Have you ever noticed how many authors list ‘New York Times Bestselling Author’ in their bio? It’s alot. I started noticing it recently, when coming across people I’d never heard of on Twitter and seeing it in their profile. Of course, my not knowing who they are doesn’t mean much in context – many of them are writing about subjects I’ve no interest in, so I wouldn’t have heard of them, unless they were, say, a New York Times Bestselling Author, then I’d have heard of them, right? You have to sell a million copies, or something, to make that list. Right?
Apparently not. To make the prestigious New York Times Bestseller list you need to sell around nine thousand copies of your book in a week. So in that first week, if you push hard enough and get your book out to as many outlets as possible and spread the word as wide as you can, you only need to sell your book to about 0.003% of the American population to lay claim to the title of ‘New York Times Bestselling Author’. That’s pretty amazing, right? I’d always had this idea in my head that a New York Times Bestselling author had to have sold so many copies, that their book had to be this amazing tome, held aloft by the populous and praised by booksellers and critics alike. Turns out that’s not true. In fact, it’s even less true than that, as a lot of publishers and authors game the system to make the top of the bestseller lists – the New York Times listings take into account bulk orders, and there are services that will help distribute those bulk orders to pre-arranged buyers in order to boost the numbers in any given measurement period. Businessmen, too, will include copies in their service fees, then send them out when the book is published, again inflating their figures.
There’s obviously solid logic behind this – as noted, I’ve always been under the impression that sales required to make the list were much higher, so definitely, I’d have factored ‘New York Times Bestseller’ into my purchase decision – if it’s made that list, it must have something to it. I would think inflating the figures would definitely be of benefit and would increase your natural sales in the long run, but it was a little disappointing to discover that that claim doesn’t hold as much weight as much as I had thought.
But it still means something. If I were a New York Times Bestselling author. I’d claim it if I could, for sure, and it’s an attribution you can list forevermore in every bio and on the front of every book you write. And, of course, there are a great many authors who have made the list purely on the quality of their work alone leading to those sales figures. But it definitely made me think, and I’ll be looking a little deeper for info on books and authors that claim that title in future.