Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: bestseller

The #Bestseller Fever…

I’ve had a number of posts here exploring the phenomenon of the bestseller…

#Bestseller Fever

Two that seem like good entrées to the reporting I decided to do today are:

What Is a #Bestseller, Really? And, Should an Author Try to Write One?
Why Trying to Write a Bestseller Is Bad for Your Mental Hygiene

Here are just a few excerpts from those posts:

“…I feel that beginning the process of writing a book with the dream of it becoming a bestseller is going to make the writer, consciously or subconsciously, write in an imitative fashion—trying to write to the folks who like bestsellers—killing any true originality and honest creativity…”

“Bottom-line, unless you’re some hot-property sports or movie or business person with a Traditional Publishing house’s money behind you, you need to write a book that expresses your deepest creativity and let the sales-chips fall where they may…”

A quote from Ursula K. Le Guin:

“The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is.”

Now for a post (sent to me by a very good author friend) from the blog, Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity, called, The Secret to Writing a Best-selling Novel.

I’m almost embarrassed to offer excerpts; but, here goes:

“Computer scientists have developed an algorithm which can predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether a book will be a commercial success…”

“A technique called statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar, was found to be ‘surprisingly effective’ in determining how popular a book would be.”

I must point out that that last excerpt is quite like many “scientific” claims—claims that have not borne the weight of exhaustive examination…

I feel that just as business has infected science, and inflated claims are made which are derived from rigged “experimentation” or even from highly prejudiced computer “studies”, the corporate-mind has infiltrated the book-blogging world and is promising you’ll be famous and make loads of money if you sell you soul to the “experts”…

Last shot for me is to urge you to read, or re-read, what I consider the Most Important post I have here (most important out of a total of over 1,900 of them…):

What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?
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What Does It Really Mean To Be A “Bestselling” Author?

Everything about the Book-World is in dizzying transformation.

What you could be sure of yesterday is a Maybe today and may not exist tomorrow

So, what is a bestselling author?

It depends heavily on which bestselling list the author appears: ABA IndieBound (ABA), The New York Times (NYT), Barnes & Noble (BAN), Publishers Weekly (PBW), The Boston Globe (BOG), USA Today (USA), The Denver Post (DPO), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), The Los Angeles Times (LAT), (WAL),, or

That was just a partial list plus we can learn more from Kailin Gow in her post on FastCompany called, What Being A “Bestselling Author” Really Means.

Like many posts with imposing titles (including this one), Gow’s falls short of full description but does do a good job of comparing the NYT list with Amazon’s.

Concerning her own bestselling status on Amazon, she says:

“…my books, because of the rankings they received at one point on Amazon, were popular enough to be on the bestseller list. For a book to rank #300 on the overall Amazon ranking means that, out of over 1 million books on Amazon, only 299 sold more copies.”

And, Gow says, about the NYT list:

“No one knows exactly how this is compiled, but large publishers know certain things about getting onto the list, and that’s why you find many of the large publishers’ books on there. It is a well-known fact among publishers that the New York Times gets its book sales data from a scattered few bookstores (like the Nielsen’s) and it doesn’t take into account the actual sales of the books (which does in order to rank), but how many books were shipped to these particular sampling of stores in anticipation of sales….

“Does being on’s bestselling list actually mean you are selling more than being on a New York Times list?

“In some cases, yes. It boils down to Actual Sales ( vs. Anticipated Sales from select bookstores (New York Times).”

So, if you’re an author, would you rather be a Bestseller because a few, select, bookstores did well with your book or because more readers chose you from a much larger collection of books?

Also, if you are an author, is it important for you to be a “bestseller”?

Would you be happy selling moderately to a diverse audience?

What are your criteria for sales “success”?
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Bestsellers . . .

That title up there has a definition that rather surprised me. I typed it in and used the handy highlight-and-look-up-dictionary I have to check the spelling ( it’s very late and I worked very hard today :-)

I’d spelled it right but the definition wasn’t just something like: books that sell a lot of copies.

Here’s my dictionary’s entry ~ “A book that has had a large and rapid sale”

So, slightly taken aback by that “rapid” part, I’ll forge ahead and recommend an exercise for Readers, Writers, and Publishers.

Whether you read books, write books, and/or publish books, it might be of some aid if you could familiarize yourself with books that fall into these categories I plucked from Wikipedia:

I’m sitting here trying to grasp the concept of 100 million copies of the same book and being hindered by being just as incapable of comprehending 20 million copies

In case your not the type of person who clicks all the links in a blog post, I’ll list the top three books in each of the three 100 million-catagories:

Best-selling single-volume books ~ More than 100 million copies

A Tale of Two Cities

The Lord of the Rings

The Hobbit

Best-selling book series ~ More than 100 million copies

Harry Potter


Perry Mason

Best-selling regularly updated books ~ More than 100 million copies

Xinhua Zidian / Xinhua Dictionary

Scouting for Boys

The McGuffey Readers

Have any surprises?

Think they got the numbers wrong??

Wish other books had been in the top three???

Before you answer those questions, I’m compelled to put their disclaimer about why certain books were not included. I’ll make it small in case you don’t care about disclaimers:

“Religious books, especially the Bible and the Qur’an, are probably the most-printed books, but it is nearly impossible to find reliable figures about them. Many copies of the Bible and the Qur’an are printed and given away free, instead of being sold. The same goes for some political books, like the works of Mao Zedong or Adolf Hitler. All such books have been excluded from this list for those reasons.”
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