is going to slide in pursuit of it's achievement.

I would rather encourage you to focus on your business goals for your book. But, let me explain the process and tradeoffs, and I think you will likely discard your bestseller dream and focus more on your business and personal goals as you will find that far more impactful going forward.

If someone is selling you on a book coaching system to become a bestseller they are lying to you! I would immediately run! Of course, they could be selling you on the idea that you pick an obscure genre on Amazon and sell a few copies to family and friends (as few as 10 in some cases) and you might win a spot as best-seller for the week. But, once I explain this in a bit more detail I want you to ask whatever coach or coaching system you are considering to give you the specific details surrounding this claim…I guarantee you one thing—they cannot back it up! 

So, let’s talk about why every bestseller list is always a lie…

No bestseller list measures the best selling books. Let me repeat that, so you can grasp the weight of what it means. No bestseller list measures the actual best selling books.

Every single bestseller list either measures sales in a few places, a curated list, or what books are deemed important, not what’s actually selling!

You know, this is kinda one of those topics that people really just don’t believe until they see it for themselves. So, I ask that for the sake of this podcast you decide to listen to someone that has been there and watched this for a decade and you decide to trust me. I know, who am I…some girl on a podcast that says “trust me”. But, I truly am not exaggerating! 

My whole platform here is about exposing the truth of the publishing industry, so let’s start with a story about the New York Times and their best-seller list. 


Bestseller Lists vs Nielsen BookScan

The New York Times is the most important bestseller list. Their list is only reflective of books that are selling at a certain number of bookstores and online retailers around the country, but not an actual bestseller list. Apparently they admit this publicly because they have been sued about it.

William Blatty wrote a novel called The Exorcist. You can go over to Amazon and read the bio and buy the book. But, here is a tidbit from Amazon:

Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist is now a major television series on FOX. It remains one of the most controversial novels ever written and went on to become a literary phenomenon: It spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, seventeen consecutively at number one. Inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying.

The Exorcist sold 10 million copies and became a famous movie. It sold more than enough copies to be high on the bestseller list for a long time, but initially, it did not appear. The book was considered very controversial at the time but the author took them to court and lost the case when the NYT stated the list is not supposed to accurate, but reflects their judgment—a popularity contest!

Nielsen BookScan is the database that tracks paid sales from most book store sales. If you own a publishing company you can watch this list. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller list varies from the Nielsen report of actual books sold and this is a known fact.

So, are you still eager to get on that list? 



Lets Talk About What It Takes

In order to even have a chance at getting on the New York Times bestseller list, you must do all of these things (and more):

1. Get a Traditional Publishing Deal.

The New York Times won't recognize any book that doesn't come from one of the big New York publishing houses. 

Self-published books with hundreds of thousands in sales have never appeared on this list. Even if your book outsold most other books.


2. Have a plan to get 10,000+ pre-orders. 

Since you are an unknown author, the bar is high…you must have at least 10,000 pre-ordered books (like maybe through a corporate sponsor or an already-established audience) through sales channels that The New York Times sees as valid. So, it has to be 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. You can't just order 10,000 copies from your printer or publisher as this is not counted.

Some coaches might will tell you that you only need to sell 5,000 books to hit a bestseller list. Usually this isn’t enough. You can also buy your way onto the list, but this is basically cheating, and it might cost you more than a few hundred thousand dollars. You can’t screw around building an audience with a podcast or social media promotions. Only a systematic and extremely well-executed plan will work.

3. Get Popular or Friendly With the Media 

The New York Times will consider your book to be worthy if you are popular with the elite New York editors— have you shown up in all the right places?

If you are an entrepreneur or running your own professional business, you can probably already see that this is a bit of a lifestyle shift that may require you to hob-nob with the New York elite, begin campaigning for your book well before you write it, have some back-up cash to buy your way in, or find some other sneaky back door. If you’re busy running a business or trying to make an income in your day job, etc. you’re just not going to find it worth it. And there are some other major trade-offs:

1. There's no guarantee you get a deal. 

  • Need to find an agent to represent you to a traditional publisher (very hard to put together a good book proposal that will appeal to a publisher)
  • You have to get offered a book deal
  • You need a large audience already, because you have to prove you can make sales

2. Your book will take at least a year (or more) to publish. 

3. You are giving away rights to your own your book. 

  • You will not only give away profits of the book, but you are also giving them control of your intellectual property. Once they own the book, they only care about selling copies. 
  • You can no longer do anything with your book that doesn't involve paying them for copies of it. 
  • If you want a book to help you promote you or your business, this will greatly restrict your options.

4. They could make you write a book you don't like or can’t use. 

  • You want to position yourself as an expert in something, but they might not think it appeals to enough people. 
  • They don't care about you or your business; they only care about selling copies of books, so they may make you go in a different direction that sells books. 
  • They might make consistently terrible aesthetic decisions that will ruin your content, look, or feel because publishers only care about selling books.

5. You do all the work to sell it. 

  • Publishers expect you to do all the work of selling the book for them. 
  • They don't have a plan to sell copies or do marketing


A Professional Writer Verses An Entrepreneur

If you’re not a professional writer and simply an entrepreneur writing a book then this is far more work than necessary…wouldn’t you agree?

Entrepreneurs who write books and professional writers just have very different goals they are pursuing. Professional writers write and sell books for a living. Their job is to write books and sell a lot of copies, because that’s how they make income. For them, working with a traditional publishing and shooting for a bestseller can make sense. But, even then, they still have to comply to the publishers needs and succumb to their demands for the sake of profits.

Most entrepreneurs are not professional writers. Generally they don't have the time to sit down and spend a year writing a book. For them, a book is a way to reach another goal…generally to become a known specialist in their subject matter, to create, add to or build their platform, to add credibility, or grow their business. They might use it to get on stage and speak or simply for marketing and visibility. Their end goal is not on selling copies. They need a well-written high quality book for the end goal they wish to achieve.

Both an entrepreneur and a professional writer can use a book as a marketing tool to impact their intended audience. Selling books only matters if book sales are your only revenue stream….for the writer.

For entrepreneurs using a book as marketing tool, their main revenue source is their business and there is not much income or sales impact when focusing on trying to sell books. But, those that need to satisfy an ego striving for a bestseller generally only want to do so to brag and feel important…to buy status. Usually these are the people that write a book and buy their way up the Amazon ratings in some obscure genre, and call themselves bestselling authors. They get the rank in one category and call themselves a bestseller for life.

It’s generally pretty obvious when someone is pretending to have a bestseller…I’ve seen a few authors claiming to have even an International bestseller status and the content and quality of the writing is horrible…there is nothing about the book that says bestseller. So don’t fool yourself or try to fool others.

As an entrepreneur trying to get a book deal with a publisher…you’ll have to spend years trying to get a book deal, sell the rights and royalties to the book to a publisher, spend all this time and money promoting it, just so you can say you are a bestselling author. And whose going to run your business while all this trying to be an author stuff is going on?

OK guys…give this some thought, and I hope I have changed your thinking about becoming a bestselling author. There is far more to come…for now, focus on your why and get aligned with your personal and business goals and let the editor correct your imperfections and don’t let status hold you back.

As always wishing you peace, love and light…

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