What qualifies as a “bestselling author”?

This comes up a lot between authors, and shortly after I announced I would be doing a “What’s in a Novel?” blog series which shows a behind-the-scenes look at an author’s life outside of their book, I had an email asking about bestselling books vs. a bestselling author.

Today, I’ll try to explain the difference and my personal struggle with how to classify myself.

For authors there’s a sticky and thin line when it comes to classifying ourselves. For instance at which point do you consider yourself a bestselling author?

Is it when you first make a “top 100” in any genre list at Barnes & Noble or Amazon? Wait. Can that be fair? Some of those lists don’t even have 100 spots on them, so for some, it would only take two sales with a book that has anything to do with traveling to Argentina to make the Argentina Bestseller list and be considered a “bestselling” book. But does that make the author a bestselling author? I honestly don’t agree with this thinking because as I said, some of those lists require hardly anything to make and find it misleading to claim to be a bestselling author by this means.

So then is it when you hit under the overall 1,000 rank at either Amazon or B&N and get a true hold on a top 100 bestseller list?

Or maybe when you get into the top 20 of your genre, and top five or ten in your subgenre?

We all have different ideas on this because there is no cut and dry way to know and everyone’s opinion varies.

Last year I hit the #1 spot in both Regency and Historical romance, with both of the subsequent books in the series in the top five of Regency and top 10 of historical. And still, I worried about labeling myself a “bestselling author”. Sure, those books were all ranked in the top 300 in all books at Amazon and were considered bestsellers in their subgenre, but did that really make me a bestselling author or was it my books that deserved the description of bestselling? Think about it from my perspective, there are huge names out there who can sell more books (paperbacks at that) in their first day of release than I could in a month. Amazon might be a giant when it comes to digital sales, but don’t discount the number of dead tree books that stores like B&N and Books-A-Million sell.

I battled with this for a while. Where did I fit in? In the end, I decided to just leave my bio as “historical romance author”. It was the easiest thing to do.

Then I hit the top of the charts again a few months later. This time I had five books out, and I had all five in the top ten of Regencies and questioned again: does this qualify me to use that description? Alas, I decided no. I must be like Gideon from the Bible who wants and needs more confirmation because I wasn’t convinced.

It wasn’t until a few months later when I somehow managed to get all seven books I had out at the time into the top 15 of the Regency list that I gave in and attached it to my name, of sorts. Instead, of saying I was a bestselling author, I tiptoed around it and said, I’d written seven bestselling books. The difference is very small in the scheme of things, giving my books credit, rather than me, but it was good enough and I didn’t lose sleep over it.

Then it happened…

After a minor argument with Bob while on our tandem bike in the 110 degree heat, I came inside, grabbed a glass of water and locked myself in my office. It’s Thursday, the day the new bestseller charts are released. A friend of mine and I have an ongoing bet about how long a certain book will hold the top spot… Then, as I scrolled through all the others, I found:

Her Sudden Groom, 144 on USA Today Bestseller List

I’m not aware that I’d ever made it on a national list before, as I didn’t know until about a month ago that eBooks could make the list, so if I have debuted before, I never knew about it. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is my first (and hopefully not my last) time to make this list. And now, I can officially style myself as a USA Today bestselling author without any questions or reservations!

(And as an FYI, you should all be glad I composed this so well. When I first found out, I was a frantic, squealing mess and let the cat out of the bag on my personal Facebook page where very few of my friends had any idea I even read romance novels, let alone wrote them! Needless to say, I made a moron of myself and had a lot of explaining to do.)

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