The List

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By Valerie Fentress

We all want to be on it. We all want to bask in the glory of the prestige, but how do books reach the New York Times Best Seller List?

Well the best way to make a goal is to know how the beast operates. And surprisingly the list isn't put together by the New York Times Book Review department. (Which could be a blessing or a curse, depending) The list is actually put together by the News Surveys department.

The list is based on weekly sales reports obtained from selected samples of independent and chain bookstores, as well as wholesalers, throughout the United States. The sales figures are widely believed to represent books that have actually been sold at retail, rather than wholesale figures, as the Times surveys a number of actual booksellers in an attempt to better reflect what is actually purchased by individual buyers.

"According to Alan T. Sorensen of Stanford Business School, who studied sales of hardcover fiction, the majority of book buyers use the Times’ list to see what is worth reading. Therefore, according to Sorensen, relatively unknown writers get the biggest benefit from being on the list, while for already best-selling authors such as Danielle Steel or John Grisham, being on the list makes virtually no difference in increasing sales." (^ "Readers Tap Best-Seller List for New Authors", Stanford Business Magazine, February 2005. Last accessed December 2006. See also Alan T. Sorensen, Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales, May 2004.)

So how does one get their book on the Best Seller List? Most of the efforts in increasing sales has to do with marketing and public relations. The more hype you create through interviews, book signings, and the efforts made by your publisher/agent. Each play a large roll in creating a buzz within the book world, which in turn will get more and more of the individual buyers interested.

So it is important to learn the steps to marketing that manuscript as it is knowing how to write it. The NYT list changes weekly, which shows us it is possible. And a lot of is comes down to timing and effort.

Best of Luck, and I hope on day to see you on the list.


Shelli said...

This is really interesting and not surprising. I know if I am ever fortunate enough to get published, the work will not stop there!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks Valerie for the research. It's always a good refresher to remember how these lists work. :o)

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