Tuesday, January 29, 2013
How a Book Makes a Bestsellers List, and Why Tuesday is an Important Day in Publishing
In addition to heavy marketing, promotion, blood, sweat, tears, and a fair amount of good luck, there’s another key ingredient that helps a book make a bestsellers list. Many new authors and most readers have misconceptions about how a book makes its way to that status, and I would also venture to say that a large majority don’t realize the importance of Tuesday in the publishing industry, or how that day directly impacts a books ability to claim a spot on a list.
A lot of people think that a book makes a bestsellers list based on the cumulative amount of units sold. That theory is true, but the distinction lies in the timeframe in which the books are sold. Bestseller lists are compiled each week by retailers who report their sales, and the reporting week starts on Tuesday. This is true for the recording industry as well.
If you look at the publication date of books produced by traditional publishers, you will find that no matter the date, the day of the week always falls on a Tuesday. If you see a book with a publication date other then Tuesday, it’s a dead giveaway that the book is self-published, and by someone unfamiliar with industry standards. When I was self-published I made that mistake with my first book, releasing it on a Friday, only to discover my misstep that next Monday through doing research that I’d overlooked on the front end.
Retailers report the number of books sold (based on ISBN’s that are recorded by Nielsen BookScan) within the reporting period (Tuesday thru the weekend) to various industry outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, etc. A book makes a list according to how many units were sold within that week’s reporting period. Each Tuesday is a fresh start for the reporting to begin anew. This is why you see books that boast, “4 weeks on the such and such list.” It’s because that particular book garners top sales each week. If a book sells well enough to make the list at a bookstore, newspaper, magazine, book club (Black Expressions) industry publication (PW, Library Journal) etc., that book can forever be called a bestseller.
Many authors, particularly established ones, stress the importance of first week sales. They do this because the first week of publication is the launching pad for the success of their book, and is generally the author’s best chance of making a bestsellers list. This isn’t true for all authors, though. New authors typically build momentum as time goes on and readers discover their work. But even if it’s the author’s debut book, sales for the first week of publication is still important and serve as a foundation on which to grow. Pre-orders are also very important and count toward book sales.
Personally, I always stress pre-orders. Just as the first week of sales is important, pre-orders help to build momentum before the book is released. When I published my first novel I sold enough pre-orders to pay for my second printing the month after my book was released. I’ll talk more about pre-orders in my next post. Until then, happy writing and reading!
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