Practically every editor, writing guru, advice and support company for writers - appear to have written or masterminded 'New York Times Best Sellers.' I'm beginning to think the bar must be pretty low to get on the list. Just how many bestsellers can there be? Can any of our American cousins enlighten me as to what degree of awe I should attach to NYT Bestseller! blurb?
I'm trying to work out if you can say you are NYT bestseller if your book makes the list for just one week. Wikipedia tells us:
Fast sales. A book that never makes the list can actually outsell books on the best-seller list. This is because the best-seller list reflects sales in a given week, not total sales. Thus, one book may sell heavily in a given week, making the list, while another may sell at a slower pace, never making the list, but selling more copies over time.
Double counting. By including wholesalers in the polls along with retail bookstores, books may be double-counted. Wholesalers report how much they sell to retailers, and retailers report how much they sell to customers, thus there can be overlap with the same reported book being sold twice within a given time frame. In addition, retailers may return books to wholesalers months later if they never sell, thus resulting in a "sale" being reported that never came to fruition. For example, mass-market paperbacks can see as high as 40% return rates from the retailer back to the wholesaler.
Manipulation by authors and publishers. In 1956, author Jean Shepherd created the fake novel I, Libertine to illustrate how easy it was to manipulate the best-seller lists based on demand, as well as sales. Fans of Shepherd's radio show planted references to the book and author so widely that demand for the book led to claims of it being on the Times list. Author Jacqueline Susann (Valley of the Dolls) attempted to "butter-up" Times-reporting booksellers and personally bought large quantities of her own book. Author Wayne Dyer (Your Erroneous Zones) purchased thousands of copies of his own book. Al Neuharth (Confessions of an S. O. B.), former head of Gannett Company, had his Gannett Foundation buy two thousand copies of his own autobiography. In 1995, authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema spent $200,000 to buy ten thousand copies of The Discipline of Market Leaders from dozens of bookstores. Although they denied any wrongdoing, the book spent 15 weeks on the list. As a result of this scandal the Times began placing a dagger symbol next to any title for which bookstores reported bulk orders. However daggers do not always appear; for example Tony Hsieh's Delivering Happiness was known to have been manipulated with bulk orders but didn't have a dagger. Companies that contract with authors to manipulate the bestseller list through "bestseller campaigns" include ResultSource.
Manipulation by retailers and wholesalers. It happens with regularity that wholesalers and retailers deliberately or inadvertently manipulate the sales data they report to the Times. Since being on the Times best-seller list increases the sales of a book, bookstores and wholesalers may report a book is a best-seller before it actually is one, in order that it might later become a "legitimate" best-seller through increased sales due to its inclusion on the best-seller list, leading to the best-seller list becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy for the booksellers.
Leading data collection. The Times provides booksellers with a form containing a list of books it believes might be bestsellers, to check off, with an alternative "Other" column to fill in manually. It's been criticized as a leading technique to create a best-seller list based on books the Times thinks might be included. One bookseller compared it to a voting card in which two options for President are provided: "Bill Clinton and Other".
Self-fulfilling. Once a book makes it onto the list it is heavily marketed as a "best-seller", purchased by readers who seek out best-sellers, given preferential treatment by retailers, online and offline, who create special best-seller categories including special in-store placement and price discounts, and is carried by retailers that generally don't carry other books (e.g., supermarkets). Thus, the list can become self-fulfilling in determining which books have high sales and remain on the list.
Conflicts of interest. Due to high financial impact of making the list, since the 1970s publishers have created escalator clauses for major authors stipulating that if a book makes the list the author will receive extra money, based on where it ranks and for how long. Authors may also be able to charge higher speaking fees for the status of being a best-seller. As Book History said, "With so much at stake then, it is no wonder that enormous marketing effort goes into getting a book access to this major marketing tool."