Stop Chasing NYT’s Bestseller List – Do This Instead

Did you know bestseller lists aren’t based from sales?

Did you know chasing these lists isn’t the best idea for 9 out of 10 Authors.

Now, now, hold on “Shaun” what are you talking about, I’m on the New York Times bestseller list, I’m an established author, and I’m successful in my business.

Well…that’s great that you are doing well and I’m in no way saying the NYT Bestseller list is a bad thing to be on, it still holds credibility, it’s still worthwhile if you are a full-time author.

However it’s about focus, what do you want? Ask yourself that question?

Let me explain based on what I’ve learned working with most authors, and influencers.

First off, most authors, and influencers are entrepreneurs, not really purist fiction authors that can spend a year writing a book like Stephen King.

Rather, for them, maybe this is you as well, writing a book is just a way to get to the next goal, to develop a recurring income, i.e; a business.

Therefore, the three reasons that you might be writing a book is to do the following:

  • Earn Authority and Credibility In Your Field;
  • Drive Clients And Leads To Your Business;
  • Get You Speaking Gigs;

To accomplish these goals most efficiently chasing the bestseller lists is not the way to go.

So, what is?

According to Kevin Kruse, contributing author on Forbes, and an entrepreneur, and well-known author, in his article “An Author’s Guide To Digital Marketing” he talks about how he built his business by leveraging digital marketing to sell his book.

That’s what I recommend you do, focus on digital marketing strategies to meet your business objectives, not get on the bestseller lists.

I’m going to show you the first steps on how you can do this if you keep reading.

Let me give you the facts about bestseller lists and a step-by-step guide on developing your audience and overall marketing to build your business, not just sell books.

This is what I’m going to cover into today’s article for you.

Why Chasing Bestseller Lists Is Bad For Business

How New York Times And Most Bestseller Lists Work

What To Do Instead of Chasing NYT’s Bestseller List

Let’s get started on why bestseller lists are not the best strategy to meet the 3 business objectives I spoke about earlier.

  • Earning Authority and Credibility In Your Field;
  • Driving Clients And Leads To Your Business;
  • Getting Speaking Gigs;

Why Chasing Bestseller Lists Is Bad For Business

According to this article from Forbes “How Bestseller Lists Actually Work — And How To Get On Them” New York Times was sued by William Blatty, for intentionally excluding his little-known book “The Exorcist.”

The book was the inspiration for the film, that needs no introduction but the book also sold 10 million copies, obviously a bestseller worthy of NYT’s Bestseller list.

However, it did not make the list.

The Truth About Being #1 On New York Times Bestseller List

The case between NYT and Blatty went all the way to the Supreme Courts.

However, from the ashes of that case rose the cold hard truth.

This truth came from the basis of NYT’s argument that got the case thrown out:

“that the list is not supposed to accurate, but reflects their judgment.”

Which means the sole reasoning for the list’s existence is not bestsellers, rather an editorial objective, to put the copies on the list that NYT itself wants, not the readers.

A little discouraging…however, there’s still value for purist authors to get on the lists but I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy to build your business.


Focus On Business Not Bestseller Lists

First off, as I mentioned earlier, it’s about focusing on your overall objectives.

Most authors want to use their a book to leverage themselves for their business.

However they may not have the 3 goals in mind that I mentioned, and maybe you don’t have those goals in mind either?

  • Earning Authority and Credibility In Your Field;
  • Driving Clients And Leads To Your Business;
  • Getting Speaking Gigs;

Maybe you don’t have clarity on these goals and you are chasing the NYT bestseller list which is not catered around meeting your business objectives.

So…let’s start talking about getting you back on track to focusing on business objectives not bestsellers.

If that’s what you want!

Here’s an example of an author who wrote a book specifically to leverage her knowledge and in-depth industry experience to improve her business.

“Melissa Gonzalez Used a Book to Raise Her Visibility, Create Authority, and Double Her Business”

In 2015, Melissa TRIPLED leads to her firm in comparison to 2014 since she released her book “The Pop-up Paradigm.”

Also, a friend of mine, L.T Marshall, she is a purist author, and she’s making a decent living doing it, says that bestseller lists are overrated.

She also said that:

“I do not see best seller lists as my goal…”

I see a connection with people who like what I write and love me enough to fund me to continue, as my goal.”

This strategy has served her well, as she’s had over 700,000 Amazon page views, which makes up the majority of her royalty incomes from her books, and has sold a modest 4500 copies, over the last month, alone!

Her strategy has been to appeal to her audience based on her her one-on-one customer outreach on platforms like LinkedIn and Good Reads.

This is a great example of a business focused author with a small engaged following that’s producing big results for her.

That’s great Shaun, I get why the New York Times Bestseller list is not focused on business objectives…

However, I’m not convinced that chasing the bestseller list is bad for business.

