Should you care about the bestseller list?

Well, duh, yeah. Every writer wants to see their name on that list.

But, it’s not as easy as writing your best story your family has ever read. 

Each Sunday I enjoy reading the Arts Section of the newspaper. And the first page I turn to is the column where the New York Times Best Sellers are listed. I’m always looking to see who made the list. Is it one of my favorites? Is it a newcomer?

The same holds true for the Top 100 List. I love clicking through looking for a good read, when I have the time that is.

Have you given much thought to how a writer actually gets listed on the New York Times Best Seller List? Or The Wall Street Journal or makes the top 100?

Sell lots of books, make lots of $$$$ and voila! Right?

Well, that’s what I always thought. But, seems it’s not that simple after all.

My whole perspective changed after I read this article by Tim Grahl. Not my dreams of making one of these Best Seller Lists mind you, but now I’m not quite so naive. Achieving this goal is ever-changing and cloaked in secrets and mystery by the powers that be and full of intrigue almost as much as a political drama.


The NYT closely guards their decision-making process. But apparently it is based on samples from various booksellers across the country.

The WSJ builds their best seller list based on the sales figures they get from Nielson’s BookScan. But, BookScan doesn’t track every purchase. It doesn’t track sales through big box stores like Walmart or online sales like Createspace. Bulk purchases don’t count. Even legitimate ones. Like for a book club or a classroom.

So what should you or I do?

Just keep writing and not worry about best seller lists? I think so. Because this is one of those things that is beyond our control. Kinda like the weather.

However, this is a fascinating read about how the industry works.


If you have any tips for achieving this monumental goal, please share!

You can find me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at jean.cogdell and, stop by and say hey! Please remember to with a click and share this post with your Twitter peeps and Facebook fans.


6 thoughts on “Should you care about the bestseller list?

  1. ..And I suppose extremely manipulative too 🙂

    But then that is what it is named after – the books that sell best. So no objections there. And if by any chance the publisher is peeved that after paying huge advances the book is still not selling, they will probably prop up an award or two, ask a “friendly” critic to write a rave review.. and if everything else fails, kick up a controversy of some sort all on their own.. yeah, yeah, I know, I am the king of cynics.. Just look at the Booker lists from the last few years to see if I am right or wrong.. (in any case, an award commissioned by publishing houses can’t really have meritocracy as its driving principle, hehe).

    Liked by 1 person

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