Have you ever wondered how many books you have to sell to become a bestseller? The term can be ambiguous at best and depend on the outlet. According to Publisher’s Weekly, it may take as many as 315 book sales a day to reach the top of the Amazon charts. Other bestseller lists may require anywhere from several hundred book sales per day to several thousand in a week. It depends on the list.

New York Times Best Sellers

The New York Times categorizes their best selling lists into several different categories, which means the author can be a bestseller in their category and not for all books sold for X time period. For these particular categories, the timeframe is weekly. The New York Times also publishes their bestseller methodology, but it is vague and contains no specific numbers. Instead, they state that they calculate ebook sales and print book sales from various ebook and print book vendors. They also give an option for any book vendor to directly report their book sales for every title they sell.


NYT Weekly Bestselling Categories

It’s important to note that the weekly postings are delayed. For example, the most current week is August 25th. However, the lists reflect the books sales for the week ending August 10th.

  • Combined Print and E-Book Fiction Sales

  • Combined Print and E-Book Non-Fiction Sales

  • Hardcover Fiction

  • Hardcover Non-Fiction

  • Paperback and Trade Fiction

  • Paperback Non-Fiction

  • Advice, How-To and Misc

  • Children’s and Middle-Grade Hardcover

  • Children’s Picture Books

  • Children’s Series

  • Young Adult Hardcover

The Metrics Behind the NYT Bestselling Lists

In an article posted on Scribe, Tucker Max states, “Every bestseller list is a lie because no bestseller list measures the best selling books.” He goes on to say that bestselling lists are curated lists of books chosen by certain people. This means that you could sell enough books to quantifiably be on the NYT bestseller lists, but because someone doesn’t want your book on that list, you won’t appear there. Yes, three was a court case/lawsuit involving The Exorcist to prove that statement.

Unfortunately, none of this tells you how many books you need to sell in order to be considered for the New York Times Bestselling lists. The short answer is that if you can sell 1,000 books (some say hardcopy other’s say all books (ebook, print, audio, etc)) within the first few days of a book launch and between 3,000 and 5,000 copies within the first week, you are on course to make it onto a bestselling book list, maybe even the NYT.

The Accuracy of the NYT Bestselling Lists

From what I have read, the NYT bestselling lists are considered to be notoriously inaccurate when compared to the NDP Bookscan information. According to an article posted on the Observer, you’re most likely to get on the NYT bestselling lists and rank high if you are an author and work for the NYT, and you are most likely to fall off the list faster if you write a conservative-leaning book rather than a liberal-leaning book.


Publishers Weekly Best Selling Book Lists

Publisher’s Weekly also offers best-selling books lists. They have a top 10 overall as well as various book categories that are similar to the book categories used by the NYT. The difference between Publishers Weekly and the NYT best-selling book lists is that Publishers Weekly pulls all of its bestselling book data from the NDP Bookscan (formerly Nielson Bookscan in the US). Furthermore, when it comes to the accuracy of bestselling book lists and actual bestselling books by sales numbers, Publisher’s Weekly is considered the industry benchmark. In order to make it onto one of these lists, the author needs to achieve between 5,000 and possibly 10,000 in book sales that are registered as being sold on the NDP Bookscan.

Amazon Best Selling Books

For most indie authors, the book list that matters is the Amazon top 100 list. This list goes off of Amazon sales numbers and various other metrics. The exact formula Amazon uses to calculate best sellers or those books that make it into the top 100 and/or top 20 is unknown. However, some independent research has been performed by book publishers and authors in order to attempt to calculate the sales numbers needed to reach the top 100 Amazon book list. According to BookPromotionHub, if an author can sell 1,000 books within a few days. This doesn't necessarily have to be within the first few days of the book’s launch. It can potentially be any time period for which the book is for sale. However, new releases climb the ranks much faster than books that have been out for a while. To that end, if the author can sell between 500 and 1,000 the first few days (some sites say it can be as low as 315 book sales per day) after the book’s launch, it has the best chance of entering Amazon’s top 100 chart.

The metrics get extremely interesting if the author or book publisher wants to be in the top 5 Amazon books for sale. This is estimated to take an average of 1094 book sales per day, specifically print books.


Neilson Bookscan and NDP Bookscan

A better way of tracking bestselling books for your own personal information is via the Nielson BookScan Data, but even that isn’t 100% accurate. They only track between 70 and 80 percent of the available book outlets. Amazon states that they track 85 percent of book sales on the applicable page in Author Central. It’s also important to note that Nielson Bookscan was bought by the NDP group in 2017 and now operates under NDP Bookscan in the United States. The Original Nielson Bookscan still operates in other countries, including the United Kingdom.

NDP Bookscan allows members to see book sales and influence their book sales by networking. Of course, this service is not free. Yearly prices range from $109 to $689 per year. Author publishers pay $139 per year. With that being said, this is, to date, the most accurate way of seeing book sales and book rankings by book sales.




Read More from Stacey Carroll


Blooddoll1FullCoverADTHE BLOODDOLL FACTORY Kindle Edition

An unemployed male nurse lands a job at a reproductive clinic only to learn the babies he is helping to create are being sold to the local vampire population.​

After being unemployed for a year, William finally receives a call to come into Elite Surrogates and Adoption (ESA) for an interview. The sterile white interior does nothing for his confidence as he’s led to Sadie Jones' (HR manager’s) office where she proceeds to question him about his job experience and reproductive knowledge. 

It all goes well in this paranormal medical erotic romance until William realizes that he’s going to have to “perform” for the job. Fifty dollars an hour would help him catch up on his mortgage and get his wife to stop nagging him about the bills. However, using his own semen to propagate the reproductive cycle is more than a little weird. After considering the job and the busty HR manager, he agrees to continue the interview.


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