How do I found out if a book or author is really a best-seller?

Question is in the thread title.

How do you define best seller?

The author will usually put verbs in the right tense :slight_smile:

Depends on which list. Best bet is to find a copy of the Sunday New York Times for the time it was published. You library should have it on microfilm.

If you mean Amazon best seller, it’s meaningless. I’ve been on one of their lists and I only sold a dozen copies, if that. They have so many categories that you can get on it with single-digit sales in one day

My best guess is that it’s the author in question who’s defined it.

Argh! I hate when I mess up the tenses.

That’s likely it. I saw the “about the author” thing on Amazon and, of course, the reviews are stellar. If anyone’s interested, it’s this author and you can click the “Look inside” for the latest book here.

I wouldn’t recommend the stuff (not that I’m the ultimate authority on literary merit) and that’s why I’m wondering how it’s billed on Amazon as best selling.

There’s the biggest problem. If there’s no strict cutoff for how many copies of a book someone has to sell, it’s meaningless to say “Ha! No, you’re not a bestselling author!”.

Which brings up a good point… why did you ask the question? It’d help a lot if you want to get the right answer.

Check my simulpost. :slight_smile:

Yeah, Amazon has near-fratical sub-categories. Being a best seller in their “romance” category is a big deal. Being a best seller in their “urban fantasy steampunk paranormal romance where the protagonist has green dreadlocks, chews betel nut, and hunts werepires” category isn’t.

I looked inside a couple of the books and read a bit. Pure infodump, where the author lectures the reader about the background instead of introducing it organically. So it’s not all that well written.

They’re definitely talking about Amazon best sellers, which don’t mean a thing and can be easily manipulated (I sold one copy of my book and it jumped several million places the next day). If you could get 10 people to buy the book on one day, it would show up in the top ten the next day.

It’s probably true they made the top* at some point, but that’s meaningless and does not impress anyone who knows anything about publishing.

*I hope that’s what they’re saying. It’d be ludicrous to claim a ranking of 3358 (today) in a category is one.

The New York Times has the premier bestsellers lists, and I say lists because they do 11 weekly lists and 7 monthly lists. USA Today has its own separate bestsellers list and so does the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, along with several other major newspapers. Publisher’s Weekly breaks down its lists 17 ways and is the only print publication to give genre bestsellers like romance, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction.

You can skip Amazon and find the Top 100 bestsellers at Barnes & Noble and at Walmart and the Top 50 at Powell’s. I’m sure other online retailers have lists of their own. The American Booksellers Association surveys independent bookstores and does the Indiebound list, but that uses some arcane formula and is not a direct total of sales.

On any given week you can find at least a thousand titles legitimately on a bestseller list somewhere. You just need to know where to look and how to search archives for past weeks.

She says she’s written bestsellers as a ghost writer for other, unnamed pen names. That means there’s no way even to verify that she wrote bestsellers.

Fun fact about the NY times bestseller list specifically, but I wouldn’t doubt is true about the others…

The publisher/marketing of those particular books on the list bought x many thousands of copies just to give that title publicity. Then they just shreds them.

My cite are my parents who run a small publishing company and have dealt with an author before they got a big time deal with a big publisher. Lured away by the promise of having a NY Times best selling book long before the book was even written/released.

That was my take on it. I pesonally know the author by her real name. Let’s just say I figure that her day-to-day speech has so much fiction in it that she probably should write fiction. Then I ran across this stuff and I was wondering if there really was an actual sizeable market for it. From the responses in this thread, I’m going to have to go with “Nope”.

Many politically-oriented books, especially from right-wing publishers, are bought by the thousands to give the books an instant boost. The Times marks these with a dagger:

† A dagger indicates that some retailers report receiving bulk orders.

Their methodology is not secret, just the names of the particular bookstores.

I can’t remember any cases in which an ordinary publisher got tagged with a dagger. That’s not to say it never happens, but it would kill the sales and possibly the career of a novelist.

A huge printing and a marketing campaign could do a better and cheaper job of landing a book on the list without the purchase of thousands of books at list price. That’s something few small presses could ever manage.

Well, I saw the price for some of those “novels” as $0.99 and even some at $0.00, so I figured it was the digital equivalent of “The author is buffing up the sales volume”.

From the covers of the books, I’d have to go with “Nope”.

Funny you should mention that. It was fucking Bill O’Reilly wanting one of my parents’ authors to do the children’s version of “Killing Lincoln”. Spoiler alert, Bill O’Reilly is fucking dick. Gor a lot of reasons, but here is the reason that relates to this story.

This author has serious cred as a military historian, as well as in comic books, which is why Billy boy wanted him. But Killing Lincoln has so many mis statements of facts that the author wasn’t allowed to fix, and he didn’t want burn up all that historian cred. So he at first refused. But the deal they struck was that he couldn’t fix any of the…“facts”, but he could delete the problem ones. And they of course made the promise to make him a NY Times best seller. When he asked how they could promise that, they spilled the beans on the scheme.

I have no info on if they followed through with that promise though.

Even USA Bestselling Author can be a little iffy. I’m an indie author, and I see a lot of invitations to submit something for an anthology with no other purpose than to “make the list.” Usually, the people who run these charge a fee (the one I saw most recently was $5000) to include you in the anthology. I don’t know how much editing these anthologies get - I suppose it varies. I’m not passing judgment on these folks–the anthologies do sell enough to make the list–but if I ever got there, I’d want it to be on my own merit, or at least as part of a reputable anthology that I didn’t have to pay to be part of.

For what it’s worth, I’m an “Amazon bestselling author.” My urban fantasy books usually hit #1 or #2 in the Psychic Thrillers and Witch and Wizard Thrillers categories, both of which are pretty big. My last book missed #1 because Stephen King had just released “Later” a couple weeks earlier and it was hanging on to that spot.

I’ve wondered about that. I’ve been thinking about self-publishing some of my writing, so I’ve been reading a few self-published genre books on Amazon to see what the competition is like. I’ve seen a couple of authors who claim to be “USA Today bestselling authors,” and their writing is…not that good.

Now, I know that best-selling books often are not literary masterpieces, but they at least usually know how to put together coherent sentences and make it clear which character is speaking and things like that. The same can’t always be said for some of the “bestselling authors” that I’ve run across on Amazon.

A large number of avid readers wouldn’t recognize well-crafted writing if it bit them on the ass.