It 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*)
Let’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.
But 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.