Arts & Entertainment

What are best sellers?

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NY Times Bestseller LIst
All lists are not created equal
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What are best sellers? Look no further: Bestsellers Defined

It would seem to avid and non-avid readers alike that  answering the question of what defines a best selling book would be pretty straightforward.

Did it reach some particular milestone or magic number?  Did the book simply outsell all the other books?

If so, it seems like you’d have a best seller on your  hands. But if it were that easy anyone could do it; or at least understand it in this case.

There are a number of reasons why answering what should be a fairly simple question requires further  explanation. And for those readers, like myself, who’ve sometimes wondered how it is EVERY book on the shelf can be a bestseller; this ones for you.

One factor muddying the waters are all the different groups, organizations and other assorted book geeks that have best seller lists. These include some notable names like The NY Times and USA Today. Book Sense and also have their lists, and there are a host of other, smaller folks that stand by their own way of counting.

Then there are the different ways each bestseller list is measured that really gets things messed up.

The NY Times list for example uses various polls of retailers and publishers to arrive at their total sale numbers., as you might imagine, uses only those sales derived from sales on their site. And Book Sense uses figures provided from independent retailers;  ignoring sales from the Borders and Barnes and Noble’s of the world.

Then you have your different categories to contend with. These are the bestseller lists like the “Young  Adult, But Not Quite Old Enough To Vote” genre. Okay, that may be a bit overboard, but not by much. The NY Times has 20 unique lists, compared to USA Today’s 1;  they simply list who’s sold the most books, regardless of genre.

Other countries like England and Canada flat sales  figures are used. In England, if more than 4,000 copies were sold in a week; bestseller. Canada uses the same philosophy; more than 5,000 sold, bingo we’ve got a bestseller.

With all of these different factors impacting different book types of distribution outlets, it is not only possible but likely a bestseller on one list won’t even make the list of also-rans on another.

So, back to the original question of what are bestsellers.

What we can safely conclude is that it depends on who you ask. As an avid reader, I say we stick to good, well-written books that deliver on their promises and let the lists fall where they may.

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