Home » Bestsellers, Romance, Self-Publishing » That Day I Decided to Stop Chasing the Bestseller Lists

That Day I Decided to Stop Chasing the Bestseller Lists

19 March 2017

From author Marie Force:

I’ll admit it. I’d become a bit of a whore for it, and I’m not proud of that. After the first time it happens, it becomes a little addicting, the high of realizing you’re one of the top-selling authors in the country in a given week. Wowza. I vividly remember the day I first made the USA Today list in November of 2012. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I hit no. 99 with Fatal Deception, the fifth book in my Fatal Series. I was overwhelmed and thrilled and incredulous at how I’d gone from being one of the most rejected authors I knew to a bestseller in only a couple of years.

Then it got better.

Waiting for Love, book 8 in my Gansett Island Series, hit no. 6 on the New York Times’ ebook list in February 2013.

What a thrill, especially when you consider that book 1 in the Gansett Island Series was rejected EVERYWHERE. So not only was it thrilling to have an indie-published book in a series that no one wanted, except my readers of course, be the first to hit the New York Times list—and in the top 10, no less, it was also extremely vindicating.

. . . .

I went on a bit of a tear with the bestseller lists after Waiting for Love hit. Over the next three years, there were another 26 NYT bestsellers and more than 30 USA Today bestsellers along with many Wall Street Journal bestsellers that I haven’t been as good about keeping track of. In short, I was on a roll, and it felt good. It was validating and vindicating and exciting—and incredibly stressful.

EVERYTHING was timed toward making the lists—release days and release week contests and promotion and advertising. It became a mini form of MADNESS that overtook my life every time a new book was released, and then came the breathless wait on Wednesdays for the lists to be released to validate what I already knew based on the sales—my book was a bestseller. I won’t deny that it was fun to celebrate the lists, and add to the collection of covers on my wall that my agent started as a tradition for each new listing, but I’ve known for more than a year now that this whole thing was starting to get a little out of control.

And that became VERY clear to me last summer. I was on vacation with family and friends in Block Island, my no. 1 happy place in the world, where I spent an entire Wednesday afternoon at the beach stressing out about how my new Fatal book would do on the bestseller lists.

. . . .

Earlier this year, in a move no one saw coming, The New York Times eliminated its ebook list, among many other lists that were cut. I want to say, for the record, that I totally disagree with this move, and it infuriates me that the NYT has basically given the shaft to authors who are KILLING IT on the digital side, which we all know is the future of the book business. They also eliminated the mass-market paperback list and made some other questionable moves that left a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering why. Now we’re hearing that USA Today is considering eliminating its bestseller list, too.

I feel for the scores of authors who had the NYT list as a “someday” goal. I hate that it has become almost impossible for authors who are nearly 100 percent digitally published to make the NYT list, even if they sell 25,000 books in a week. I always thought USA Today is a much bigger deal because it highlights ALL the books sold in the country in ALL formats on one list. Because it takes a lower number of sales to score a spot on the back end of the list, USA Today has been viewed by some as somewhat of a stepchild to the vaunted NYT. But I think most authors would agree that hitting the top 50 on USA Today is a pretty big deal when you look at who else is with you on that list on any given week.

If you are an author who is yet to hit a list and that is your goal, I want you to know that I fully support your goals and aspirations, and I understand them completely. I understand the need for that feather in your cap because I once had the same need for the feather. I am rooting for ALL of you to get there someday if that is what you want, and I will always celebrate my author friends and colleagues who make the lists.

Link to the rest at Marie Force Blog

Here’s a link to Marie Force’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Bestsellers, Romance, Self-Publishing

13 Comments to “That Day I Decided to Stop Chasing the Bestseller Lists”

  1. “Earlier this year, in a move no one saw coming, The New York Times eliminated its ebook list…” no surprise there. Killing eBooks is the #1 effort by the establishment, Big 5 Pubs and NYT. Among other derangement syndromes they suffer from nowadays.

  2. All I can say is, “thank goodness.” I will also stop trying getting to the top of the NY Times ebook best seller list. (I was just one more book away.) What a relief!

  3. Another Anonymous

    There was a reason they dropped ebooks. ‘Control’, or lack there of.

    Too many of those top selling ebooks are not owned/controlled by the top 5, so they won’t pay NYT to point out that some indie ebook is selling better than their ‘cultured’ POS.

    Another problem for NYT is Amazon’s top seller list. It’s hard for NYT to claim some ebook is a top seller when Amazon sales for it don’t even have them in the top 100.

    The NYT will continue dropping anything that upsets those that pay it to post a best seller list — not that anyone seems to be believing them at this point anyway. (I wonder how many HP books would still be showing up on their lists if the lists showed actual best sellers?)

    A better goal would be seeing not some best seller list, but what your book/ebook has done as a return. I bought dinner with it, made a car/house, paid off the car/house all are things that will last longer than a cooked list from a dying paper.

