It’s all about numbers…maybe

Recently, the kingdoms of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media empires were abuzz with the new that Mein Kampf was a digital bestselling book.

Really? Eight-nine years after publication, there is a resurgence in the rantings of a genocidal, psychopathic man with mother issues? I don’t think so.

David Gaughran made a good point in his blog post – Fake Controversy Alert – Hitler’s Mein Kampf was not a digital bestseller.

It underlines how little people generally understand how Amazon works – even in the “leading” industry journals. There are all sorts of sub-sub-genre bestseller lists on Amazon, and if you choose your categories carefully, you can appear on a “bestseller” list with a handful of sales.

But that doesn’t make you a bestseller, and it didn’t make Mein Kampf a bestseller – until the media made it one.

The concept of a bestselling novel is murky at best.

bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling or frequently borrowed titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and library circulation statistics and then published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains. — Bestseller as defined on Wikipedia

In today’s world of publication, we’re not talking about generalized book groupings known as genre (Fiction – Literary, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc. OR Non-Fiction – Health, Reference, History, etc.). We are talking about sub-genre categories that become extraordinarily narrow in scope. An example is Non-Fiction>Health>Anatomy>Face>Nose>Nasal Hair.  If there are only three books written about the fascinating world of nasal hair and one of the tomes sells ten books on one day, while the others sell zero, then the current algorithms used to measure book sales will state that the tome is a bestseller in its category. Going a step further, I can then use these numbers to state that I am a bestselling author about nasal hair.

Please excuse me, my nose itches.

Whether you publish traditionally or choose to self publish, being consistent in your sales is what determines your ranking as a best seller. If you want to drill down and become an expert in nasal hair – okay. Just be clear you hold the title in selling books about nose hair.

Here is a thought to consider. If you sell a steady number of books weekly and your over all number exceeds a one-hit sales week – who is more successful? The regular sales or the quick hit?

Numbers are important. As the creative accountants of the financial collapse will tell you, you can massage the numbers to look like anything you want. Don’t do that. Be honest with yourself about sales. Celebrate the sales, but don’t get caught up in being top dog.  The problem with being on top is it’s a hell of a fall when you’re knocked down.

As an author starting out, I am aware that I’m building a brand.  Each book is a part of a larger plan. I have to be consistent and realistic about my writing and publishing goals. I’m not ready to write a bestseller about nose hair, but I am ready to put in my time and track my numbers. Each sale is a step in the right direction.


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