What Is it Like to Have a Bestseller?

How many of us haven't pondered this question? What's it like to have a bestseller? Other questions that follow would likely be: How much would I make? How many books do I have to sell?

As with most of the publishing industry, there's a lot of misinformation out there about bestsellers. While I'm not going to attempt to cover all the definitions in one post, I will say that just about every bestseller award is calculated differently. For example, for the NY Times list, bookstore sales are the main qualifier. Even if you sold a huge number of books from your own website (but not in stores) you would not make the list (you'd probably be approached by a publisher, but that's a whole other discussion).

Also, a lot of people, non-authors especially, think that once you hit that list, the money just starts rolling in. Well, depending on how many books you sell to get there, and what your advance was (if any), that's not necessarily the case.

It's not often that publishers or authors give up information about the reality of how bestsellers really work, but recently author Lynn Viehl did just that on the Genreality Blog

Beyond the eye-opening math there are a couple of other points I think are of note:

1. She does next to no promotion on her own because she's an established author and she started when promotion and publicity were handled differently (publishers did a lot more for more of their authors). This will not be the case for most new authors today.

2. Even though she's an experienced, successful author with a following of fans, she still may not earn out her advance.

3. Doing a comparison of the math with smaller sales numbers, but higher profit margins (as you'd have in independent self-publishing) is an interesting, potentially enlightening exercise.

Can you be a NY Times bestseller? Maybe. Now the question is, do you want to be? No matter what the answer is, start mapping your path accordingly. It's a lot easier to arrive at your destination, if you're really clear on where it is you'd like to be.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett

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