Saturday 25 April 2015

How to Land on the New York Times Bestseller List

The New York Times bestseller list is the gold standard for success in the writing field.  As editor Alan Rinzler asserts:  "It shouts:  'Read me!  I'm certified!'"  Some authors even buy their way onto the list.  However, most do it by good old fashioned hard work.  Here are nine tips to landing on the bestseller list, according to Mr. Rinzler (

1.  A Diverse List

As Anne Rice says:  "You can look at the New York Times bestseller list and you can be pretty sure that the writers on the list don't know each other very well."  The authors are diverse as well as the 23 different categories:  Combined Print and E-book Fiction, Hardcover, Advice, Political, Business, children's, etc.  There is no dominant category.  Alan Rinzler advises not to worry about trends. What's popular now might not be by the time your story is published. Visit for a current list.

2.  Book Length Varies

"A book should be as long as it needs to be and no longer," states Alan Rinzler.  Don't pad it or cut it short and avoid going off on tangents, advises the editor.  The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is 544 pages while Blind Faith, by C. J. Lyon, is 392 pages.  Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo, is only 192 pages while Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is 496 pages.

3.  E-books Rule

Alan Rinzler says that you can sell a large quantity of books in virtual e-book form.  Between 2008 and 2010, e-books experienced a 1039.6% hike in sales.  During the latter year, 114 million units were sold.

4.  Self-Published Books are Legitimate Competition

Self-published works are landing on the New York Times bestseller list including Blind Faith (#4), The Mill River Recluse (#5) and The Abbey (#6) in 2011.  Customers are no longer waiting for the cheaper paperback versions of books to come out, but purchasing the E-book instead.  Alan Rinzler says that E-books are "faster, give the author more control and a bigger share of the profits".

5.  Film & TV Adaptations

The Help spent 107 weeks on the Fiction bestseller list in 2009.  Two years later the movie debuted grossing over $123 million.  Don't assume that your novel has no chance of being adapted for the big screen.

The Help movie poster courtesy

6.  Bestselling Authors are Avid Self-Marketers

Top Ten Fiction and Non-Fiction Authors know how to market themselves including:  Lee Childs, Kathy Reichs, James Patterson, J. A. Jances, John Grisham and Johanna Lindsey.  "Non one can sell your book as well as you can," explains Alan Rinzler.  Readers prefer direct contact with the author through blogs, online reviews, websites, Twitter and Facebook.

All of Johanna Lindsey's novels landed on the New York Times bestseller list, many reaching #1, courtesy

7.  Write a Brilliant Book

Garth Stein, author of New York Times bestseller Racing in the Rain, says the surest way to land on the bestseller list is to write a "brilliant book".  You can buy your way on to the list, but it won't last. If you write a page turning book, however, you will enjoy lasting success.


8.  Find the Right Distributor or Become a Book of the Month Selection

"Target can make sleepy titles into bestsellers," says New York Times contributor Motoko Rich. When Sarah's Key, penned by Tatiana de Rosnay, was first published in 2007, its sales were dismal.  However, in 2008, Target chose the title as its Book of the Month Selection and it took off, landing on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.  To read about the success of other Target selections, visit

9.  Become a Book Club Selection

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells, had an unspectacular debut in 1996. However, it was chosen as a book club selection and its sales soared, hitting #1 on the bestseller list two years later.  It also became a motion picture starring Bette Midler.  For more information about the surprise bestseller, read,,20126454,00.html.

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