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127 - Best Seller Lies!

best seller bestseller lies Jul 22, 2022

Hey Guys! Nicole Gabriel here! I’m the host of the Let’s Get Your Book Published podcast. I’m also the author multiple books, a Book Designer, and a Publishing Coach as well as an intuitive Business Coach.

I’ve been in the book business for awhile now and I’ve helped many clients get their book published over the years. On this podcast I share personal stories, client stories, and the truths about the publishing industry….


Today’s Topic: Best Seller Lies - What Makes a Book a Bestseller?

Oh boy there is confusion about what really is a best seller these days! Ever since books started being sold on Amazon it seems there has been a lot of confusion. I got copied on an email conversation with a coach and an author the other day and the coach likes to use the term “book purist” to make his clients humbled about the way a book should be seen in certain communities. But, the thinking is a bit out-dated and skewed these days. Let me explain.

It used to be that there were only best sellers because of publishing deals but because publishers aren’t filling the needs of the numerous authors writing… authors are taking it upon themselves more and more to forge ahead writing and self publishing on their own and some have even gone up against the publishing houses with sales on social media, Amazon, or their personal website.

The whole email conversation I was privy to began when the new author realized the idea of a best-seller was a game and decided to place the words “best-seller” on his new website before he even received his new book from the printer. So, yeah, this is a bit of a stretch even for the most enthusiastic new author. But, he knows the game… sell a few books in an obscure category on Amazon and find your way to a best-seller.

This particular coach was suggesting he remove this wording from his website as he began referring to old standards for what defines a best-seller…and these standards were well before the days of Amazon. Perhaps you’re familiar with Dan Poynter’s book Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book? This book was written back in 2007 but for some reason some out-of-date book coaches still refer to this as the gospel on what makes a best seller. Personally, I disagree! So much has changed since 2007! I mean this was 15 years ago and that’s ancient thinking in a fast-paced digital world!

It used to be that an author could go to a book fair and find a publishing house to sign them for a book deal. This likely still happens in some circles but what interests a publisher to take on an author is a bit different than it used to be. In fact, I had someone say to me recently that conservative authors probably don’t get picked up by the big publishing houses anymore. I would have to agree that this is very true. This might be because they can’t be as easily persuaded or don’t have topics that would grow a solid platform…they tend to be a bit less confrontational and are not always known as the change-makers.

So, of course you might be asking: what makes a best-seller today if the 2007 concepts don’t fit the bill? Today, a best-seller is usually determined either by 1) Making the New York Times Bestseller list, 2) Having a high Amazon sales rank, or 3) Selling a large number of copies.

New York Times
The New York Times list is generally the place a conservative author won’t likely show up. The reason being is that this is the world of capitalists, income generation, a place for big business, and for change-makers. I also believe there is a darker side of this industry that I have hit on in a few earlier podcasts. If the author doesn’t agree to sell their soul along side of building out a platform that indulges it’s audience with meet-and-greets, signing up for additional future books to be written, or other high-profile engagements - the publishing houses won’t take a risk to sign them. There is an agenda for a particular narrative and if an author fits into that narrative (with a huge desire for success) they may catch the ear of a large publishing house and find their way to a best-seller list. If the author has a massive desire for fortune and fame or they can be leveraged in some way to fill this agenda they will be highlighted and promoted to hook in readers and earn the publishing house big profits. Honestly, most authors get used and become slaves to this environment. Their profits are minimal in comparison to what the publishing house earns. These New York Times books are designed to be sold in certain environments for the highest returns. The numbers that make up these lists do not come from internet sales, sales in department stores, or local gift shops. In other words, you can’t get on the list even if you sold more books than John Grisham.

It’s nearly impossible to track all books sold everywhere in the world. In fact, a book that never makes the New York Times list may outsell many that do. And, did you know that publishers withhold sales information and numbers as privileged information and then may decided to simply print “over a million copies sold” on a book and claim it to be so.

Here’s the thing… a book generally will get noticed when a large number of books sell in a short period of time. It’s not going to be as noticed if it sells many over a period of time. If a book sells 10,000 in a week it will get noticed!

There is another old stat from 2007 (what is it about 2007 anyway?) that a book must sell over 500 copies in a day to get in the top 10 ranking on Amazon. Authors that go into sales at the launch of their book need to understand that it’s fast moving books all at once that get them attention. So, yep, you guessed it. How you launch is important if becoming a best seller is your agenda!

