What it Takes to Get on the New York Times Bestseller List

Posted by Kristen House on January 7, 2020 at 11:15 AM

Making the New York Times bestseller list is a lofty goal, but for some authors, it's achievable.

There are many factors that go into making this holy grail of bestselling lists, but basically, the book has to sell at least 5,000 to 10,000 copies of the book in one week. These books must be sold at big-box retailers (i.e., Barnes & Noble, Walmart), independent bookstores, and online (i.e., Amazon) across the nation. Most authors get those first 10,000 sales by way of pre-order.


Here’s another interesting fact: If a book is priced at $25 and sells 20,000 copies in one week, an author with the royalties offered in a standard traditional publishing contract would earn about $65,000 in one week on the New York Times bestseller list. This is a nice chunk of change, but authors who can keep their book on the bestsellers list for several weeks can expect to see big bucks rolling in.

Read Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Pays Better?


It’s also important to note that the New York Times usually won’t recognize a book as a bestseller if it doesn’t come from a traditional publishing house. (Sorry, self-publishing authors.)

Authors who opt to self-publish their books can usually find much more success reaching for bestseller status on Amazon bestseller lists (of which I have had many, many clients reach this status!).


Want to learn more about how to build your author brand

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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of

Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing

services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several

authors whose books she has edited have won awards and

have topped Amazon's best sellers lists.

Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she

can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her

four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,

eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is

likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.

Categories: author business

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