What is a Bestseller, Anyway?


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As you probably know, my new book is titled Best Seller. One word (bestseller) or two words (best seller) is acceptable when you’re talking about a best-selling novel (and hyphenated is correct when it’s used as an adjective). My book is about a novel that hits The New York Times Best Seller list back in the late 1970s. And the NYT Best Seller List is considered the preeminent list in the United States. But then you have the USA Today Best Seller list. And plenty of others, including the many, many lists on Amazon.

If you list your book on Amazon and pick one of those not-so-popular niche categories, you might hit a bestseller list. You could be #98 in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense-Crime Fiction-Murder-Humorous-Lesbian Protagonists-Outer Space and call your book a best seller (yes, tongue firmly planted in cheek). Hey, I hit a bestseller list on Amazon a few months ago. My novel Bits of Broken Glass hit a category under “Gay & Lesbian” and actually reached #1 for a few days in a row, eclipsing the likes of Wally Lamb and Armistead Maupin. But I knew the deal. I had discounted the book to 99 cents. I did not place it in the ‘Gay & Lesbian’ category – Amazon did! And it was because one of my four main characters was gay, so I used ‘gay’ as one of seven allowable keywords. Amazon did all the rest. But still, I can call that book an “Amazon #1 bestseller.” I just feel as though I should put an asterisk next to it.

So does that mean if you drop the price of your e-book to a ridiculously low amount (or even give it away), you’ll hit the best seller list, too? Maybe. Is it worth it? I don’t know. The more books labeled as bestsellers, the less impact the word has. I’m aware of that. Once I returned Bits of Broken Glass to (the still ridiculously low price of) $2.99, sales dropped dramatically. Wally Lamb’s We Are Water is still at the top of the list.