This is a question I get asked a lot.  I often work with writers as one of my advanced courses teaches how to get on the Bestseller lists.  The asking of this question is an interesting one. Because the answer is simply “it depends”.

There’s two distinct schools of thought within the industry. About a third of the people you meet (mostly those working with self-publishings houses) will tell you that once you’ve sold a specific number of books you are automatically a bestseller.  The first problem with this system is, few of them agree with what the number should be. I’ve heard anything from 5,000 to 10,000, and apparently in Canada (because we’re special) we get to use 3,000.

The second problem with this system is, that when you quote a number under this thinking, the other two thirds of the industry think you’re an idiot.  Sorry, there’s no easy way to say that.  To the majority of the industry, being a bestseller, means your book has made it onto one of the bestseller lists – New York Times, Wall Street Week, USA Today, Amazon or Barnes and Noble being the best known.  To get on one of these lists, you must meet the criteria of that list – usually some formula of mosts books sold in a specific period of time sometimes multiplied by the number of books you’ve sold overall.  The number of books you have to sell, will depend on the list, the time of year and the category you’re in.   It can range anywhere from 500 to 20,000 books and is difficult to predict.  Figuring out the best strategy for you book requires some understanding of what your wanting to achieve and what your end goals are for the book.

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