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SPQ 028: What Are the Requirements to Be a New York Times Bestseller?

Written by Steve Scott on January 21, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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spq28 new york bestsellerThe Question…

Som wants to know what the parameters are for determining if a Kindle book will be a New York Times bestseller (number of copies sold, etc.). He also asks if non-US authors are eligible for inclusion.

Biggest Takeway…

Steve’s Answer…

Non-US residents are absolutely eligible for the New York Times bestseller list. Many authors from outside the United States have been on the list. Steve has never personally achieved this goal, but in May 2014, he sold 16,000 copies of “Habit Stacking.” With a more strategic promotional plan, he may have been able to hit the list, but it’s not a major goal of his.

Hitting the list and building a book-based business don’t often correspond. To hit the New York Times list, you have to spend a lot of time planning and marketing. This is time you could be spending on building up your catalog. Steve feels hitting the New York Times list is more of a vanity metric and doesn’t really impact your business that much.

There isn’t a hard and fast number you need to hit to make the list, but you need at least 6,000 sales to make the ebook chart. You must make these sales in a very short amount of time, anywhere from five days to two weeks. The key here is that you must sell on multiple platforms, not just Amazon. You also have to formulate a launch plan, network with people in your genre, and do a lot of promotion.

A lot of self-published authors have hit the New York Times bestseller list. Joanna Penn of the “Deadly Dozen” comes to mind. She got together with 11 other authors, sold a boxed set for 99 cents, and managed to get on the list.

Joanna partnered with Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David Gaughran to produce a really high-quality boxed set. They did a lot of promotion, but they weren’t able to sell enough copies to hit the New York Times list. Even when you do a lot of things right, you don’t necessarily have a bestseller on your hands.

If you really want to learn how to become a New York Times bestselling author, read content from people who have done it before. Tim Ferris has a lot of content, resources, and links related to his experience hitting the list multiple times. He is a good example of someone who understands the strategy behind making the list.

It’s possible to hit the list as a self-published author, but think about why you are doing it. Do you want to build a business or get the title? From a business perspective, it’s better to focus on building your book catalog. Get the fundamentals down, build your platform, and write new books. That’s how you build a lasting business.

Resources and Links

The Deadly Dozen: Joanna Penn discusses her experience contributing to a boxed set that hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists

Creating a New York Times Bestseller: Joanna Penn and David Gaughran talk about their strategy for creating a New York Times bestseller

How to Write and Promote New York Times Bestsellers: Tim Ferris and Jack Canfield discuss how to write books that land on the New York Times bestseller list