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Why the “B” in Bestseller Just Might Mean “Broke”

Is it just me, or does it seem like every author these days uses the adjective “bestselling” before their name?  There’s a lot of current marketing talk and strategy circulating about how to make this so-called distinction a reality.  But at Book Genius, we don’t do what everyone else does.  We’re focused simply on finding what works, not just what sounds good. 

So, let’s deconstruct the “Bestseller Myth” in favor of a few reality-based marketing techniques that actually do work.

Myth #1:  Getting to #1 on any Amazon bestseller list will dramatically improve your sales.

Right now as you read this, somewhere there is an author scratching their head, trying to figure out the most obscure book category they can invent to relate to their book on Amazon.  They are self-inflicting this torture because the more obscure the category, the more of a chance the book that they’re marketing will leap to the top of that list, in many cases, with less than 10 sales, sometimes, less than 5.  And if you’re thinking logically, the next natural question is, why?  Why would a book marketer intentionally seek out a category so obscure that so few people are interested in these books that the number one slot has sold less than five copies in a day? 

They’re doing this because someone told them that being at the top of any Amazon bestseller list will somehow bump their sales.  This is not true.  Being at the top of certain, more popular bestseller lists may bump your sales, but not for categories that you invent and that not many people are looking for.

Rather than spending time inventing categories, it would be more advantageous to use that time focusing on marketing tactics that do work, like:

  • ·      Requesting and cultivating reviews
  • ·      Making sure you have an irresistible book cover
  • ·      Polishing your Amazon page sales copy
  • ·      Posting on social media
  • ·      Building your email list
  • ·      Making sure you have a book that spreads through word of mouth





Myth #2 – You Should Publish a Book that Everyone Would Want to Buy

The only book that everyone might want to buy is a dictionary, and even those come in different languages.  Every author wants to sell lots of books, but to whom?  The less targeted your book is, the more difficult it will be to answer that question.  And in this new era of book publishing, if you can’t specifically identify whom your book is for, your marketing efforts will having you going broke sooner than you think with nothing to show for it.

If you’re selling to everybody, you’re selling to nobody.  That’s something I say in almost every Book Genius masterclass and Meetup session.  In fact, at the beginning of every single one of our Book Genius Meetups in LA, the first thing we do is introduce ourselves, our current book project and as specifically as we can, describe our audience.  That’s right, every time.  And when things go right, each audience description we give gets more and more specific each time we meet.  This is because targeting sells – specific targeting.  It allows your to find and speak to the best market for your book most directly and effectively.

With targeting, you are able to reframe your thinking from presenting a book that everyone would want to buy, to the one that certain people have already been wanting to buy.  Much better proposition, right?

Myth #3 – If you’re on the New York Times Bestseller List, you make a lot of money on your book.

One of the questions I get often is how do you make it to the New York Times Bestseller list?  This is an obvious goal for likely every writer because, unlike obscure bestseller lists buried deep within the caverns of Amazon, the Times list is showcased and presented front and center.  The descriptor of “New York Times Bestselling Author” is a marketing cache that is truly hard to beat.  And it does sell more books.

But how does it happen, and what does it mean in terms of profits?   According to most sources, the tally for the New York Times bestseller list comes from brick and mortar retail (so that Amazon bestseller list won’t help).  An unidentified finite list of stores make up the determination of what books become bestsellers.  The presence of a book on that list is heavily dependent on pre-sale orders and pre-release shipments.  That’s a lot of books to be printed and shipped out the door before you know whether or not end customers are going to actually buy them.  That’s a lot of up front investment.   With some quick back of the envelope math, let’s say it takes 10,000 books to make the NYT bestseller list.  And let’s assume that the printing cost alone for each book is roughly $3. That means a baseline investment of $30,000 to even attempt to make the NYT list.  But the barriers don’t stop there.  Second, you’ll likely have to go through a traditional publisher – not that independently-published books are never counted, but it is so seldom that it is almost never.  Third, you’ll have to set your book up to accept returns from retailers.   That means that you’ll have to “pay back” the wholesale price paid by the retailer for any books that are returned, plus a likely fee penalty for re-stocking or other processing and shipping.


Not that hitting the NYT list, or any bestseller list can’t be done.  It can, by almost any author who is willing to take the various steps to do so.


But, why focus on empty adjectives that don’t guarantee profits when you can make your focus profits from the start?  The Book Genius philosophy is being a profitable author is much better and more predictable than being a “bestseller” on any list.


The Book Genius courses and masterclasses teach the profitable marketing-centered approach to building a sustainable book business. This is one that is not based on hype, but built on establishing an easy to implement plan that will get you paid.  And that’s what makes cents sense (and dollars!).



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I have profitably published 6 books over 12 years using a proven system that can help you do the same.