NYT Best Seller Strategies

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NYT Best Seller Strategies

In researching the best strategies to have a book become a New York Times bestseller, best practices include building an author platform prior to publishing, diversifying ones audience, aiming for velocity of sales, understanding rules of categorizing and using a traditional publisher were key strategies. It was also noted that it’s possible to ‘game the system’ by having a third party purchase many copies of a book upon publication, but that this practice is largely considered unethical amongst writers.

Building an Author Platform

  • It's noted that one of the best ways to get a potential New York Times bestseller is to build an author platform of potential buyers prior to publication.
  • Social media following is a key way to build this platform, as is blogging or online publishing on writing platforms like Medium.
  • This strategy allows collaborators, industry leaders, publishers, agents, and readers to find an author before a book is released, which is likely to increase readership.
  • This strategy also allows an author to build credibility in their niche, which is likely to lead to readers, as it builds trust and credibility.
  • Similarly, it's recommended to engage with ones online audience to get an idea of what their audience is looking for, and hone in on how to create interest.

Diversified Audience

  • It's also noted that the New York Times bestseller list is not based simply on number of sales, but also on diverse sources of sales.
  • For example, while a bestseller typically requires approximately 5,000 – 10,000 copies in a week, these cannot come from one marketplace or website in order to qualify for the bestseller status.
  • Rather, its recommended for an author to acquire sales from a variety of sources and locations, including small to medium physical retailers in various locations, online e-commerce sites like Amazon, box chains like Barnes and Nobles, university bookstores, and personal website sales.

Velocity of Sales

  • Similarly, the ranking is not just based on total sales as a whole, but how quickly those sales are achieved, making velocity of sales a required strategy.
  • One scientific study of New York Times bestsellers found that the first few weeks were critical for the majority of sales, with sales of most bestsellers dropping dramatically after ten weeks.
  • Velocity of sales is achieved via setting a release date and announcing it, as well as concentrating marketing efforts early on in the release.
  • Another source noted, "the more sales you pack into the shorter period of time the better".

Rules and Categories

  • It’s also noted that understanding the way categories work within the list is necessary.
  • For example, each category under fiction and non-fiction has a certain amount of best-selling ‘slots’, making certain categories easier to achieve this status within.
  • It’s recommended that books be classified with intention, and also noted that often self-help books fall into the “Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous List”, which is a highly competitive list, so listing them within their niche (art or business for example) rather than self-help may be a useful strategy.

Publishing Format

Gaming the System

  • While not considered ethical, there are options to buy ones way onto the New York Times bestseller list.
  • This strategy would involve paying a third party company to order a large amount of copies, which are placed through a variety of bookstores, in order to meet the sales requirements to become a bestseller.
  • However, this process is expensive ($100,00- $250,000) and considered unethical because it prioritizes money invested over quality or popularity of content.


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