Is it your dream to become a bestselling author?

It’s a vision that most of the first-time authors I speak to hold on to. However, the truth is there’s a lot of confusion around the actual term ‘bestseller’-in this article I’m going to address this and help clear up that confusion!

What does ‘bestselling author’ really mean?

When someone says they’re a bestselling author, it’s important to gauge which bestselling list they’re relating to.

It may sound odd but there’s a wealth of different places where you can achieve this highly regarded and prestigious accolade. Each bestselling list has differing criteria and they don’t all necessarily mean the same thing.

Let me explain more about some of the most important bestselling lists:

New York Times bestseller list

In my opinion, this is the most difficult chart to be featured in because there’s a mystery surrounding around how they calculate the lists. They select some US retail and online stores, but they also use a secret formula to curate the final list!

Because of this, even if a book sells thousands of copies, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will end up in this list.

Wall Street Journal bestseller list

This list relies solely on sales figures. The Wall Street Journal look at numbers from the Nielsen BookScan service.This software totals book sales from multiple different platforms and shares this number with the Wall Street Journal and many other companies on a weekly basis.

The problem with the Nielsen BookScan software is that the final number doesn’t include certain outlets such as Walmart or important online platforms like CreateSpace.

Although this means the numbers are slightly skewed, it does account for around 75-80% of sales and is, therefore, a really good indicator of a book’s overall success.

USA Today bestseller list

USA Today’s bestseller list is very similar to the Wall Street Journal format, taking the overall sales figures from Nielsen BookScan.

They then use these figures to create a weekly list of the 150 bestselling books.

Self-publishing limitations

In my opinion, it’s extremely difficult for self-published authors, especially first-time authors, to appear in these lists as most self-published authors don’t have their work published in book stores. However, it isn’t impossible! I have a number of author friends who have become Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers, but it’s important to remember that this is rare.

Amazon bestseller list

For first-time authors, it’s more beneficial to focus your time and efforts on getting into the Amazon bestseller chart.

Amazon makes a list of bestsellers for every category on an hourly basis, so it’s a much easier task to achieve a bestseller title in this online portal.

It’s so attractive because you can become an Amazon bestseller without your book having to be the most popular book on the entire Amazon platform.

Encouragingly, if your book gets into the top 100 bestsellers in any Amazon book category, you can officially call yourself an Amazon bestselling author…how nice would that be?

How to achieve this

Amazon has two categories:

  • Books
  • Kindle Store

Within this, there are a number of sub-categories which include things like self-help, spirituality, and romance, and then further sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories beyond this.

The reason why this is so important to explain this is because there are top 100 bestseller lists for every category, including the sub, sub-categories.

By putting in lots of marketing effort, I believe it’s achievable for any first-time author to get to number one on any of these sub-categories. It’s much better to call yourself an Amazon number one bestselling author than just a generic bestselling author.

Amazon creates hourly lists so if you’re marketing your book, it’s important to refresh the page each hour as you will see that the list is constantly changing.

Why is it important to become a bestselling author?

Having your book in the bestselling chart not only increases the visibility of your book, but it also helps you to position yourself as a bestselling author to gain credibility in your industry. This may lead to speaking opportunities and becoming a guest on different media platforms.

If you want to know how we can help you to achieve your vision of becoming a bestselling author, please head to and schedule a call with us, we’ll help you to create a plan on how to achieve your goals.