Thursday, 24 May 2012

#1 Bestseller

On twitter authors throw the term 'bestseller' around like it's candy. Why? It has no set meaning. There are a number of lists, some by big newspapers, that all list sales.

They all have differing methods of measuring sales. Some look only at independent book stores. Some look at all print sales. Some look at Nielsen Bookscan data.

When indies claim to be a bestseller, it's usually on Amazon. While I applaud anyone who hits the top lists, quite often even here the term bestseller is stretched in that:
·        Anyone can hit 'Bestseller' for a very short time frame through flash mobbing (because Amazon focus so strongly on 24 hours worth of sales).

·         Some authors consider #1 in genre or sub genre to be a bestseller... which they are, in that subgenre.

·         #1 isn't global - it's easier to hit #1 within a smaller geographic area.

Which really all leads to a devaluation of the term. I've got a book at #2, in a sub category, in the UK. It's a major market, and I'd be quite happy to earn and keep the #1 spot in legal education, but the title I'm referring to, 'An Introductory Guide to Mooting' is only a primer intro guide.

It's aimed at a very small niche who presumably aren't buying much when they're in the middle of exams/ finishing for summer holidays. Half a dozen sales in one day is all it takes - less than a tenner can buy this type of #1 spot.

So, next time you see '#1 Bestselling author' in a twitter profile, ask them how they define it.


  1. Good point. I've been at #5 and #4 respectively in two sub-categories, but not the original I covet. I think 'best-seller' is just a word authors throw around to preen. A best-seller to me is when an author makes a 100k sales.

  2. That would be a much fairer and more objective way to do things. Sales over time is a more reliable indicator than 'I got 20 sales in one day and I'm now #1 in paranormal romance'. It's open to flash mobbing, and doesn't give any indicator as to quality. A hundred thousand sales on the other hand does.