Well..let me get into the criteria of New York Times Bestseller lists, so you can make your own choice.

How New York Times And Most Bestseller Lists Work

There are always exceptions to the rules that I’m mentioning here, just as a disclaimer.

1. You Need To Get A Traditional Publishing Deal

There are exceptions here with getting a traditional publishing deal, like becoming a self-published author through Hay House, which is recognized by the New York Times.

However, Hey House only works with authors who are inspirational speakers, motivational coaches, etc. which I know for a fact with my audience, there are a few of you that fit in that criteria.

Like I said, if you are an author writing fictional books and you have a year to write, that’s great.

2. You Need To Get 10,000+ Pre-orders

Ok, so…do you have a massive audience to sell your book too?

If you are sending your prospects to a book or course sales page, you are likely looking at selling 2 – 3% of those visitors a book.

Which is great, this is a process that you want to build to sell your books online, and to leverage your business…

However, you can’t necessarily do this, successfully anyway, if your marketing process is built around chasing NYT’s bestseller list.

This is because the powers that be, the editors of NYT only count sales numbers from channels that they recognize like book stores, Amazon, iBooks, and a few others.

Therefore, yet again this is another reason why chasing the NYT Bestseller List is an epic fail for meeting those business objectives we talked about.

So…here’s a few other things that are recommended to get on NYT’s list that doesn’t work in your favor of meeting your business objectives:

  • You Need To Get Validated In Mainstream Media

    Basically any type of New York media, or bigger media outlets that are on the radars of the handful of editors at NYT.

    *Remember if your objective is to appeal to a prospective customer audience then you want to be on media outlets that they recognize not NYT’s editors.

    This could include specific industry websites, social media pages, groups, and email lists that have a small but highly engaged audience specific to the industry you want credibility in.

  • Your Book Takes 18 Months

    This is a modest estimate. You will need to hire an agent to rep your book to get you on with a traditional published recognized by NYT.

  • You Still Have To Market It Yourself

    So…after you follow all of the rules, develop a marketing strategy that appeals to the editors at NYT, and at this point your visibility is all in the name of NYT’s bestseller list, you still have to sell the book yourself, they don’t market it for you.

They put a fancy tag on your book for being an NYT bestseller but they don’t actually sell or market the book for you.

Of course, up to this point you’ve been marketing to them i.e; the NYT’s editors, not to your audience.

I had a conversation with a lady on LinkedIn the other day, her strategy for authors was to go after the bestseller list to get “instant” credibility.

She’s taking money from authors, and entrepreneurs, like us…

…and getting these poor souls, US, to chase NYT’s bestseller list under strict criteria, with no focus on our actual audience and business results.

It’s all about what you want! Are you in business? If so, remember these 3 goals.

  • Earning Authority and Credibility In Your Field?
  • Driving Clients And Leads To Your Business?
  • Getting Speaking Gigs;

There are a lot of self-proclaimed authors, publishers, and book agents who prescribe to the old methods, don’t listen to them.

Which what I really mean are the methods that never truly worked for anyone.

Focusing on “credibility” or getting “known” as a vague goal is not the way to do it.

Once again, Melissa Gonzalez, I mentioned earlier, she used her book to appeal to the retail industry as the expert on pop-up retail.

Why? She was looking to get new business for her firm “The Lion-esque Group”

What To Do Instead of Chasing NYT’s Bestseller List

The biggest thing with writing a book or developing a course online is developing your audience, first.

What Is Your Audience Struggling With?

Then you want to find out what that audience is struggling with and write a book for them.

I show you how you can do that here with a book, a course, or any product that you want to sell online.

However, let me briefly show you how you can identify your audience so you can start building credibility with them to develop a course, book, or product.

An Author and Prospective Client

I’ll use an example of a most recent prospective client whom I engaged with who didn’t build an audience to write his book.

To give you an idea of how you might be thinking, right now because you’ve been misguided either from inexperience, or you’ve gotten some bad advice on developing your book, course, or product.

Steve engaged me initially on LinkedIn about how he had just launched his book.

The problem was he didn’t actually launch anything, he just got a book made up by some publisher who took his money, made his book, and left him hanging.

He was wondering if I could help him sell books online.

This client, Steve, wrote a book about his experiences as a project manager and engineer in the Oil and Gas Industry.

This is how the conversation went:

I asked him, “why did you write the book?” his response was “I wanted to help project managers understand the knowledge that I’ve gained as a project manager.”

I then asked him “why do you want to help project managers?”

His response was “he wanted to become known in his industry as an engineering project manager.”

Then I said “what industry?”

He said “Oil and Gas.”

Then he started telling me about his experiences in the Oil and Gas field as a project manager.

I said “so you want to be known to Oil and Gas project managers?”