  4. Good for you, Marie! It’s great that you’re taking your sanity back and putting your writing and your readers first.

  5. Kudos to you, Marie, on both your stellar sales and on taking back control.

  6. Marie, you made the right decision. That you had a long ride is good.

    Though most dont realize how the NYT list is put together in reality and the odd politics is has in common with the nyt book review gnomes, you earned it with your book sales. It was not manipulated by you or any pub. If it could be, trust, lol, a hoard of rabidly ambitious authors/pubs would have been there right along with you.

    So that you were there, cannot be taken from you, and will help all future endeavors you undertake. It is like having a medal that shows. For some yet to be readers of one’s works, this matters, assuming all other talents are present.

    We know from having been on the list for three years off and on, that there is another stressor and that is to produce whether the weather is right or not. It’s like having to take your horse out daily and nightly or else the horse will die. You find out, if you try to ride day and night, the horse might not die, but you will.

    We pulled way back, cancelled a major contract. The sanity was worth it. We never regretted it. We were on PW, LJ, USA Today and NYT. It was not planned. It happened. And I believe it can happen for others whether they aim for the lists or not. Really, just write a damn good book to the best of your ability. There’s the ticket to ride.

    Good luck to you. Again, you made the right turn on the mountain.

    Agreed, all the lists, even the strange owners of BAM who make their own good ol boy lists, should rank all books without discrimination re delivery form.

  7. “…another 26 NYT bestsellers and more than 30 USA Today bestsellers.”

    Gal had it all, but she still wasn’t happy.

    Here’s a good question for everyone, not just authors:

    How much do you really need?

    • life is a process, we live and learn. hindsight is cheap compared to the struggle to return to one’s true self again. Ego is not built to lead, but as in CS Lewis, the a** and the ape sometimes take over the soul of the lion. It’s ok. It’s just life learning. It’s those who dont learn and veer from the much of muchness pursuit, who seem sad, like the buddhists say, hungry ghosts

    • And that’s the thing: making the best-seller lists isn’t a ‘need’ — it’s an ego-driven want. And an obsession, with the same parts of the brain lighting up that do with addictive behaviour. It looks like one of the biggest traps for people who start to become successful with sales — things are moving, it’s exciting, they want more of it, they focus on things that will give them that. On the next big ‘prize’ and how to score it. And a lot of energy gets spent not writing. Hungry ghosts, indeed.

    • How much does someone need? I guess that would depend on your personality. I have a sister who is super mellow, easy-going, and doesn’t get too upset about things. She’s not ambitious. She is always happy with whatever she has and doesn’t feel a need to go beyond that.

      I’m the total opposite. I’m completely driven. I’m competitive. I want to succeed and do better than I’ve done before. I look at where I am, what I’ve accomplished, and the me from five years ago would be beyond thrilled. But now that I’ve conquered this mountain, I want to move on to the next one and conquer it. I need to keep going and doing better.

      I completely get Marie’s obsession. I’ve had a bit of it myself. Because even though I logically understand how the NYT list works, and that it’s essentially worthless, there is value to the public at large in being able to say “NYT Bestseller.” Even if I know the list is bogus and controlled, it’s like when you get nominated for an Academy Award and you get to use that title for the rest of your life. I know it will never happen for me (especially since the NYT is so busy dismantling every possibility that indies have to make it on the list), but I’ll admit there is still some small part of me that would like to see it happen.

      And I’ll add a good for you, Marie! I hope to get there someday and completely not care about any of those lists. 🙂

  8. Prizes like being on bestselling lists are just ways to assert control and approval by the big boys. My “important things in the writing world” list has one item on it: the amount of paycheck I get every month. To me, that’s more important than anything else, and so far it’s been doing just fine. I’m an indie and wouldn’t have it any other way. My sister was on those lists and I make more than she did, not to say I’m rich, but I make a living as a writer, and that freedom is what’s important to me.

    And we all know those bestsellers lists are rigged.

    • Your sister rigged her way onto the list?…I’d like to hear how she did that.

      Many ‘list bestselling’ authors make massive amounts of money. Year after year. Depends not on frequency on the list, but the often long long afterlife of sales because the book is evergreen, and had the equiv of a day in the sun on the list, even though most readers never look at the ‘lists.

      Money made, being on a list: Way two different items.

      The ny list/ usat/lj/wsj/pw/etc lists gather sales from certain bookstores in larger consumer demographics, most often in larger cities, but does not gather sales figures from all smaller even medium sized bookstores.

      Just like all local beauty contests choosing miss red ribbon, no matter how beautiful she is, are not counted equal to the miss blue ribbons sent to national as the rep of their state.

      Knowing the inner dynamics of the lists, I’d say one of the peculiarities of the lists has been the listing of books for weeks and months on end, that the twee editors of lists, despise. lol

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