Friday, January 14, 2011
Writing a Best Selling Novel
Have you ever wondered what makes a best selling novel? It's usually preceeded with New York Times, or Los Angeles Times, or USA Today Best Selling book/author. That's because along with Publisher's Weekly, Book Sense, and to some degree Amazon.com they are the ones compiling the list of books that "make it" to the best seller lists.
Most people assume that best selling books are actually best selling books, meaning that book stores have sold more copies of this book than any other or that they passed a magical number that puts them into a best selling category. To a certain extent that's true. But it's actually more complicated than that.
According to John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, the New York Times sends a list of book titles to select bookseller around the country and asks them to state how many copies of those books were sold for the week. The pre-selected list is determined by the books publishers are supporting with heavy publicity and heavy print runs; or by something like celebrity status or sales history of the author which the NYT knows will draw customers to purchase that book.
The other lists work pretty much the same way.
This means that an author's book that might have sold more than one of those on the list for a certain week might not be counted in the bookstores being polled. If the book is sold through independent bookstores, it would not be counted for NYT and company. If the book sold at Walmart or Costco (though if it's at Costco, it's probably already a bestseller) it would not be counted.
The actual number of books that have to be sold differs per book, so not every book that passes a certain number becomes a best seller. One book might have to sell 15,000 books in a week to be considered a #1 best seller, another might only have to sell 5000, depending on the category it's listed under and what other books are competing for the spot that same week.
Of course, I like to think that great writing also plays a role. At least in fiction. Awesome, unforgetable characters, great plots, entertaining for the genre - so exciting for an adventure book, emotionally rich for women's fiction, and so on.
So, does my fall release of SAY YOU'LL BE MINE have a chance of hitting NYT bestseller status? Knowing what I do about how books get there, I'd have to say I don't have a chance in hell. My print run itself would probably take me out of the running. Still, it's my top goal for the year. Not because I'm stupid or naive, but because I'll have a book out this year and why not shoot for the top. I will not be disappointed if I only sell out my print run : )