How Many Copies Does a Best-Seller Need to Sell?

by Erica Surace

A bestseller is a book noted for its top-selling status, with bestseller lists published by the press, journals, and bookstores. Some of these lists track book sales from national and independent bookstores, as well as sales from powerful internet retailing platforms such as and the likes.

The term bestseller is usually not associated with a specified level of sales and may be used very loosely indeed in publishers' publicity.

These are the well-known bestseller lists you can land on and what it takes to get there: 

  • The New York Times bestseller list
  • The Wall Street Journal bestseller list
  • The USA Today bestseller list
  • The Amazon bestsellers list
  • The Publishers Weekly bestsellers list


The New York Times bestseller list

New York Times is considered the most prestigious bestseller list, and the only one that people tend to talk more on. If your books make this list, "New York Times bestseller" will be written on top. Established, authors need to sell at least 5,000 books while new writers introducing their debut title would need closer to 10,000 sales to make it to the New York Time bestseller list.

The Wall Street Journal bestseller list

This list is not as reputable compared to the New York Times list. The Wall Street Journal makes use of Nielsen BookScan, which tracks book sales at 12,000 U.S. make it to the Wall Street Journal's bestsellers list a book needs at least 3,000 to 5,000 sales.


The USA Today bestseller list.

 Rather than separate the categories of books, USA Today puts them all in one class. From their website -- "Every week, USA Today collects sales report from various booksellers representing different outlets: bookstore chains, independent bookstore. Using that data, they determine the weekly 150 top-selling titles. The first 50 are published on the print version of USA Today each Thursday. The top 150 are published online. 


Amazon bestseller list

To rank on Amazon requires you to focus all your marketing efforts on one day-the release date. It takes about 500 sales to make the Amazon Top 100 on an average launch day. It takes about 2,000 sales in a day to hit the Amazon Top 10. Amazon has a legit system, and you won't get on that list without making legitimate also updates two separate lists for print books and e-books based on its sales


The Publishers Weekly bestsellers list

Pulls its report from the Nielsen service BookScan. Most publishers use its service to track their competitors' sales.

BookScan reports that it tracks 80 to 85 per cent of the sales of printed books in the U.S. It certainly gets data from significant sellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and Walmart, as well as several independent bookstores. (BookScan estimates that it collects data from approximately 16,000 outlets every week.)


No matter the list you are looking at, when a book makes it to the bestseller list does not necessarily mean it sold more copies than other books in the market.



Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay