Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Making of a Best Seller

So, hmmm, okay, in case you didn't hear: I am officially and forever will be a NY Times Best Selling Author!!! Yay! What does this mean? Well, it means that for the future on out, all of my books will say that I'm a NY Times Best Selling author. For the present, it means that I'm working it into as many conversations as possible. :)

Actually, what it means is something fairly intangible. I've learned some interesting stuff this past week about best seller lists, and I thought that you guys might find it interesting too. When whispers of the fact that I might have a chance of making one (or more) first found their way to me, the first thing I asked was, "Well, how are these lists quantified?" And the answers I got back -from just about everyone - editors, writers, my agent - is that no one really seems to know.


You'd think that it would be simple math: add up the top sellers and put them on the list. But evidently, this isn't exactly how it's done. And each list has its own method of going about it. From what I've learned, the news outlets not only look at numbers, but they also survey bookstores to see what is hot and what is selling like wildfire, and some lists, like the NY Times, ignore big box stores (which served to my advantage, as I'm not yet in Costco, but now hope to be), while others (like, I think, USA Today, but I'm not certain) do not. USA Today lists the top 150 books period. They don't differentiate between fiction and non, children's and adult, paperback and hardcover. It is strictly: these are the top 150 sellers (based on some secret calculation) in the country, which, of course means that it's tougher for a novel to land on the list, as non-fiction sells far, far more copies than fiction.

So, as the days and hours approached, I was nervous. I was more than nervous, I was full-on freaking out, albeit mostly internally and taking a good deal of it out on the elliptical! :) But the fact is that you CAN sell more copies than another book and not end up on the list. I knew this. I knew that there is no transparency with the decision-making process, and while I also knew that my sales should have been strong enough to land me somewhere, really, no one knew for sure. You also have to keep in mind that these lists are like a grading curve: if you sell well in a week where there are no big releases or other books fall short of expectations, you have a much greater chance of making it. If my book had come out in May? I probably wouldn't be in my designated slot.

So back to the original question: what does all of this mean? To be honest, I'm not sure yet. I know that book stores get the list today and tomorrow and will probably offer more support/sales. I know that, as mentioned, I get a shiny new title that excites the marketing folks. I know that I get a tiny thrill when I see my name on the actual pdf I have of the list. I know that this will likely give me more leverage when I sell my next book. But right now? In this moment? Well, maybe it will convince people to fork over $15 when they otherwise wouldn't have. Maybe it will convince a few more newspapers or magazines to run reviews.

But to be honest, life goes on. I got the news and had a wonderful, like, 20 minute bubble of pure elation/oh-my-f-ing-god-I-can't-believe-I-did-it moment, and then my kids needed dinner, and my son needed cough medicine, and we had our daily bedtime routine, and then I got dinner ready, and then I fell into bed and watched my DVRed episode of Samantha Who and the intro to Lipstick Jungle. (Sue me, it's a guilty pleasure.)

We'll see what happens from here. You know I'll keep you posted!

And thanks AGAIN to EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU who helped get me here. Truly. I'm sure that some authors don't recognize that it takes a village to make a best-seller, but I do. I feel grateful and humbled that I have found such wonderful neighbors in all of you.


Kate said...

Kudos on making the list!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! You deserve every bit of it.

Therese said...


(And, you're welcome. ;) )

Thanks for sharing this insider info. Hope to see the book ascending in weeks to come--but even if that doesn't happen, well, it's as you say, you get to keep the NY Times Best Seller title forever.

Very, very cool.

Anonymous said...

Allison, thanks for this fascinating insight into the making of a best-seller.

I'm beyond thrilled for you!

Amanda Ashby said...

Mega congratulations! I can't wait to read this book - it sounds so amazing!!!!

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

However the computer it, it's good to be on it. Well done and congratulations.


jentomback said...

YAY for you - and SO looking forward as introducing you at out book club as the "NY Times Bestseller List Author".... i have a questiona bout the nd of the book... should i email it on the blog? do you have another email? i don't want to spoil it!

Allison Winn Scotch said...


Yes, please don't post the ending here. I'm pretty sure that you have my email, as we've chatted about the book club, so feel free to email me there.