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View Full Version : Who can use the title "Best-selling Author"?



a2002
01-15-2010, 03:56 AM
A lot of people out there call themselves best-selling authors. Is there an industry standard for how one acquire such a title.

I helped produce and market a book that became #1 for a week for a specific Amazon subcategory. Can the authors of that book call themselves best-selling authors in press releases and interviews?

CACTUSWENDY
01-15-2010, 04:48 AM
Hum....interesting question.

Shadow_Ferret
01-15-2010, 04:53 AM
I'm sure there is an industry definition for Best Selling Author. I don't know what it is, but I'm betting being #1 for one week in one specialized category on Amazon isn't it.

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2010, 05:31 AM
Technically, you can call yourself a bestselling author if you appear on any bestseller list, however tiny and however meaningless.

But the standard is really the NYT list, with the USA Today list probably coming in second. But when most people say "bestseller," they mean the NYT list, which has, if I remember correctly, an average of 170 slots per year, per category.

a2002
01-15-2010, 06:11 AM
Thank you so much for your insights. You guys make a lot of sense. :)

BrooklynLee
01-15-2010, 06:20 AM
But there's nothing stopping you from saying the book was "a top seller on Amazon.com" or "a top seller in its category on Amazon.com." For some buyers, that may be more significant than some of the best seller lists (and in certain categories -- possibly including yours -- it really has a lot more meaning, because certain kinds of books never make the best seller list but the fact that within the subset of people buying them they are the top choice is actually important)

Irysangel
01-15-2010, 06:49 PM
I believe it depends on your publisher, too. Some publishers only allow "NYT Bestseller" on a book if you hit the top 15 (or is it 20? can't recall). The extended list is considered a "National Bestseller". Ditto for Waldenbooks and Borders lists and such - National Bestseller.

Stacia Kane
01-15-2010, 07:12 PM
Yeah, like James Ritchie said, you can call yourself a bestseller. Whether or not it's advisable to, or whether people will think you're being pretentious or naive or whatever, is another question entirely. :)

Gillhoughly
01-15-2010, 09:50 PM
I've seen a ton of books/websites with "bestseller" or "bestselling author of __" on it.

But it ONLY counts with The Powers That Be (your agent, other publishers, and Publisher's Weekly) when it's a "USA Today Bestseller" or a "NYTimes Bestseller".

Both of which happened with one of my best friends. Her sales numbers were that good, now her publisher can boast about it on her new covers. Most cool!

A couple of my titles reached the high middle numbers for a week on the NYT list, but my agent and publishers haven't yet put that declaration on the covers. Apparently there is a tipping point that has to do with sales, ranking, and duration time on the lists.

When a vanity, e-book, or self-pub book has that on the covers I dismiss it outright as promotional hyperbole by a too optimistic or inexperienced author. In those situations, selling a hundred copies makes one a "bestseller" but not in the eyes of the industry.

I have a couple of books that are "top sellers" on Amazon. They were in the #1 spot on their release days, and one has remained in the top ten for its category for months now. I've never bothered mentioning that on my website or blog, because I don't think it's all that impressive. If/when I DO hit the NYT list, THAT will be an accomplishment worth talking about.



One of those promotion-minded writers tried to get a free air ticket to a convention in another state, sending the con committee a fat press release about her amazing literary accomplishments. (Apparently overlooking the fact that Google can be inconvenient to such goals.)

When they saw that her books were from PublishAmerica and Lulu, had zero sales on Amazon (despite those nifty 5-star reviews!), and zero sales to any commercial publisher, the committee said thanks, but no thanks, then brought in a pro writer (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=jim+butcher&x=0&y=0).

Gory (but amusing) details (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51707&).

I looked her up on Amazon again. She's branched away from PublishAmerica (her 89-page epic is now only 14.95!!) and writes exclusively for Lulu and whatever she can convert to Amazon's Kindle format. No word on sales to commercial houses, though.

I give her credit for getting away from the PA machine, but she's got more nerve than a bum tooth for the wildly exaggerated promotional declarations.

Sadly, she is not an isolated case.

