Indie author Michael N Marcus explains why he's not impressed by his own bestseller status, or anyone else's.
If you’re a new author, you probably dream of becoming a bestselling author. I’m a bestselling author and, believe me, it’s no big deal.
I've stopped counting, but at least eight of my books have been on Amazon bestseller lists, a few have been on multiple Amazon bestseller lists, and one on was another bestseller list. I describe myself as a bestselling author because maybe, just maybe, some prospective reader will be impressed and buy a book.
On the other hand, I know enough about the book business to be unimpressed, and my wife and dog are not impressed, either.
- Anyone can call any book a bestseller (or “best-seller”), and the label may help it to achieve additional sales, deserved or not.
- A book about flea removal from pregnant three-legged albino Weimaraners could sell exactly one copy and still be the bestseller – in its field. There is no law that requires an explanation on the cover or a footnote inside the book.
- If your book is in a category with little competition on Amazon, it’s easy for it to become an Amazon bestseller.
- A book with huge advance sales may become an immediate bestseller. Even if 99% of the books are returned to the publisher by booksellers, the bestseller label lives on.
- Bestseller status is more the result of a strong marketing push than great writing.
- Some bestseller labels are more the result of marketing than of statistics, such as “summertime bestseller” or “underground bestseller.”
- The company that distributes one of my ebooks declared it to be a bestseller and allows me to display an impressive emblem.
- Self-publishing companies such as Xlibris and Outskirts publish lists of their customers’ bestsellers.
Lots of writers you’ve probably never heard of are bestselling authors. There are many lists and a vague claim is impossible to verify. A bestseller claim is not like saying a movie won an Oscar or a book won a Pulitzer. There is no bestseller police force.
Also, there’s an almost endless list of bestseller lists. Unless an author, publisher or promoter provides a detail like “103 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List,” it’s hard to document or disprove bestseller status.
The New York Times is, of course, is the biggie. Other important lists are provided by USA Today, Amazon, IndieBound, Publishers Weekly and Barnes & Noble.
There is often disagreement among the bestseller lists, and it may not be obvious how the lists are calculated. For example, online booksellers and “big box” stores may be excluded. Self-publised books may be excluded, too. (Ed: Grrr!) Amazon’s list doesn’t include books sold by Barnes & Noble, and vice versa.
Keep in mind that even if a book is on a legitimate bestseller list, the fact that many were sold does not necessarily mean that it’s a good book, or even that buyers read what they bought.
- It was reported that most copies of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time were bought to display in people's homes to impress visitors, but were unread.
- Used bookstores are filled with ‘used’ books that have obviously not even been opened.
- Reportedly, members of the staff of The New Republic placed coupons redeemable for $5 inside 70 books that were selling well, and no coupons were noticed and sent in for the money.
Amazon’s bestseller list has been manipulated by elaborate online campaigns to maximize purchases during a brief time period to temporarily elevate a book to bestseller status, even NUMBER ONE.
One day, with no manipulation, my book, Stinkers! America's worst self-published books was ranked NUMBER EIGHT on one of Amazon's bestseller lists. The next day, it was up to NUMBER TWO. That's pretty amazing, especially since I was still tinkering with the book and had not made an official announcement that it was available. It's on a very specific list (maybe a very obscure list), but now I can legitimately call the book a bestseller. If you are impressed, please buy the book. It's important, useful and funny.
What’s the easiest way to write a bestseller? Simple: write a book and title it Best Seller. Timothy B Sagges did it, and the title isn’t copyrighted.