There is a wide range of, ’bestseller lists’ available today, including the New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post. Bestseller lists, as the name implies, are supposed to list bestselling books according to the quantity of books sold within a time-frame for a designated category. Different metrics are used by different publishers and shopping portals to list books as bestsellers. Some bestseller lists don’t even list bestsellers. The selection is done primarily via politics within the organization. If your book is not on the bestseller list, it does not mean it is not successful or that it is not popular among readers.


The algorithms and metrics used to list books as bestsellers are often inaccurate. This is because bestseller lists often ignore certain genres or categories of books, and large purchases performed as one transaction are often listed at one sale. For Example: If a library or book club purchases a 600 copies of your book, the bestseller lists will count it as one book.

Some authors will also buy massive quantiles of their books or utilize a ‘publicity company’ (often using unscrupulous means) to help them mass purchase their books with the intent of making it onto a bestsellers' list. With the advent of the Internet, the idea of writing a good book that readers enjoy is not the only way one can get on the top of the bestseller list. The real bestsellers often do not reach the top of lists but entice generations of readers to buy the book and enjoy reading it.

Number of Books

As an indie author or traditionally published author, you may have the belief that it takes thousands upon thousands of book sales to make it onto a bestseller’s list and that someone has that number listed somewhere. The truth is that there is no definite number that gets books sold on the top of the bestseller list. Some authors sell about a few thousand books in the first week and their book tops the NYT bestseller lists. Other authors may sell more than 20,000 copies of their book within the first week and it still won’t appear on a bestseller list. This goes to show that bestseller lists are not real measurements of the success of the book. The number of libraries, book clubs and readers that the book reaches is the real measure of the success of a book.

Shortcut to Fame

Getting on a bestseller list is not a shortcut to fame. It may get some short-term publicity but it is not a ticket to get high dollar speaking fees, a visible media presence, consulting gigs or even long-term steady book sales. Many authors spend money and effort to reach the top of the NYT bestseller list and find that in the end, they are disappointed. These authors aim to reach the top of the bestseller list to earn name and fame in the media. However, the fame of a book is not because it reaches the top of a bestseller list. The name and fame of a book depend on its success with book critics and the way it keeps readers absorbed.

Launched yet Forgotten

Many books don’t sell after they reach the top of bestseller lists, and most books only remain on the best seller’s list for a week or two. Authors obsessed with reaching the top of the bestseller list forget that their book should entice readers to read the book and the story within or the message that the book conveys should have some kind of appeal for readers. Authors often forget that it’s their readers who determine whether or not a book is successful, and bestseller lists are typically scanned by a small percentage of book lovers. In fact, there are some readers who deliberately avoid bestselling lists because they fear the book has been edited to the extreme in order to match the perceived commercial appeal of a certain theme or character or plot archetype.

The truth is that if your book doesn’t make it onto a bestseller’s list, it’s not the end of the world. Look at your book sales, your reviews and the overall copies you’ve sold of your book. You can be a successful author without ever having been mentioned on any official list of bestselling authors.