A few words of questionable wisdom from author Al W Moe - you can leave questions on each blog or go to my profile for direct email.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How Many Book Sales to Make The New York Times Best Seller List?

There are a number of Best Seller lists, like USA Today, Wall Street Week and Barnes and Noble, but the one most everyone knows about is the New York Times Best Sellers list. To somehow crack the code to the list is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for most authors. For Savant types like John Grisham, Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks, the code seems to work for all their books. 
Today, making the New York Times Best Sellers list is easier than ever, with a total of 40 categories a book can land in from Hard Cover fiction and nonfiction to Paperback, E-books, Graphic, Children’s books and Young Adult. In addition, there are 22 monthly lists with sub-categories like Games, Family, Sports and Travel

Since each category has 10 to 15 books, there might be 800 different books listed at one time and the majority of the authors are represented by main-stream publishers. To sell the minimum of about 5,000 copies per week to make the lists, the books must be in retail outlets. What’s the methodology used? According to the New York Times:

Rankings reflect sales reported by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles. The sales venues for print books include independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; supermarkets, university, gift and discount department stores; and newsstands. E-book rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of e-books in a variety of popular e-reader formats.”

How Many Books to Make the List?
The number of book sales to make any list varies greatly by time of year and by category. The 5,000 copy per week is a relative number that easily represents all major categories for the weekly lists. Even a book listed at #15 on the Hard Cover Fiction list is likely to be a major author whose books are found in book stores, gift shops, Walmart, Costco and the ever-popular airport lounge. If you want to be impressed by a book's sales, look at the number of weeks it has been on the list. A one-week blip is just that, one big week of sales. A book that hangs in the top ten for 20-weeks is a new life-style with all the perks...............

However, small categories in the monthly listings might surprise you. For instance, Tracey Stewarts Do Unto Animals is listed at number 10 in the monthly listing for Animals. It’s a very good book and congratulations to the author for making the New York Times Best Seller list. However, this was probably a labor of love, and a good one, but currently it wouldn’t make any other list or category.

It did make the Amazon Best Seller list by being #1 in the Animal Husbandry category. Again, well done. The book is currently listed as #3733 in paperback books and is #71,100 in the paid Kindle store. The author is selling lots of books, but not a clip that self-published authors can’t also shoot for with their Kindle books.

For lack of a better way of putting it, the New York Times Bes Sellers list is the Major Leagues. Amazon’s #1 Best Seller ranking is the minor leagues. Sure, if you get that ranking in “Fiction” you will be very, very rich. But Amazon has a whole lot more than 62 total categories.

The #3733 in paperback ranking is quite good; selling perhaps 20 to 30 copies per day just on Amazon. With bookstores and other outlets considered, that could be more than 100 copies per day. The Kindle numbers are a bit different.

In fact, for Kindle sales, the ranking of #71,131 is fairly mediocre. The book is number 4 in Animal Husbandry and number 51 in Animals, but sales-wise that’s only about 1 book sale per day. Everyone has a chance to do that if they produce a decent read for Kindle buyers.

Those numbers do point-out that you should also have your book listed with Create Space, especially since your income might be much more per copy for a paperback copy. And, a book like Animal Husbandry is more likely to sell in paperback, for a long time!

For instance, a Kindle book selling for $3.79 (yes, that’s what Vegas and the Mob sells for) brings in $2.65 per sale. At the same time, a Create Space (Amazon paperback copy) book listed at $12.95 nets $4.16 for the author.

If you want to be in the Top 10 of a common category on Amazon Kindle, choose a more obscure one than “crime” or “romance.” Obviously if you choose correctly, you can make a list with fewer sales. For instance, the #1 book under “blackjack” is currently selling at #37,656 which is probably 2 books per day!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe