how does a book become a New York Times bestseller??

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how does a book become a New York Times bestseller??

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**The real way**: Your publisher makes sure you get on the list, one way or another, even if they have to buy the books themselves (VERY common…VERY common) or have the NY Times list just put you on because, yeah, thats a thing, the list isn’t necessarily real, its a dual purpose, to be used as a marketing platform and to sorta show whats happening– even the NY times basically admitted the lists are subjective and they can and will do whatever they want. It is not a list of “bestselling books”. Its a list titled “NY Times bestsellers”, whatever that means, its not defined.

**The alleged way its supposed to happen**: The NY Times list is kinda a made up list, its supposed to track book sales, and if your book sells enough, in certain types of areas, you get on the list. How this is exactly weighted in how much needs to sell where and when isn’t public. But again, to be clear, the list is not real, nor does it actually track or meant to track the bestselling books… yeah its weird

The precise methods are secret, but we do know the basic methodology. A certain number of booksellers (independent and chain bookstores and online sellers) receive weekly surveys to report the sales of books. Wholesalers also receive these surveys. In theory, this represents a pretty good random sampling from which the list can be assembled. In practice, it is a system that mostly just functions as a marketing tool for a small number of books with almost no use to readers.

As others have noted, there are definitely ways to game this system, intentionally or unintentionally. Many writers have bulk purchased thousands of copies of their own work, sometimes from multiple stores across the country, in an attempt to affect the list. Church groups might make huge purchases to help their pastor’s book get on the list, etc.

There are other fairly obvious methodological problems. Here’s a couple of biggest issues:

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1. Including wholesalers means a single book may be counted twice in the weeks sales, which can add up to a substantial overcounting for some books. And booksellers can return unsold copies to the wholesaler, and usually do (sometimes a very substantial chunk of their original purchase), but these returns, which occur months after the “sale”, have no effect on the list. Again, this can allow wholesalers and booksellers to manipulate the list by making large bulk purchases knowing most of them will be returned and never actually sold to an actual person.
2. The survey the NYT sends out already has a list of books on it – basically books already on the list or new books the NYT anticipates will be bestsellers. The respondents can include additional high selling books, but it’s much easier just to provide sales figures for the books on the list and leave it at that. So if your book isn’t on the pre-printed list it’s very likely your sales figures will be way undercounted even if they were strong enough to make the list.