StartUp Tip #81: Bestseller list formula is broken


The bestseller list is one of the most fascinating and confusing aspects of the book publishing industry.

Almost every time I meet a new author, a conversation that often comes up is what being on the list means, and how a book can “hit” it.

Having a best-seller can really make an author’s success and drive future sales of the book, and future sales of future books.

Cumulative advantage is a powerful side effect of story telling. Get out front, even a little, and you sell more because many people like to invest in a winner.

We like to read what other people are reading, and we like to attend events that trend because we want to witness the “lit” first hand, we don’t want what we call FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

A classic example of cumulative advantage is the power of bestseller lists at bookstores or events that trend.

However a bestseller book doesn’t necessarily mean it is a best read.

Bestseller list is a function of sales. A book that sells most copies ranks the highest on the list.

Like politics, bestseller list is a popularity contest. It doesn’t guarantee that the best book or candidate will make the top of the list.

The bestseller list formula has a bug and is a result is broken.

Today, the bestseller list is easier to manipulate than ever before.

Just like paid Twitter where people [or agencies] are paid to make events trend, authors get [sometimes even pay] people to buy their book in large quantities so as to get the bookstore to sell more copies of their book and make it to the top of the bestseller list.

Bestseller’s list is a ranking of quantity sold, not quality of the book sold.

Some authors and event organizers obsess over bestseller and trending.

Even in the age of abundance, it is not about quantity, but quality.

When you are doing your work, when you are creating an offering, there is no more important question to answer than:

“What sort of quality are we seeking here?”

It is more about doing work that matters, work that connects and changes people for the better, than about trending and bestselling.

Maybe we should consider the Best-Quality List.

Maybe we should consider JOMO: Joy of Missing Out.

Don’t strive to be a bestseller, strive to be quality seller. 

Sustainable bestseller follows quality.


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