Many people are swayed by the “bestseller” label on the covers of books, but are disappointed once they read them. The companies that publish bestseller lists do not worry about the content or quality of the books on their lists. They do not separate the good books from the poor books. The best books to read are those with staying power. They are aesthetically pleasing, thought-provoking and relevant to a vast audience. These three qualifications are subjective and usually publicized by friend recommendations and consumer reviews. Bestseller lists highlight the quantitative factor by looking at only the number of sales during a short time, and sales can be affected by many things.
It is simple to make a book a bestseller, but much more difficult to create excellent literature. Books on the top of bestseller lists have sold more books in a short period of time, usually one to two weeks, than any other books. However, selling more copies of one book is not the same as selling a lot of copies. The odds of a book making it on a bestseller list depend on the total number of book sales in the country at a given time. This means that books in smaller countries can be a bestseller with fewer copies sold. For example, in Ireland books can sell as little as 300 copies to become a bestseller. In America the sales need to equal at least 3000 and three times that amount is necessary during busy seasons.
Many authors want to write bestsellers. The numbers become more important to them than the books. One of the best ways to get on a bestseller list is to write a piece that aligns with a current fad or interest. Fads are so transitory that they illicit momentary mania, encouraging people to rush out and buy the book as quickly as possible. This creates huge sales during the short period tracked by bestseller lists and the book rockets to the top. However, once the fad passes the sales plummet. Therefore, authors who want to ride the wave of popular interest have to write quickly to get their book to the public before something new comes along. This is a serious detriment to the quality of the book. These books often become bestsellers because of their topic, then are quickly discarded because of their quality.
Authors work off a current craze by using film tie-ins, expounding on current highly-charged sentiments or by assisting people with a popular goal. If a new science fiction movie just gained huge popularity, similar science fiction novels will see a sudden spike in sales. If there is a lot of concern in the country about racial equality, books that address that topic will become more popular. If there is increased interest in exercise, food or even a video game, any books that help people achieve their goal will see greater sales. Authors with the right funding can even create a sudden interest by financing an intense marketing strategy.
None of these tactics reflect the quality of the book and actually decrease the book’s staying power by focusing on something transitory. The films will be replaced by new ones, sentiments will shift, video games will be defeated and marketing campaigns will end. Anything in print qualifies for the bestseller list as long as it has the right numbers. The lists are nothing but statistics that show what people are buying at the moment. It is not a detailed reflection of the book itself.
It is important to point out that bestsellers are defined by their pace of sales, not their overall sales. The fast selling book may be the number one seller for three weeks, claiming the title of a bestseller, then drop off the radar completely. Another book may only make it as high as the number fifteen spot of the list, but continue to sell throughout the year. The bestseller likely only sold up to 20,000 copies. The other book may have sold around 100,000. The second book is, no doubt, the better book but will never be labeled a bestseller.
The best books are those that create a real impact on people’s lives. The sales for these types of books are often slower. People read the books themselves then recommend them. These books do not need the media to offer recommendations based only on trendiness. This process takes real people and much more time so the odds of becoming a bestseller is much lower. It is not the sudden sales of a book that makes it great. The factors that make a book worth reading are the quality, the content and the ability it has to really influence people.