Does the phrase “Amazon bestseller” mean that I’m a bestselling author?
The short answer, is no.
This is a question I’ve heard many times over the years. An author may have a marketing team that utilizes Amazon’s algorithms and paid opportunities to get their new book released to the top of specific categories on Amazon. For example, your book may become a #1 bestseller in the category of women’s health. But does that mean you can start calling yourself a “bestselling author” and using that label in your marketing, bios, and social media? In the opinion of 99% of the literary community, the short answer is no.
“What? Why not? My book was the #1 book on Amazon for three hours!
No, it was not the #1 book on Amazon. It was the #1 book in a single category of Amazon, which is good, but that is very different than saying it was #1 on Amazon overall. After all, there are more than 500 categories on Amazon.
The simple fact is that becoming a bestseller in a category is a paid opportunity, meaning that you can pay someone to help you achieve this task. It has nothing to do with sales—you can sell three copies and become an Amazon bestselling author.
Here’s a quick reality check: Do a simple Google search on “how to become an Amazon bestseller,” and you’ll see results from marketing services with headlines such as the following:
How to Get a Bestseller on Amazon in 24 Hours
How to Get an Amazon Bestseller with a BLANK Book!
That should be a red flag, yet many new authors are so eager to add “bestseller” to their bio that they fall for this gimmick and, sadly, pay thousands—even tens of thousands—of dollars without any guarantee of selling books.
As Brent Underwood explains in his article “Behind the Scam: What Does It Take to Be a ‘Best-Selling Author’? $3 and 5 Minutes,” you can become an Amazon bestselling author even without a book and for less than the cost of a gallon of gas today.
I cringe when I see new authors being taken advantage of.
Why Does It Matter Where My Book Is a Bestseller?
Because . . . being called a bestselling author is a result of making one of the prestigious bestseller lists such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Don’t get me wrong; there are issues with these lists, including editorial bias and authors/publishers who game the system by buying their books in bulk. However, systems and filters still measure actual book sales, so it means something when you’ve hit the “list.” For some categories, you have to consistently sell upward of 10,000 copies per week, for at least two to three weeks, with sales spread out among retailers. This is no small task.
As a publicist, I advise most authors to forget about the lure of bestseller status, at least for their first book, if not for the first ten years of being an author—unless they already have a massive platform in place with thousands of engaged followers eagerly awaiting their first book—and even then, the book needs to be very popular for people to buy it consistently over a few weeks.
Adding “bestselling author” to your bio is not something you should focus on initially. Instead, concentrate on creating a quality book, promoting the hell out of it for at least a year (or seven!), and building a career as an author that will help you earn the title of bestseller the right way so that it has the value and prestige you’re ultimately seeking.
Are there people who won’t know the difference and be impressed by the bestseller title achieved through Amazon? Sure. But anyone in the industry will know the truth. If your goal is to publish more books, especially with a traditional publisher, they’ll ultimately see right through it, hurting your brand and reputation.
Becoming a good author is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be lured into the falsehoods and sales gimmicks of those trying to take advantage of unknowing authors. If you can’t add the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Publishers Weekly to the cover of your book, wait. It’s not time yet. Invest now in building an audience that loves your work and a platform to reach those readers consistently.
In the words of the great Wayne Dyer, one of the bestselling authors of all time, “Consult your inner-truth barometer, and resist the temptation to tell people only what they want to hear.” I recommend you apply that advice to your situation: resist the temptation to damage your character for a title you think others need to hear. Just saying “I’m an author” is a credibility boost. Celebrate that achievement and make it mean something. “Bestseller” will come when you’re ready.
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