It’s every creative writer’s dream to publish a book that graces the top ten of the New York Times bestseller’s list, and while that dream is well within reach for any author, whether self-published or traditionally published, here is what that list actually means for you, and why it might not be the be all and end all of your writing career.
First of all, it’s important that you know how the NYT bestseller’s list works, and it may not be in the way that you think. As opposed to the music industry, where awards are given out to artists based on the amount of records that are sold in all eternity, the Times’ Bestseller List is compiled based on which books sold the most in a particular category in a given week. The list is republished every week, and based on how many of your book has sold versus another, and in which stores, you might have a chance of being on the list.
That being said, should your book be released at the same time as a hotly anticipated novel in the same category, the third in a suspenseful trilogy, and another by an author who has been MIA for the previous five years, which book do you think in going to sell the most. IN that week, while your book might sell 50,000 copies, the other two might sell 1,000,000 between them, knocking you completely out of the park. Whereas in the following week the book that makes the top of the list in the very same category might sell just 30,000 copies. The list is relative, and some bestsellers might not get on it at all, despite having a bestselling book.
The list also doesn’t count books sold at all stores. While once upon a time, all retailers had a hugely successful relationship with the NYT, and the statistics of every store’s sales were kept under lock and key until the first copy of the Times graced newsstands, retailers now have a lot of their own bestsellers’ lists and therefore do not feel compelled to report their sales to the newspaper.
The New York Times’ bestseller list is an honour, it is a success, but it is not THE success, and it no longer means that you have made it. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t mean that you are going to be rolling in royalties. Writing is not an instant get rich fix, and even if you sit at the top of the bestseller’s list for a month, it’s not going to be. Let the NYT bestsellers list be a dream, but don’t let it be the only dream you have. Support yourself, your work and your creativity, be thrilled for those that make the list, but make sure you are also thrilled for yourself and all of your successes.