How Are Bestsellers Determined?
Have you ever wondered about the selection criteria for bestselling books? Although the term bestseller (or best seller is you prefer) is used all the time when it comes to promoting various authors and their works, there is no agreed-upon definition for a bestselling book.
Typically, a book must sell 3,000 to 5,000 copies in a single week to land on most lists, but each organization uses a different timeframes to determine when a week begins and ends (such as tracking sales from Tuesday to Monday, or Monday to Sunday). This means that books that make it on one bestseller list, might not make it on another.
There’s often more criteria beyond sales alone that factor in. For example, where the sale took place (book store, superstore, Amazon, etc.) and the book format sold (ebook, paperback or hardcover) often make a difference. These additional criteria can vary widely among organizations. The only way to determine which books are actually selling the most is to understand the ranking processes of all the bestseller lists.
Amazon Best Sellers
The Amazon Best Seller list only takes Amazon book sales into account, not relying on data from independent bookstores or other retailers. Amazon best seller ranks are calculated and updated every hour to reflect the overall sales of each book. Typically it takes about 500 sales to crack the top 100 list, and over 2,000 sales to make the top 10. But, you can make the top 10 in a sub-sub-genre with as few as 5 sales in a day.
There’s Amazon Charts which is updated weekly, instead of hourly, and shows the top 20 most-read and most sold books on the site. The most-sold section reflects the books that are bought or pre-ordered most frequently in the given timeframe, and the most-read list shows which Audible books and Kindle books are listened to or read the most each week. Yes, they can track that for ebooks and audio books.
Amazon also has other lists that use this similar algorithms, such as the top 20 best-selling books of all time and the top 20 best-selling kids’ and teen books of all time.
Barnes & Noble Top 100 Books
The B&N Top 100 list only takes sales from Barnes and Noble into account, and the sales rank of a book does not really reflect its daily sales. For instance, a novel with a sales rank of 3 would be the third bestselling book on the Barnes and Noble website. According to the bookstore, each book is ranked daily based upon the previous 6 months of data from their online and retail sales, weighing more recent purchases more than past sales. B&N does not specify anything more about the selection process.
New York Times Bestsellers
The New York Times Best Sellers list is the most prestigious of all list. And of the 500,000+ books published each year, only a few hundred will make it on this list. However, despite the shiny stickers plastered on book covers and the high honor associated with the list, the criteria for selecting books is not transparent. We do know that sales from independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; online retailers; supermarkets, university, and discount stores are tallied from from Monday to Sunday. But we also know that the selection methodology, allows for plenty of editorial discretion. Typically, a book needs to have total sales of at least 5,000 units to make the list.
USA Today Best-Selling Books
USA Today claims that their Best-Selling Books list “ranks the 150 top-selling titles each week based on an analysis of sales from U.S. booksellers.” They track sales from Monday through Sunday, relying on data from bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers, and online retailers. A partial list of their contributors can be found here, where they also explain that their sales total for each book includes both physical and digital formats whenever available.
Wall Street Journal Bestseller List
While not as well know as the lists above, the WSJ bestseller list, is the spot to find popular business and finance books. To come up with its list, they use a no-nonsense approach of simply pulling sales data from Nielsen BookScan and other sources. And then they award spots based purely on sales volume. You’ll need 3,500-5,000 sales to make in on the WSJ bestseller list.
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