.

Lady Ice
01-15-2010, 10:07 PM
I think it's up to the person marketing the book whether they call it a best-seller. And I think it would have to be on a bestseller list.

scarletpeaches
01-15-2010, 10:19 PM
There's an author out there who precedes their name with 'award-winning author...' on every website, press release and blurb to which they have access. And I thought, "Every single one of their books is shite. What the hell kind of awards could they possibly have won?" I mean, really. They're awful, awful, awful.

So I took my Google-fu to the intrawebs and discovered two awards going back around three and two years, for something like 'Best Obscure Book Written by Someone with This Surname and a Leading Man with a Limp' and 'Best Author Who Wrote a Book While Clearly Off Their Faces on Skag'.

Award-winning? Technically, yes. But as prestigious as wiping my arse with Andrex and calling it a work of art.

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2010, 11:31 PM
But there's nothing stopping you from saying the book was "a top seller on Amazon.com" or "a top seller in its category on Amazon.com." For some buyers, that may be more significant than some of the best seller lists (and in certain categories -- possibly including yours -- it really has a lot more meaning, because certain kinds of books never make the best seller list but the fact that within the subset of people buying them they are the top choice is actually important)



There's something that should stop you, and that's pride. Top seller on Amazon really has no meaning, other than for a very short time, on a very small place, you were at or near the top. If this means mnore to buyers than an NYT or USA Today listing, you got some very weird buyers.

And even if it did mean something to some readers, I guarantee you'll lose a lot of other readers who know what a bestseller really is, and actively hate seeing those words on a novel unless they're earned.

Gillhoughly
01-15-2010, 11:37 PM
scarletpeaches, you're holding back, I can feel it! ;)

I think we know the same author(s). There are a few of those sad souls on my event horizon who assume "award-winning" will impress and lead to massive sales.

It doesn't count when you award yourself--which I have seen.


Hah. I won "best ___ book of 19__" from some group I'd never heard of. I think I was on the Christmas card list of their president and she was thrilled when I replied to a fan mail of hers.

A nice certificate for my accomplishment would have been great. Frames are cheap, after all.

Instead, they sent a T-shirt featuring in large letters the name of a (batshit insane) writer whose works I LOATHE, and all my friends know just how much I LOATHE those books.

The fans meant well, I'm sure. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon10.gif

I kept the shirt to remind me just how important I really am in the industry.

scarletpeaches
01-15-2010, 11:41 PM
Holding back, moi?

I'm working on self-control today.

Tomorrow? Who knows!

willietheshakes
01-16-2010, 07:12 AM
But the standard is really the NYT list, with the USA Today list probably coming in second. But when most people say "bestseller," they mean the NYT list, which has, if I remember correctly, an average of 170 slots per year, per category.

For my fellow canucks, substitute "Globe and Mail" and "Macleans" for the above publications.

blacbird
01-16-2010, 08:14 AM
I've seen a ton of books/websites with "bestseller" or "bestselling author of __" on it.

But it ONLY counts with The Powers That Be (your agent, other publishers, and Publisher's Weekly) when it's a "USA Today Bestseller" or a "NYTimes Bestseller".
.

It ONLY counts in your bank balance.

caw

swvaughn
01-16-2010, 08:12 PM
I have sold more books than anyone in Mexico, New York, except for Laurie Halse Anderson, and that doesn't count because I was born here and she wasn't. :P

-Sonya Bateman, Best-Selling Author* :D

*in Mexico

Jamesaritchie
01-16-2010, 09:10 PM
Because of teh way the big bestselling list work, a book can sell extremely well and never make the list. If it sells slow but steady, you can get very large number over four or five years, but never sell enough in a given week from teh cunted outlets to make even the bottom of a list.

Though it is better than it used to be. Louis L'Amour once had a book that sold two million copies, but it never made the NYT or USA Today list because it was a lowly genre western.

scarletpeaches
01-16-2010, 09:20 PM
Because of teh way the big bestselling list work, a book can sell extremely well and never make the list. If it sells slow but steady, you can get very large number over four or five years, but never sell enough in a given week from teh cunted outlets to make even the bottom of a list.

