One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists

Have you, like me, been intrigued by the story of Jack Taylor, the Grinnell College basketball player that scored one hundred thirty-eight points in one game? It was so striking that it even caught the attention of some NBA players . . . Kobe Bryant being one.

However, upon looking closer, one realizes that perhaps the performance wasn’t so stellar after all. The team supported his effort to complete this task by letting him rest during defense and setting him up for most of the shots. Evidently, the coach of this team has a “system” designed to get a few of his players record-breaking scoring runs. If you read the link, please forgive the two swear words in the first paragraph, but it was the most detailed analysis of this particular basketball game and why Jack Taylor prehaps broke the record.

Does a coordinated team effort take away Jack’s achievement or not? Hmm….

Jack’s effort (and that of his teammates to get him recognized in that fashion) reminded me of a current marketing strategy that some authors are using to get their titles on the bestseller lists and that basically is composed of narrowing your tribe’s purchases to one week so that the spike in sales causes it to rise on said lists. I have known several authors to employ this strategy–usually coupled with giving away a lot of free stuff. The most notable would be Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

My question for you fellow wordsmith journeyers: does this make a true bestseller?

First, what makes a novel a bestseller? In my research, these things were mentioned.
1. Good Book
2. Favorable Press (Oprah helps . . . just a little.)
3. Word of Mouth (The purpose of your tribe.)
4. The Subject Matter
5. The Title
6. Marketing Campaign
7. Power of the Internet

But, as this article (though long, it is well worth the read) also outlines, a bestseller happens basically two ways:
1. Selling many copies in a week
2. Selling steadily over months and years though maybe not ending up on any lists

So I wonder, will people begin to scoff at claims of bestseller status from an author employing this strategy? What if their book hits a bestseller list for one week but rapidly falls off and is never seen there again? Or, is it merely good business sense? Here is one blog post that outlines a similar strategy using the Kindle Direct Publishing system and offering the book for free.

My guess is, we’ll begin to take a look at how long the book was on the list. Being briefly on an Amazon top 100 list may become meaningless. Some already say that rising on an Amazon list (particularly the 100 free list) does not a bestseller make even if the author claims that status.

If the buying habits of your tribe can be manipulated strictly for the purpose of tightening sales into a one week period . . . is the novel really a bestseller? And let me claim here and now that I’m not saying I may never try this.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What do you think of this marketing strategy? Does it make a novel a true bestseller?

9 Replies to “One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists”

  1. Great post, Jordyn. Lots of thoughts on this…one… that free one day or week promos help debut authors get noticed on those crowded cybershelves. If it helps your title move up the Amazon chart, thay doesn’t automatically translate to NYT or USA Today bestseller lists bc those lists do not count free books. Once u have been noticed by readers outside ur normal reach, u hope thise readers happen to like the book, post positive reviews about the book, and share it with others. It becomes a word of mouth strategy at that point. If you get lucky, this will translate to sales

    1. I agree, Julie. I think giving the book away for free on Amazon is a good idea particularly for a debut novelist to perhaps gain attention and exposure to readers who would never find you otherwise. I’m wondering about many authors who claim to be Amazon Bestsellers— does this have any meaning?

  2. I have to admit when I started hearing all of what goes into making a bestseller, I felt a little manipulated as a reader. Yet at the same time, I also know what is tauted as a bestseller may not appeal to my tastes anyway. So I’ve learned to judge books on the basis of story and writing. I rely heavily on those free sample chapters I can download onto Kindle. If the writing and characters draw me in and interest me, I’ll download the rest. Being on the bestseller list says nothing to me anymore. But that’s just me :o).

  3. It’s a good strategy to garner attention for a new book, but what goes up usually comes down. It’s important to also have a strategy to carry you through when the shine is off the apple. How’s that for a couple of cliches? :o)

    1. A fellow author said to me: “Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.” So true. Thanks for your comment, Janalyn.

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