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059 - What Makes A Best Seller?

best seller Jul 30, 2020

Hi Guys! Nicole Gabriel here!

I wanted to talk about a best seller, but I want to remind you that I don’t believe in best sellers as a key reason for writing your book. But, what I do look at is the business principles behind the concepts. These concepts should be looked at by every self-published author in order to grow a stronger platform.

There are a few rules for every bestseller list and how to get your book on them. And please note that I’ve done a few podcasts where we talk about the idea that most self-published authors will never become a best-seller. So, keep in mind that it’s highly unlikely this will occur for you.

There are two main principles that make up most best-seller lists. They are determined by the number of sales and the reporting of those sales.

Before I get into the major bestseller lists and their particular rules, there are two principles that apply to all of them—number of books sold and the reporting for those books sold. Let’s talk about these:

  1. Number of book sales within a specific period.

Selling 5,000 books in a year is a pretty solid performance, but unfortunately it’s not not going to get you on any of the big bestseller lists. But, concentrate those sales in a week and now you’re looking at possibly hitting many of those lists! It's not how many books you sell, it's how many you sell in a given time. The more sales you pack into a shorter period of time the better.

This is why setting a release date and concentrating your marketing around it is so important…if selling books is your business. You can use the book as a mechanism to create sales of books…or, if selling books isn’t your thing, then use it as an opportunity to sell your brand, image, product, and services.

2. Reporting sales is key.

There is no list that actually measures all book sales from all outlets. In the purest sense, there is no such thing as a "real" bestseller list. Each list has their own method of counting sales, and each list only counts a fraction of places that books are sold. Amazon only counts books sold on Amazon. The New York Times only counts the physical bookstores that it tracks (and a few online sellers).

When you know the way that lists counts sales, then you can focus on creating sales in those ways only.

The Prerequisites for a Best Seller.

  1. Get a traditional publishing deal. You can’t get here without finding a traditional publisher. So, if this is important to you, you’ll have to find one first. If it’s not important to you, but the concepts that work for the big guys are, then I’ll share a few more thoughts…
  2. Have a plan to generate pre-orders. Creating a large platform is your best opportunity here. You have to have an audience you are generating interest with before you can sell anything. You have to build trust and awareness first. The only other way here is to spend a ton of money to buy your way onto the list.
  3. Design your campaign around the rules of the bestseller list. If you want a shot at making the list, you must understand how bestseller lists work, so you don’t accidentally do something that interferes with the possibility of hitting the list. Know the rules to bestseller lists, because breaking them can keep your book off the list, even if it deserves to be there.


New York Times Rules

  • If you make the New York Times list, you put "New York Times bestseller" on the top of your books. Every other list generally gets a "National bestseller" headline.  It take some 10,000 books sold in a short period of time to get on this list.
  • Weekly bestsellers are calculated from Monday to Monday. Rankings reflect sales reported by vendors. Many lists are estimated sales. Numbers are gathered from bookstores and retail outlets that are deemed important and only those sales are counted.
  • The sales venues for print books include independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; supermarkets, university, gift and discount department stores; and newsstands.
  • Ebook rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of ebooks. Titles are included regardless of whether they are published in both print and electronic formats or just one format. ebook sales from only one source won’t be counted. (This is because it is believed Amazon eBooks aren’t real books). ebooks that have no print edition are also discounted.
  • Calculations focus on individual sales, not bulk sales. They do this to prevent people from buying their way onto the list. If you sell 1,000 copies to a company as part of a speaking engagement deal, this is a great way to move copies and make money, but it probably won’t be counted.

The Wall Street Journal Rules

  • It usually takes about 3,000 - 5,000 sales to hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. You can absolutely get books that aren't from traditional publishers on this list.
  • There's not much trick here. Just get the sales, and you can get on this list. The important thing is making sure all of the sales come from different people and are during the opening week. Bulk sales are not counted.
  • "Nielsen BookScan gathers sales data from more than 16,000 locations across the U.S. (this represents about 85 percent of the nation's book sales). Print book data providers include all major booksellers and web retailers, and food stores.
  • Ebook sales are counted from all major ebook retailers. Free ebooks and those sold for less than 99 cents are excluded. The fiction and nonfiction lists in all formats include both adult and juvenile titles; the business list includes only adult titles. The combined lists track sales by title across all print and e-book formats; audio books are excluded. Tracking is pretty fair and reasonable—opposite of the New York Times list.

The USA Today Rules.

  • This list is no longer pulled straight from Nielsen Bookscan. Each week, USA Today collects sales data from booksellers (Monday through Sunday) representing a variety of outlets: bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers and online retailers.
  • It reflects combined sales of titles in print and electronic format.

The Amazon Rules

  • Amazon ranks the sales of their books hourly based on sales only. It’s not really a list, but simply showcases what it popular in that hour. No one really knows what Amazon's algorithm is.
  • If you want to rank on Amazon, focus all your marketing efforts on one day — your release date, for instance. On an average launch day, it might take about 500 sales to make the Amazon Top 100. It usually takes about 2,000 sales in a day to hit the Amazon Top 10. But, to get to no. 1 in a subcategory, it takes very few sales. Usually 10, depending on the category.
  • Because of past offenders, you won’t get on their list without legitimate sales. Buying 1,000 books yourself won't work. Amazon is now watching this and will punish you.

Buying your way onto a list.

Services exist that will guarantee that you get on The New York Times bestseller list. They are very expensive, and for the most part, if you read the fine print, their results are not actually guaranteed, despite what they claim in their ads. And you could pay as much as $200,000 for these services.

It’s likely that a large number of books that hit the bestseller lists are bought.

In Conclusion

So, given all this information, what can we learn? We learn mostly that there are many games here and a best seller is a one-time accolade serving mostly the ego. When you write a book with leveragable content you write a book with content you can use for a lifetime. If you really want to make a go of this list, you probably shouldn’t self publish. But, you might learn the entire process with a self-published book then take the next to an agent or publisher. To get anyone’s attention we much sell a massive amount of books within a week (3-10K). It’s short term big dollar sales that count. But, bulk sales won’t cut it.

You know, I had heard one person I know tell me they became an international best seller by selling a bunch of books to a network marketing company based overseas for an event they were hired to speak at. The fact is that this would not have resulted in a best seller tag for their book as bulk sales are not counted. These companies tracking book sales know the games played for rankings.

The great thing about self-publishing a book and selling bulk books at an event would mean an instant bonus in your pocket, but not count for best-seller status. Many high-level executives and business owners I have worked with over the years simply don’t care about the tracking or numbers. They care about the status, the message, the branding, and the training they can give to their team. And, of course, a book surely satisfies the ego.

OK guys, hope I gave you something to noodle on.

I’ve been taking an incredible number of books to print these days. I want you to know that despite this virus, people are still writing and producing amazing content as game-changers and business leaders. Things are still moving in a positive direction.

Be well! Until next time!

Wishing you peace, love, and light!

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