Though it is better than it used to be. Louis L'Amour once had a book that sold two million copies, but it never made the NYT or USA Today list because it was a lowly genre western.TYPO OF THE YEAR!

AnonymousWriter
01-16-2010, 09:26 PM
TYPO OF THE YEAR!

:ROFL:

Jamesaritchie
01-16-2010, 11:22 PM
TYPO OF THE YEAR!

Typo? What typo? Now you know why they keep the way books get onto the NYT bestseller list a secret.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-17-2010, 02:30 AM
I think most celebrities should be the exempted from the 'Best-selling Author' title. Most of them don't even actually write the book in question, and you know it's usually the name that's selling the book, not the quality of content. Make those celebrities write under a penname themselves, and see how many become best-sellers - I imagine the number would be the same for us lowly ordinary folks ;)

Xelebes
01-17-2010, 07:38 AM
I'll leave it to the marketing staff to label me a best-selling author, otherwise it just reeks of pretentiousness.

smcc360
01-17-2010, 07:58 PM
I'm gunning for 'Best-Smelling Author', myself.:e2shower:

Jamesaritchie
01-17-2010, 09:05 PM
I think most celebrities should be the exempted from the 'Best-selling Author' title. Most of them don't even actually write the book in question, and you know it's usually the name that's selling the book, not the quality of content. Make those celebrities write under a penname themselves, and see how many become best-sellers - I imagine the number would be the same for us lowly ordinary folks ;)


Well, some do write their own books, and some are, in fact, extremely good writers. Celebrities are just people, and most of them are celebrities because they do have talent.

I'm for any name on a book that makes a profit for publishers. That's where they get the money to take chances on us lowly ordinary folk.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-17-2010, 10:36 PM
Well, some do write their own books, and some are, in fact, extremely good writers. Celebrities are just people, and most of them are celebrities because they do have talent.

I'm for any name on a book that makes a profit for publishers. That's where they get the money to take chances on us lowly ordinary folk.

True, and what's 'good' is always subjective I know. But let's say Sarah Palin actually wrote her book. Whether it's good or not is irrelevant, because you KNOW 90% of people bought her book because it's Sarah Palin, and they either wanted to see what stupidity she said or because they support her view. As far as I'm concerned, the true test would be to slap a penname on it and see how it stand on its own merit. It just bugs me to see 'best-selling author' beside celebrities who never actually wrote the book. Great that it makes money, but don't give them a title they didn't earn. It's not fair to those authors who DID earn it.

Jamesaritchie
01-18-2010, 06:57 PM
True, and what's 'good' is always subjective I know. But let's say Sarah Palin actually wrote her book. Whether it's good or not is irrelevant, because you KNOW 90% of people bought her book because it's Sarah Palin, and they either wanted to see what stupidity she said or because they support her view. As far as I'm concerned, the true test would be to slap a penname on it and see how it stand on its own merit. It just bugs me to see 'best-selling author' beside celebrities who never actually wrote the book. Great that it makes money, but don't give them a title they didn't earn. It's not fair to those authors who DID earn it.



This might be true with a novel. It's not true on a book of nonfiction. Sarah Palin is no different than George Washington or any other famous figure. We buy these books to read about a person, not to see how well someone writes. If her book is a bestseller, she absolutely did earn it. It's about her life and her views, not about how well the writer writes. The writer sure didn't earn it. Whether he's good, bad, or indifferent, the book sells because readers want to know about the person, and don't care in the least who wrote it.

You could even compare her book to a math book. I buy a math book because I want to learn about math, not because I care who wrote it.

Nonfiction always has and always will work this way, and it should. There's no other way for it to work.

I can see the attitude for fiction, but I still see nothing unfair about it. "Unfair" means something has to interfere with your own success, and celebrity novels do not stop anyone else from becoming a bestselling writer. Just the opposite. Profits from these novels give new writers the chance to become bestselling writers.

How well a celebrity novel does has no negative impact on my writing life, on my success, or lack thereof.