What Makes A Bestselling Author Today?

The New York Times. USA Today. The Wall Street Journal. The list can go on and on, but those are the three major ones I can think of in the US.

To have your name added to one of those lists, your book has to sell reasonably well (USA Today, I believe, bases their list on actual sales numbers, while the New York Times has ... other methods).

Anyway, it's every writer's dream to become one of those coveted authors who can put on their tombstones New York Times bestselling author.

And while the major bestseller lists are still around today and will be around for a while, there's a new form of bestseller-dom on the horizon -- well, it's actually already here.

I'm talking about the Kindle Bestselling Author, of course.

Now just what exactly does that mean?

Don't get me wrong, being a Kindle bestseller can be great. In fact, there are some self-published writers who sold so well on Kindle that they actually made the New York Times bestseller list. That's quite a feat. As I've said before, the digital marketplace has created a level playing field. Before, no newbie author could ever dream of outselling Stephen King, as the first print run for a King novel is quite huge, while a new author would be lucky if their first novel gets a print run of, say, 7,500 copies. But, again, with digital, the distribution is endless.

Now, to get back to the point, what constitutes a Kindle bestseller?

I would say getting into the Kindle Top 100 (the overall 100, not the genre 100 or sub-genre 100, which we'll talk about later) would constitute, as it means those books are the top selling titles in the Kindle Store out of every other title.

Of course, the list is updated hourly, so it's possible for a book to squeeze into the Top 100 for an hour and then fall back out.

Would that count as a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller?

I guess. I mean, you have books which make the New York Times Bestseller List for only one week before disappearing, and they certainly count.

So let's agree being in the Kindle Top 100 (the overall, remember) is pretty impressive.

But what about the genre top 100 lists? There's mystery and thrillers, science fiction, horror, etc. My novels The Calling and The Serial Killer's Wife have both been in the Kindle Top Horror 100 and stayed there for quite some time. In fact, in the UK, both of those novels are still in the Horror Top 100, which ... makes me an international bestselling author? That's another gray area which is probably a whole new blog post in itself.

Now what about the sub genre lists? Like in horror, there's Dark Fantasy and Ghosts and Occult. So it's possible to have your book listed under one of those sub genre bestseller lists.

Let's look at the Occult sub genre, shall we?

Currently The Calling is #76 on that list.

Sounds good, right? Well, certainly, yeah, but the sales ranking of the book itself is #9,394, which means currently 9,393 other books are selling better.

Again, I'm not complaining, but when over 9,000 other titles are outselling mine, does that make it a bestseller?

Oh, and let us not leave out the Kindle Select Program. Back in the beginning of the year, authors were gaming the system with that program. Hell, I was gaming the system. Amazon's algorithm allowed it to happen. I made two of my titles free, they stormed the free bestseller lists (and, while I'm thinking about it, any author who thinks the free bestseller list counts as a "bestseller list" is an idiot), and when they went back to paid, they sold like hotcakes. In fact, those titles -- No Shelter and Man of Wax -- both hit the genre bestseller lists for Mystery & Thrillers and Horror, respectively.

So are they bestsellers?

In the end I guess it's all about how the author wants to market himself. I've sold quite a decent amount of ebooks this past year, and again, many of my titles have held strong in the genre bestseller lists, so I could easily add "bestselling author" to my bio. But I won't. If I ever hit the Kindle Top 100 (again, the overall list), then maybe I will, but for now I just can't bring myself to call myself that. For one, the "Kindle bestselling author" has become almost ubiquitous. Sure, many authors haven't hit those genre or sub genre lists and probably never will, but many have, though not nearly as many have hit the overall Top 100. And the overall Top 100 is where it's clear your book is actually selling well. Not when it cracks a genre or sub genre list for a day. Calling yourself a Kindle bestselling author then is just disingenuous ... though considering the recent debate about sock puppet reviews, what's disingenuous anymore?

Oh, and don't get me started on the authors who confuse a sub genre for an overall genre, so if their book is #5 in the Occult section under Horror, they proudly tweet and Facebook that their book is #5 in horror. Um, no, sorry to break it to you, kiddos, but it's not, so get a clue.

Because, again, being on a sub genre bestseller list doesn't necessarily mean much. I hate to single anybody's book out, but currently there's this title, which is #100 in the sub genre of Series under Science Fiction.

That title's overall ranking?


Long live the Kindle bestselling author!