When a book becomes a "Bestseller" (...and what that really means)

Did you know The New York Times Bestseller List has its own Wikipedia page?  It's a real thing, the bestseller list and widely considered "the preeminent list of best-selling books in the United States" (for the record, that comes from the wikipedia page too).

Still, what does that really mean?  Certainly not that every good book makes it, and not that every book on the list is worth reading (Snooki's book It's a Shore Thing made the list at #24 on January 30) (No offense, Snooki).

Is the list compiled from solely from sales?  No one knows for certain, the entire process is considered somewhat of a trade secret.  But from what is known, the process goes something like this
  1. The Times prepares of a list of expected best sellers, then sends this list to bookstores. 
  2. Bookstores then rank the books on the list, with room to add in titles they consider to be "big movers" (What bookstores report back to the Times? "The names of booksellers used for our lists are kept as secret as the keys to the crown jewels," said William Adler in a 1991 interview )
  3. The Times takes the data, tabulates, and gets things ready to go for the week's list.  
There are surely more steps in the process, including how a list of "expected bestsellers" comes about.  Even so, the list often brings about much-deserved attention to little known authors, helping them gain exposure and publicity.

No matter how weirdly secretive the process, making it on the list is an incredible accomplishment for an author and even more so, making it to No. 1 truly shows a book has promise and deserves merit.  Brandon Mull, a BYU graduate and author, made it to the very top of the list earlier this year with the latest book in his young adult series, Fablehaven.

At the end of the day, the bestseller list is at the heart of the book business, always keeping things interesting and admittedly, perpetuating sales.  That being said, don't put too much trust in best seller lists. Instead, watch for reviews and if there's ever any doubt, always talk to a bookseller.  They're experts.

Have titles from the Bestseller list ever pleasantly surprised you? ...or maybe mislead you down a treacherous 400 page road?   

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series here
Learn more about the Bestseller list and their secrets here


  1. I believe just last week, Richard Paul Evans' new young adult book, Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25, made it to #1.

  2. Absolutely its #1, The first time I got this book I thought about reading and put it off for a hour, I would just read it later. Then I just picked up the and stared at it. Then I started reading and couldn't put it down. I started at ten at night and finished it around one in the morning. I was really sad becuase I finished the book so fast and I don't know when the next book will come out. So I just keep on re-reading it until the book comes out. After reading it so many times I am still satisfied with it and read it through, instead of skipping around like I do with most books I have already read.

    1. How do you choose what to read off the bestselling books? Do you pick the top one?

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