He said “no, I want to be known by Oil and Gas executives.”

Then I said “who’s the book for” he said “project managers.”

“Hmmm…” I said.

Then I said “shouldn’t the book be written for Oil and Gas executives If you want to leverage yourself in the Oil and Gas industry?”

“Yah…sure” he says reluctantly.

The conversation went on for another 15 minutes.

We identified that he was trying to appeal to an audience of Oil and Gas executives with his book.

His goal was to leverage his knowledge through his book to get contract work as a project manager in the Oil an Gas field.

He wanted to kick his 9-5 job to the curb, and make more money!

However, his book was written for project managers not the true audience he wanted to get too, Oil and Gas executives.

He agreed, this was the problem.

We scheduled another meeting but a day before the meeting Steve emails me back and tells me that he’s got to check with his publisher to see about the book.

I shut him down and cancelled all future meetings with him.

He was writing a book for the wrong audience and he wasn’t able to grasp that truth, I can’t do anything for him.

This is a big mistake that I see a lot of authors make, I’ve followed too many down that path, blindly.

It’s ego, and there’s no room for ego in building a business.

You shouldn’t feed your ego, rather to be successful you need to cater to the ego of your audience.

To avoid the parallels of ego over-indulgence, be honest with yourself as an author.

What do you want?

To express yourself, and your knowledge to the world, to become “known” as the great so and so…

Or do you want to leverage your knowledge in an industry to create recurring income i.e; create a business?

I can tell you the first one creates the perception of freedom, the second one creates freedom.

If you want to create financial freedom by using a book as a stepping stone to developing your business here are some goals you will want to consider, as I mentioned:

  • Earning Authority and Credibility In Your Field;
  • Driving Clients And Leads To Your Business;
  • Get Speaking Gigs;

So…how do we achieve these goals? Well…first off we don’t chase the bestseller lists, we chase audiences and find out what makes them tick.

How To Find Your Audiences

Let’s talk about the Oil and Gas industry for a moment, based on my prospective client Steve’s objectives of appealing to Oil and Gas executives to develop his project management consulting company.

1. Open up and enter in Oil and Gas.

2. Scroll down and you can see many topics that are being shared, let’s focus on the most shared topics, which you can see the numbers here for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

3. Here you go…”The U.S. Is on the Threshold of the Biggest Oil and Gas Boom Ever” this is a good article to start thinking about.

In talking to Steve, one of the biggest events that have happened in Oil and Gas was the downturn in 2016.

1000’s of people where fired during this time and now the industry is turning around as this article is indicating.

So…how does this apply to Steve’s Knowledge?

Well…project managers know how to get projects done efficiently, on-time, and on-budget.

Now that the industry is ramping up again, Steve could be a great asset, or consultant for executives, as they are now pushing projects forward.

Maybe he could write his book, or build, a course around saving time, and being more efficient in 2018 based on the fact that industry is booming.

Of course, he’d be writing this for Oil and Gas Executives/Decision Makers who would hire him, not project managers, based on his goal of building a consulting project management business.

Finding The Right Audience

1. Open up and enter in Oil and Gas.

2. Once you are in BuzzSumo click on “Influencers.”

Here you will see the people who are influencers and the types of links that they shared. Scroll down…

Click on the “links shared” this is going to give you an idea what target market this particular influencer is focused in.

3. Click on the first article, it sends us over to Bloomberg Markets. Bloomberg, the parent site of Bloomberg Markets is a business news website with a broad reach, while Markets is more focused on executives.

So, we can make an inference that this article is targeting Oil and Gas Executives, Steve’s target demographic.

Using this process Steve could identify relevant topics that Oil and Gas executives are talking about and develop books, courses, or products for his target audience.

The key with this process is that the ideas you are developing, aren’t what you think the audience should know, it’s about what they are already talking about, searching, and sharing.


Is a marketing strategy around getting on the NYT Bestseller List, the best option for you as an author?

To figure this out, ask yourself a simple questions.

Why are you writing the book?

If it’s to leverage your industry knowledge, like Steve, to build a consulting business, then think of 3 things as possible goals you might be working toward:

  • Earning Authority and Credibility In Your Field;
  • Driving Clients And Leads To Your Business;
  • Get You Speaking Gigs;

Therefore, if this is your goal, to build a business, then a marketing strategy around NYT’s bestseller list is not the best option.

That’s because you want to market for a specific audience, not build a process that limits how you can market and sell to your audience, which is what happens when you chase New York Times Bestseller List.

Even if you sell 100 copies and 10% of those people become clients, if you think of the example, I used of Steve those 100 books sold could mean millions of dollars for his business.

Follow this step-by-step to identify possible ways to market to your audience, and if you want to take it further and actually launch and sell your book idea, I also have an easy step-by-step process on how to do that right here.