How do books get on the best-seller list?

Clean joke religious booksby Ashley Hayes — Many new writers dream of having their books on the best-seller list, but how does a writer accomplish this? Newspapers around the globe publish their own best-seller lists, looking at short-term sales of books at certain bookstores.
The Basics

Most best-seller lists look at the most popular books at certain stores during a one-week period, though the best-seller list updates every hour. Because these lists show short-term sales, they do not include books that have sold steadily over time.

Writers’ Marketing

Book tours and spots on TV programs encourage sales, and as sales increase, bookstores might place the book up front where it will be labeled a best-seller. This cycle of publicity helps propel the book into the spotlight.

Publishers’ Advertising

Publishers sometimes pay big bookstores to include a book at the front of the store, and they might pay for advertising that increases awareness of the book.

National vs. Regional Lists

A book does not need to sell at every bookstore to end up on the best-seller list because every list includes different bookstores. The website Slate points out that while The New York Times might have the most famous national list, the Washington Post, among others, looks instead at regional sales.

Chain vs. Independent Stores

According to Slate, some lists, such as the Wall Street Journal’s, come from bookstore chains’ best-sellers, while others, like the Voice Literary Supplement, track the sales patterns of independent bookstores such as the Harvard Bookstore and San Francisco’s City Lights.


Slate: The Book Industry’s Best-Seller Lists; Eliza Truitt; Sep. 3, 1998

MSNBC: Secrets of the Amazon best-seller list; Marion Maneker; Aug. 10, 2009

Thanks to Ashley Hayes for this article. Read more: How do books get on the best-seller list? | Answerbag

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