Ok lets talk about Amazon. Back to Dan Poynter… he said you have to sell 35,000 books to claim best-seller. But, this is not the case on Amazon! With Amazon you have unlimited numbers of ways you can hit best-seller. Most authors do this by selecting random or obscure categories then let everyone they know know where to buy it and when numbers go up the chance of getting the best-seller flag is more likely. Lots of author make this more desirable with low cost eBooks sold at launch. It’s far easier to convince family, friends, and co-workers to spend $2.99 than it is $24.95.

Only about 2% of all authors even sell more than 500 books. Over time you may sell more than some well-known books but producing a high-quality book is going to be a better investment in the long haul.

A high-quality book means not doing Amazon’s print-on-demand. It means hard cover, professional printer, professional Designer, and 250 pages plus. You want to come out of the gate like you mean business. You want to wow people with your level of success and professional appearance. Image is everything and yes, a book is judged by its cover! You need to come out of the gates running. When you really understand that results are based on what you produce and sell quickly then you need to have a game plan. It’s always a good idea to get your book in hand and off to the distributor well before you even let people know you’ve written it. This is why I don’t agree with doing pre-sales. I find it doesn’t put an author in a very professional light in many ways. It doesn’t get you out there quick and ready to go because you can’t fulfill orders. It also makes you look needy, showy, and quite frankly poor because it makes it appear you need additional income to finish your project.

So, when’s the best timing to get on Amazon? You only set up sales on Amazon when you can fulfill orders. And, you want those fulfilled globally with proper distribution. So, make sure that the distributor knows when sales are to start and your timing is everything. You also want to have your eBook ready when you launch. You want to decide however where you are pushing people. One format that sells 300 copies is better than 150 each. So, make up your mind if you are launching with your eBook or your printed book. Personally, it makes more sense to launch with your eBook because there can always be delays in the printing or issues with the distributors timing. If you are doing a day event or launch then you want to be sure timing is known by all parties because it really is everything. Choose your format and run with that format for a period of time before pushing people to your other format. You should have all options you intend to produce available at launch however. Some authors launch with one format like an eBook, then introduce the hard cover, then the audio book. But, if you have a large stage presence and personal audience then you might do an actual in person event and want something to hand out like a high-quality printed hard cover book. Its not that exciting to do an in person event and have nothing to sign or hand out. So, use Amazon for pushing your eBook and move up in the rankings quickly… and affordably for your supporters.

Selling A Large Number of Copies
So, now we are talking about #3 - selling large numbers of copies. Isn’t this every authors goal? Most, but not all. Sure, we wouldn’t write a book if we didn’t also hope it would get read, but hard cover book sales aren’t everything if you have a solid platform. If you are writing a novel it’s always going to be about book sales. But, in a business environment it’s a bit different. Generally a live event is where you will sell the most copies. But, you might want to set up an event with the hook not being about a book launch, but rather an event to provide value to your attendee’s lfe. Then let them know this is also going to be a big event because this is where you are also launching your book. There are all kinds of games that can be played to increase book sales. In fact, you might even buy your audience. If you were thinking about serving food or having entertainment, perhaps instead you give each member in your audience $20 cash and tell them you’d really like their support in buying your book, but they are welcome to leave with their $20. Most will re-invest if you give them value. You might also let them know there will be a drawing for a prize for each book purchased so they are even more tempted to give you back that $20 bill. And the prize? You don’t even have to buy that prize yourself if you can work out a deal with another local business. You might find the perfect fit with many local businesses in your area and ask them to come speak and donate prizes and give-aways. So, you make other locals happy and they draw in a bigger audience.

There are all kinds of tricky and fun ways to increase sales with events. Some have even pulled this off with online launches, but in person events will always allow you to really get to know attendees and make real relationships. And if you don’t sell top numbers of books, well… you’ll actually have a win-win because you’ve just enhanced your business and it will benefit you in the long run either way. In fact, what you do outside of the book is really where real income happens. A book can only be sold for its value, but your business can be sold over and over and over for a much higher ticket price with more repetitive business.

OK, if you’ve listened to me enough I know some of this is repetitive, but I repeat all day long in my business day with new authors and not everyone hears me when I say it’s not generally about book sales. Got it?

Alright guys. I’m back to my garden! I’ve got tomatoes and cucumbers coming out of my ears! I’m so happy the pollinators have all finally found their way to my garden! Oh, and you know what I did today? I bought some butterfly larvae and I’m going to raise a few before summer comes to an end. It’s my dream to have a butterfly house one day. You have to start somewhere. If you have something on your mind that you want to do but you haven’t done it yet, what are you waiting for? Go for it! Life is short!

On that note, and as always… wishing you peace, love, and light!

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