6 Facts About Getting Your Book on the Bestseller List
You can’t game the system, but here are the facts
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Bests-Seller List Secrets
Many authors ask me: How can I get on the best-seller list? Here is my answer:
- Based on the best-seller lists of Publishers Weekly (there are many other notably lists, including Amazon, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today,and Library Journal, for 2014, the best route is to not be self-published nor be with an Indie press or a university press. Seven publishers (two of which recently merged – Harlequin and Harper Collins) dominated the lists. They controlled spots on 87.3% of hardcover bestsellers and 91% of the paperback bestsellers.
- Less than a seventh of one percent of all books published last year made it onto a PW bestseller list. Out of 700,000+ titles released, 1,030 made it onto one of four lists.
- Percentage-wise, you have a better chance of getting a hardcover best-seller than a trade paperback. First, 273 hardcovers were best-sellers vs. 226 for trade paperbacks. Second, more trade paperbacks are published than hardcovers.
- Books turned into movies tend to get more book sales. Gone Girl, The Best of Me, Unbroken and others sold a ton of books.
- To make a list, it helps if it’s not your first book. For instance, of the 273 titles for hard cover fiction that became bestsellers, only five were from debut novelists – 2% of the list.
- It’s getting harder to last on the bestseller lists once you make it. For instance, there was a 3% increase in the number of titles making the bestseller lists. This means, each title, on average, is on the list for less time.
Best-sellers come in all sizes and shapes, on all kinds of subject matter. The key is to hit as many different lists for as long as possible. Regardless of making a list, selling books period is the name of the game. Many book sales are not reflected in best-seller lists because they happened out of the recording range of the industry. For instance, authors who sell books from their site without links to Amazon or BN usually don’t count. When books are sold at an event and they weren’t shipped from a book retailer, they don’t count. If you package your book with either services or items and sell them on your own, the sales aren’t registered.
I conclude with this factoid from Publishers Weekly. It’s a list of the seven publishers that dominated the best-seller charts in 2014 for printed books:
Hardcover Bestseller Share (Based on total number of weeks of all titles on the list)
- Penguin Random House 39.8%
- Hachette Book Group 17.0%
- Simon & Schuster 11.5%
- Harper Collins 10.5%
- Macmillan 8.0%
- Harlequin 0.3%
- Kensington 0.2%
Paperback Bestseller Share
- Penguin Random House 37.8%
- Hachette Book Group 16.1%
- Harlequin 13.7%
- Simon & Schuster 8.3%
- Harper Collins 7.5%
- Kensington 5.0%
- Macmillan 2.6%
Books make it to bestseller lists because of the publisher’s brand recognition by the stores, the author’s name recognition, and orchestrated marketing campaigns that funnel big bucks to manipulate things. But they also make the lists because they are books that touch enough people in a way others were unable to. Best-sellers and best quality aren’t always the same thing, but certainly many best-sellers are entertaining reads or inspirational or highly useful.
How do you become a best-seller? No one really knows – or do they?