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When Taylor Swift released her latest album we all heard about how it was the only one to be certified Platinum, so far that year.

  • Gold record = 500,000 copies sold
  • Platinum record = 1 million copies sold
  • Multi-Platinum record = 2 million copies sold
  • Diamond – U.S. sales of more than 10 million units for a single title
  • Digital Gold = 100,000 downloads
  • Digital Platinum = 200,000 downloads
  • Digital Multi-Platinum = 400,000 downloads

But what about for books? Turns out there is no single source that tracks all books sold. There is a company that tracks some of them and it’s called Book Scan.

So how does the NY Times come up with their best sellers list then?

Well only certain vendors report their book sales to the NY Times including Amazon but not everyone. In fact Walmart, Target and Costco don’t and those three companies are huge. Not only that, but almost most internet retailers don’t – except Amazon who does report. However they report with one noted oddity … Say you go to Amazon and buy 10 copies of your book to share them with your friends and family. They will report it only as a single sale – as if you just bought the one copy.

Now back to the numbers. So how many books does it take to appear on the NY Times Best Sellers list?

The exact number is unknown and it varies.

According to my research, that depends on the time of year. January for example is a noted slow time for book sales while September is a popular month. So it would take less sales in January than it would in September.

It could be anywhere from 3,000 total books sold in a week to 15,000. On July 10, 2015 a report came out stating that Ted Cruz sold nearly 12,000 copies of his book and it was also reported that was more than the number two listed book on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

So we know that to be on #1 on NY Times Best Sellers list for that week your book would need to sell about 12,000 copies. But next week, who knows? That number could go up or down based on the total number of books sold all around the US.

Also keep in mind there isn’t just one NY Times Best Sellers list. The list you want to appear on may be easier to rank in than other. For example if you are selling a Young Adult novel there are only 15 spots on that list but there are 25 spots on the Fiction Hardcover list.

I should also mention that NY Times says no matter how many books you sold, they don’t track self published novels so even if you sell 10 zillion you aren’t going to make their list, simply because they just don’t keep track of those kind of books.

Now there are other ways besides being a NY Times Best Seller author, that you could call yourself a best seller. It’s become extremely popular for authors, especially in the very competitive romance category to find a very specific niche.

At first a book was just a romance novel. Then it started to break down into categories like contemporary romance, historical romance and new adult romance.

However nowadays authors are looking to dominate even more specific categories. A book might only rank at the 15,000 most popular under contemporary romance but may be in the top 25 under the category of Contemporary Fiction > Western.

Cora Seton for example is one of my favorite romance authors. Her most recent book “The Airman’s E-mail Order Bride” ranks only #291 in the Kindle Store but #2 in Romance > Westerns and #17 most popular book in Romance > Military.

So one way to be able to become a “best selling author” is to rank in one of the smaller niche categories.

Some of the niche categories of contemporary romance that I could find are …

  • Romance > Contemporary > Military
  • Romance > Contemporary > Western
  • Romance > Contemporary > New Adult & College
  • Romance > Contemporary > Holiday
  • Romance > Contemporary > Mystery & Suspense
  • Romance > Contemporary > Thriller & Suspense
  • Romance > Contemporary > Romantic Comedy
  • Romance > Contemporary > Erotica
  • Romance > Contemporary > Erotica > BDSM
  • Romance > Contemporary > Paranormal
  • Romance > Contemporary > Paranormal > Werewolves & Shifters