So You Want to Make the Bestseller List, But Do You Know What It Takes?

New York Times Bestseller List

Lately, I’ve been reading Tim Grahl’s Book Launch Blueprint: The Step-by-Step Guide to Launching a Bestseller. Making a bestseller list woos authors like the cry of the mythical Siren. It carries status and puts oomph behind the sales of future books.

But do you have a true understanding of what it takes to make those lists?

Bestselling author Tim Ferriss explains in “How Bestseller Lists Work…and Introducing the Amazon Monthly 100” that the NYT has “20 weekly and 3 monthly lists.”

Wow! There’s also the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Washington Post. That’s a lot of opportunities to make a bestseller list. And let’s not forget Amazon.

If making bestseller status is your goal, then it’s important to know the criteria used to make the determination. Otherwise how can you develop a marketing strategy to get there? Realize popularity also plays a role for several of the lists.

For that reason alone, the lists leave a bad taste in my mouth. Popularity brings back bad memories of the popular crowd in high school. Bad memories aside, here is a figure that appears to be a magic bullet: 10,000 book sales in one week.

I don’t want to discourage you from aiming for that goal. I want you to realize it will take hard work on your part to accomplish it.

Whether you’re looking for the status, the sales, or both, only you know why you want to make the New York Times Best Sellers list (the most prestigious of all the lists). Examine your reasons because they can contirbute to or undermine your efforts.

Here are 3 very helpful articles about the lists and the criteria. Perhaps they can help you decide whether this is a goal you want to set now or later.

  • From Tucker Max, co-founder of Book in a Box publishing.
    While this article is geared to entrepreneurs, Max does address the professional writer and it can help you examine your reasons.
  • From Jeff Goins.
  • From Tim Ferriss.

If you want to make a bestseller list, Grahl’s Book Launch Blueprint is an excellent resource to help you. His starting point is your email list—something a lot of authors balk at building. I yespecially like what he says about social media. Influencers also play a part. You can use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to get a taste, but you can also get a free sample sent to your kindle.

If you want to make a living at writing books, sales are your primary source of income. So whether you want to make the list or not, you can apply his advice to all your book launches for greater launch success and more sales.

I’m not advocating buy his book this instant, and I’m not making money through affiliate sales. But I believe what he says is foundational advice to authors, and your book career success is my goal.

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. Thank you for posting this! The marketing, branding, etc. side of writing is driving me crazy, and I feel as though I’m just flopping around in a gigantic pool. Every article like this one gets me a bit closer to making sense of it all.

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