I’ve written two published books and trained over 400 authors, so I understand the desire to be considered a bestseller. I’m also one of the rare consultants to help clients create three different types of New York Times bestsellers, including new non-fiction, new fiction, and backlist non-fiction. So, I’ve seen the power a bestseller list can make on book sales and an author’s career. But, here’s the big problem:
- Some authors will do anything to be considered a bestseller.
- Some people will do anything to prey on gullible authors.
The desire to be a bestseller can be so intoxicating that authors will do ridiculous things to claim that title. For instance, the continuing trend is to tell people that you’re an “Amazon Bestseller,” “My book is #1 in this Amazon category,“ or “My book went to #1 on Amazon.”
I blogged about this issue earlier this year. However, the Amazon bestseller problem has gotten worse. There are now unscrupulous scam artists telling naïve authors they can guarantee getting their book to #1 on Amazon. (For legal reasons, I can’t divulge the idiots’ names). Just pay the “fee,” and the scammers will take care of everything. In reality, it’s just con artists preying on the egos of foolish authors.
I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN AMAZON BESTSELLER. Is that clear enough? Anyone who says that their book is an Amazon bestseller is desperately trying to convince you (and themselves) that their book is doing better than it really is.
Authors infatuated with Amazon are easy to identify when they say, “Look at my book’s Amazon page, it shows that my book is #1 in this category. There’s even an orange box that says “Bestseller” on the screen!” Amazon can display whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean a book is a bestseller. There’s no such thing as an Amazon bestseller. Here are five reasons why:
1. Amazon is not a legitimate bestseller list, because they do not track books sold at other retailers across America. At best, Amazon only accounts for 50 – 60% of a book’s sales (e-books marketshare can be higher).
2. Amazon changes their sales rankings every hour for every book. You could be #1 now, #4 the next hour, and #104 by the next day. There is no consistency. Everything is hit or miss, and even Amazon’s own algorithm is inaccurate by their own admission. The Amazon Sales Ranking number is simply a trending tool to use only within Amazon’s ecosystem.
3. Amazon makes up all kinds of absurd categories to display books. Here is a list of actual categories pulled from their website:
• Occupational & Organizational Popular Psychology
• Children’s Pig Books
• Teen & Young Adult Dystopian Fiction
• Christian Women’s Issues
• Quick & Easy Cooking
• Movie Biographies
• Credit Ratings & Repair
4. Just because a book hits #1 on any Amazon category doesn’t mean it sold many copies. You could sell 30 copies in one day and hit #1 on some obscure category. But, selling 30 copies in one day is nothing to brag about.
5. The real bestseller lists track sales over a one-week period across the spectrum of all retailers, including Amazon, B&N, Wal-Mart, CostCo, independent bookstores, etc. A book must sell consistently well for seven days across the nation to hit a true bestseller list, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, etc.
Ignore the scam artists who guarantee they’ll get your book to #1 on Amazon. More importantly, don’t let the allure of the bestseller lists dictate your self-esteem as an author. Write the best book you can, market it on a consistent basis, and move on with life. They say writing is a “labor of love.” Just don’t let the love for your book turn into an unhealthy infatuation with Amazon.
Patricia Robertson says
Thanks, Rob! I needed to hear this. Keep sending your sound, practical advice!
Maya Sullivan says
Thanks Rob for clarifying this. I am sharing this with various author groups. Great information!