When are you a bestselling author? #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

bestseller 1It seems everyone is a bestseller these days. Every time I turn around, yet another author has added a large banner proclaiming herself ‘best seller author!’ on her website. I admit to a minor twinge of jealousy (slight understatement) whenever I see the words ‘bestselling author’. In fact, I may become a stalker at that point and go onto Amazon and check the rankings of all the bestselling author’s books. I’m not going to confirm or deny my stalkerish behavior, but I will say this. Whenever I do just happen to take a glimpse at the rankings of a so-called (OMG! Don’t you love that phrase?) bestselling author’s books, they are almost never actually in the top hundred – often these books don’t even make the top thousand. What’s going on?

Being the obsessive person I am, I decided to research the situation. The first blog I read claimed you can call yourself a bestselling author if you have a book reach the top twenty on Amazon (no matter for how long). Um…WHAT? Almost all of my novels have hit that coveted first page of Amazon rankings at one time or another, but I’m most certainly not a bestselling author. Or am I? (*Avoids looking at her current rankings which may have more zeros than her bank account*)

bestseller 2Let’s get the easy part over first, shall we? New York Times bestseller and USA Today bestseller are easily defined. You are New York Times bestseller, when you are actually on their bestseller list. If you’re anal like me and want an explanation of their methodology, you can find it here. The same definition applies to the USA Today bestseller list. Not tired of explanations yet? You can find their methodology explained here.

bestseller 3But what about the ever-evasive ‘bestselling author’ or (my personal favorite) ‘international bestseller? How are these defined? Can you call yourself a bestselling author when you’ve had a book hit the top twenty of Amazon book sales for an hour (Amazon updates their bestselling lists by the hour)? If you look to KDP community support for an answer, you’re liable to end up scratching your head and/or developing a headache because NO ONE agrees on the answer. Some claim that yes, you are a bestseller if you have a book that stays in Amazon’s top twenty for a day or two. Others claim that you need to be on the list from the New York Times or USA Today. Others argue it doesn’t matter as they’ll never make it that far anyway (these are my new best friends). Naturally, I continued to look. (Can you say hard head?) Quora, another community support website, contains pretty much the same answers as KDP.

After spending more time than I like to admit researching (anything to avoid actually writing, am I right?), I’ve been forced to come to the following conclusion. There is no industry standard definition for ‘bestselling author’. So, go ahead and call yourself a bestseller because your book hit #5 in the Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Cozy > Crafts & Hobbies (true story). I, however, won’t be calling myself a bestseller yet. My law school professors would be so disappointed in me for not jumping on that lack of definition. (*Waves at her professors while mouthing ‘sorry’*)

PS In case you’re interested, you can read about how a book containing a picture of someone’s foot became a ‘bestseller’ here.



21 thoughts on “When are you a bestselling author? #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

  1. amjusticewrites says:

    “I admit to a minor twinge of jealousy (slight understatement) whenever I see the words ‘bestselling author’. In fact, I may become a stalker at that point and go onto Amazon and check the rankings of all the bestselling author’s books.” — I think you were channeling me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A.C. Melody says:

    Awesome, thanks for answering all these nagging questions for us, D! I also found it quite strange how there were so many “Amazon” “International” or just plain “Bestselling Authors” wandering around with relatively unknown names and/or works. But my laziness out-weighs my need to add more items to my research list, and I also never check my own rankings on Amazon so couldn’t tell you where my books are or how long they’ve been there.

    I think I’d have to really be selling books frequently and steadily to call myself a bestseller, or earn it from one of the papers. Dubbing yourself a bestseller prematurely seems a little silly to me, like walking into someone else’s office and dubbing yourself Queen (or King) of PaperClip Land and expecting people to treat you like you deserve the title.

    I get that it’s become a marketing gimmick to help sell books and get authors onto sites where non-best sellers have no access, but that doesn’t make it any more ethical than using click farms or buying five star reviews. It’s false advertisement. Their books are not bestselling material, they just tricked people into buying them.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Back in 2013, my first book remained in the top 10 for its category (medical thriller) for several days after a BookBub promotion, but I never called it a bestseller. Maybe I should have, but it felt weird. There’s really no way for readers to verify that like they can a NY Times or USA Today bestseller, so maybe that was part of my hesitancy. Of course, trying to get a BookBub promo now is nearly impossible!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. D.L Finn, Author says:

    Honestly I’ve never really given it much thought until now. I guess I should be checking but I would like to see a rule in place to make that claim, too:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. N. N. Light's Book Heaven says:

    I’ve been a literary “insider” for more than 27 years and the truth of the matter is that the bestseller list is a crock. The Big 5 publishers pay boatloads of money to get their authors on the bestseller lists and keep them there. Sorry to readers for bursting their bubbles but it’s common info among those in the industry.

    As for bestseller monikers, in my view, it’s just another marketing tool. Do what you feel comfortable doing. I’ve read a lot of bestselling authors who wrote crap and tons of unknown authors who wrote books that made me shout praise from the rooftops.

    As for you, Dena, I love your books and think you are one of the best authors I’ve had the pleasure to read. No joke. You’re a bestseller and award-winning in my eyes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • D.E. Haggerty says:

      Ah… you’re too sweet! I agree with everything you’re saying. I do find it a bit sad, though. Those bestselling authors who write crap (and I’ve read a fair share myself) make me wonder what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been trying to find the answer in a bottle of wine. So far, I haven’t had any success.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Jean M. Cogdell says:

    Dena, thanks for a great post. BS on Amazon bug me too. In addition, there are more blogs, more than there should be, who promise tips on how to get a book on it. Such as using categories, another irritating issue, and lots of keywords. Now I’ve got a headache.

    Liked by 1 person

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