Every author knows the importance of being on bestsellers lists. The exposure is almost unmatched because you’ll appear on the NY Times bestselling list, Publishers Weekly, USA Today and/or the Washington Post’s bestseller list, and many readers pay attention to these lists and buy books from these lists.

Bestsellers Sell a Lot of Books in a Short Period of Time

The basic understanding of bestselling lists is that they are the books that have sold the most copies within a certain timeframe (usually a week). This is both true and untrue. Books that make it onto bestselling lists have typically sold a ton of copies. However, that’s not the only determining criteria for most lists. When it comes to the accuracy of lists, I believe the NY Times is the least accurate, simply because I came across information that stated you were more likely to be on that list if you worked there than if you did not. The most accurate list, if I remember correctly, was Publishers Weekly.


How Many Books Do You Need to Sell in a Given Week?

To make a make a mainstream bestselling list, the number of sales you need depends on who you ask. A good range to keep in mind would be 6,000 to 10,000 copies. If you just want to see yourself in the top 10 of your category in Amazon, just sell five to 10 on your first day. You’ll get to see yourself at the top of your category for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, which is pretty cool.

How Do You Sell 6,000 to 10,000 Copies in a Week?

An extreme marketing campaign is how you sell 6,000 to 10,000 copies in a week, preferably your first week. For an indie author, it means you should start marketing your new book as soon as you think of the title or anywhere from 6 to 12 months prior to your launch date.

1. Do You Have an Email List?

If you don’t have an email list of people that love your books or your website, now is the time to start one. Now, if you’re like me, you hate this idea. You don’t want to spam people with emails they don’t want. You’d rather they read your social media or found your upcoming release on your website and bookmarked the page for updates. I’m right there with you. The truth is that organically created email lists garner the most attention and have the best click-through rates. It’s about 40 percent more effective than other forms of marketing, and the click-through rate is about six times higher than other methods. However, let’s not contribute to inbox spam and remember to take steps to prevent being thrown in someone’s spam box or completely blocked. If you get a huge number of people that mark you as spam, email providers will start sending your email campaigns directly into spam boxes.

Email List Best Practices

  • Don’t add people’s emails from your social media feeds. This is incredibly obnoxious. If I think someone has added my email via a social media site, I block the entire domain (within reason). I’m not going to block the entire gmail domain or yahoo domain, but I will block business domains.

  • Don’t add your cold email contacts to your email list. A cold email is like a cold phone call. You are emailing someone that has no idea who you are in order to offer your services. If you choose to do this, you better be offering something for free, and it better be relevant to the individual company you are sending it to. Remember that cold email are not customers. They aren’t even potential customers, so do NOT add these guys to any email campaign, except your own personal list to let you know you’ve already sent them an email.

  • Don’t buy an email list. Don’t do it. If an email list is for sale, it’s probably the worst emails out there. They may not even be valid emails. If they were valid, useful emails, someone would be using it and it’s be heavily guarded on their computer.

  • Do put a small email signup form on your website.

  • Do allow customers do quickly sign themselves up.

  • Do start building your email list organically right now. It can take a long time to organically build an email list.

  • Do not send out emails daily.

  • Do only send out emails if something new is on your website or if you have important information to share.

The good news is that creating an email list is free. It’s going to take some time to build that list, and you’ll have to test your email template several times in order to make sure it looks good, but it doesn’t have to cost you dollars.


2. Pre-Orders

Amazon let’s you list a book for preorder up to 12 months in advance of its release date. However, in order to put a book up for preorder, you need to have a cover and a draft version of your novel. This means that you will have to create a cover using either GIMP or Photoshop, choose a premade cover or hire someone to design your cover before you ever have the book anywhere near completion. Your draft version can be the first completed draft of your novel, but you do have to remember to update the manuscript once you get it completed, formatted and ready for publication. You don’t want anyone downloading the first draft of your novel.

3. Advertising

Once you have created your preorder, you have a link that you can advertise everywhere. You can advertise the preorder on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Google. This is also where you start spending a lot of money. While you can name your dollar amounts on each of these platforms, the more money you spend, the better your exposure. 

  • Facebook - $5 to $10 a day. Otherwise, you won’t be happy with their numbers. Also, Facebook can be really picky. If they deem the book or post to be too “adult”, they won’t approve it. Sorry erotica writers.

  • Twitter – I did the $99 a month random account promotion. This is called Promote Mode. It was moderately effective, but you can’t “talk” on your account anymore as the algorithm could grab any tweet at any time, including one where you said – I had hamburgers for lunch. The other alternative is to boost an individual post, preferably the one where you are talking about your upcoming release and providing the link. Keep in mind that if you have an “adult” theme to your books or Twitter account, Twitter probably won’t promote it because it might “offend” someone. Twitter allows you to set start and end dates for the campaign and daily and overall campaign limits. You probably want to set this one pretty close to your Facebook limits, like $5 or $10 a day.

  • GoogleGoogle ads allows you to create an ad for anything, which means you can create an ad to point to your upcoming new release. Google also allows you to set up a daily budget and gives you an overall spending expectation. Google will even tell you what to expect for the daily dollar amount you plan to spend. The minimum Google will allow you to set is $1.65 a day (That’s the minimum I got when I tried to set it to $1 a day). I would set this at $2 a day minimum, which is $61 a month. At that minimum, Google told me that I could expect between 79 and 133 clicks per month and 5,890 to 9,918 impressions. At $5 a day, that increases to 14,764 to 24,757 impressions and up to 332 clicks. It’s also the recommended amount for the sample ad I created

  • Amazon Ads – As long as your book isn’t in any erotica category, you can advertise it. While I’ve never tried to advertise a preorder, I’m guessing you can do it because you have an Amazon link to your book. You want to set your daily ad limit to $5 a day. You can set your per click rates however you like, but more money per click equals a better chance of getting placed in the search results. 


How Much Is It?

It’s a lot. At $5 a day for these four ad platforms, you’re looking at spending $600 a month. If you start advertising your prerelease 12 months ahead of its publication date, you’ll spend $7,200 on prepublication advertising. This is in hopes of getting a minimum of 6,000 people to preorder your book. At $1 royalty per book, you’ll lose $1,200. At $2 in royalties per book, you’ll make $4,800, assuming you presale 6,000 books.

Does This Guarantee a Spot on a Bestseller List?

Nope. This doesn’t even guarantee that 6,000 people will preorder your book. It will help get the word out about your upcoming release, and it should garner a few preorders. However, it is expensive. You’d need to have $7,200 in your savings account or a $7,200 limit on an empty credit card in order to do this. This also doesn’t take into consideration any pre-publication services that you might hire, like a cover designer, editor and book formatter, and I didn’t mention taking out cable TV ads, which can range anywhere from $20,000 to more than $100,00 in advertising costs. You could very well end up $20,000 to $30,000 in the hole or more before your book is even released.

The hope is that by starting your advertising and email campaigns early, you’ll give yourself a better shot at selling a lot of books prior to your release date and during the first week of your release, but even doing all of this is no guarantee that you’ll see book sales or make it onto a bestseller’s list.