V5 (5 Things 1 Topic)

5 Things – NYT Best Seller List

A few weeks ago, I poked a little fun at the NYT Best Seller designation.  I’ve been reading a lot of books that happened to be on the NYT Best Seller list, and while they were all very enjoyable books, I made some claim along the lines of “every book at every airport is a NYT Best Seller”.  It turns out that there is some truth to that, but for reasons I didn’t know, appreciate, nor understand.

Having never really paid much attention to what that list means, I mistakenly took the NYT designation for some kind of qualitative appraisal.  Again, I was way off.  If only I paid attention to the words “Best Seller” I would have noticed that NYT Best Sellers are purely quantitative.  The process is rigid and interesting.  Aaaand…here are five things that you might want to know about NYT Best Sellers.

  1. General: There are actually several NYT Best Seller lists, these include both weekly and monthly lists, there are lists for fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, as well as lists divided up by publication type, including hard covers, paperbacks, and e-books.  With so many lists, the total number of books designated as NYT Best Sellers starts to add up.  To make it on to a NYT Best Seller list, a book must be traditionally published, not to say a self-published author can’t make it, but eventually a self-published book would need to be picked up by a publishing company.  Additionally, a book needs to sell at least 5,000 – 10,000 copies in one week depending on the type of book/list.  What if someone writes a book, publishes the book through a major publisher, and upon release buys 10,000 copies of their book…could they make the list?  Absolutely not.  The keepers of the list depend on immense amounts of data to make the final cuts, among that data is diversity of sales, meaning where, when, and how books are bought.
  2. Specific: NYT Best Seller lists are compiled and published on-line every Wednesday at 7PM EST.  11 days later the lists appear in the print Book Review.  There are 3 members of the team that evaluate all the data that comes in throughout the week.  The data comes from reported book sales spanning Sunday-to-Saturday of the previous week.  Sales info must be kept confidential, so the data team assigns code names for the books, authors, and stores.  The whole process is actually very interesting.1
  3. The LIST: The NYT Best Seller list includes the ranking of books (1-15), how many weeks a book has been on the list, the title, author, book description, a “buy” button, and a book review if available.  HEREis a link to this week’s list.  Currently #1 on the nonfiction list is The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama.
  4. The Airport: Understanding some of these details helps to better understand why it seems like every book at every airport news stand is a NYT Times best seller.  Once a book makes the list, it means people are buying it.  Vendors must be selective with the options they carry, and so they will tend to order books that sell.  Ordering and displaying NYT Best Seller’s means that those books will continue to sell, in turn cementing a books spot on the list.  This of course leads to more ordering and selling and cementing.  While some books seem to fizzle off the list pretty quickly, there are some books that get caught in the selling/cementing loop.  This could explain why Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been on the Children’s Book list for a whopping 716 weeks.  That is nearly 14 years!
  5. The Book:  There are lots of climbing books which made the list over the years, pretty much anything by Krakauer is a sure bet to be a staple of the NYT Best Seller list, but my recommendation for a NYT Best Seller alum from the climbing community is The Push by Tommy Caldwell.  Tommy Caldwell is demonstrably one of the best rock climbers of all time, and his book The Push is deservedly among the great books that have spent some time on the NYT Best Seller list.

So, the next time you go to buy a book and you notice that book is a NYT best seller, it doesn’t necessarily mean that book is going to be great, but it does mean that a lot of people bought it.  It also means there is a good chance that it spent a decent amount of time at newsstands throughout airports all over the world.

5 things 1 topic.

  1. The details of the list were intriguing, and of course you can find out more from The New York Times HERE and HERE.

17 Replies to “V5 (5 Things 1 Topic)”

  1. One of my favorite book series is by Sue Grafton. While I referred to them jokingly as “airport novels” because of their short length and easy reading, I believe they probably fit into what you’re talking about.
    Great clarification and information. I would have never known, thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was fun to learn some of the details of something I’ve never really thought about! I’m happy that you liked it! I need to go look into that Sue Grafton series!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So I can’t make the list by buying 10K copies of my own book but, if I have a decentralized network of front groups (say, like the Koch Brothers), I can have all of my fronts by the book and still make the list, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pretty sure there must be a minimal bar that includes some level of readability, but I think your plan would work. Maybe try it with a children’s book first. Let me know if “Operation Book Sales” goes into effect, and I’ll make sure to delete this post!


  3. I like this post a lot! “Once a book makes the list, it means people are buying it. Vendors must be selective with the options they carry, and so they will tend to order books that sell.” I can’t complain about this. In the Denver Airport in 2002, on the way to Wyoming for a job interview, I saw Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf. NYT bestseller. I bought it. Started reading it. Really messed up may interview because instead of doing last minute prep, I was lost in Beowulf. Would I have bought it otherwise? Probably not. I would have missed SO MUCH!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Another win for the Denver Airport. I really enjoy reading on planes. The lack of distractions is probably my favorite part. It’s a little bit sad that I need to be forced from distractions by being locked in a flying tin tube, I guess that’s just the way it is!

      Congrats on not getting hired in Wyoming? Maybe congrats? Congrats or Condolences?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was offered a job at that school in Wyoming but only for a year, so I didn’t take it. The day before I had to tell them my answer, I went hiking in my usual chaparral place and saw 7 mule deer. I figured I didn’t need to go to Wyoming, so I stayed in California. If it had been a REAL job offer, I would have gone. But a year when I owned a house in San Diego and had four dogs and school starting in 2 weeks? WTF?

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s