Understanding the Bestseller List

I’ve always noticed certain bestselling authors books never appear on some bestseller lists. While authors like Max Lucado or Charles Swindoll have sold millions of books, their books have never appeared on bestseller lists like The New York Times or NY_Time_Best_Seller-smPublishers Weekly. Earlier this year, I addressed this issue and pointed to an article from Jonathan Merhk in Publishers Weekly.

Michael Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson, wrote a recent post about the inaccuracies of the bestseller list. His explanation has helped my understanding of this area.  Yesterday, Mike added to the discussion and explained what it would take to get to a better bestseller list.

His post includes some fascinating links (make sure you look at them). The link which I found fascinating was his compiled list, The Thomas Nelson Top 100. Using proprietary data, he pulled the information from across the various sales channels for this list of the 2006 bestselling books. Why is it different? It is a list you will not find in any other place. Most bestseller lists will segment the hardcover books from the trade paperback books or the fiction hardcover from the nonfiction hardcover. Mike’s list rolls everything into one place and you can see which books were the top 100 books for the year.

Why is it important to consider in the first place? Success often drives more success. Many consumers use these list to determine their own reading choices. They will purchase a book of whatever persuasion or genre because it appears on a particular list.  Reading groups and book clubs use these list to make their selections.  If you write Christian books and those sales channels are excluded from a particular list when it it compiled, see how someone some place is limiting your choices and the overall results? At the end of his post, Mike throws out a challenge to the media outlets to compile a better bestseller list which represents sales across all the various channels. I’d love to see such a list. If that media outlet promoted the list and made news about the story of how their list was compiled, I suspect consumers would gravitate to such a list as a more accurate reflection of what the public is reading and buying.  The complete list could have strong exposure in the marketplace.

In the New Year, I hope someone will take up this gauntlet and compile a more accurate bestseller list.

6 Responses to “Understanding the Bestseller List”

  1. Jerome Says:

    Terry, what was really interesting in looking at Hyatt’s list was that 4 or 5 of the top selling titles had something to do with Sudoku!!

  2. Terry Whalin Says:


    Great observation. If we were only writing sudoku books! I’m challenged to say the word, much less play the game.

    These trends do sweep the nation and drive book sales as well. It’s why two books about how to play canasta landed on the bestseller list in the 1950s. People bought books to learn how to play that game.

    Book Proposals That Sell

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Welcome back to blogging. I hope your Christmas was wonderful.

    Did I sleep through the change, or just fail to read the memo? I’d always heard it said that The Bible is the #1 best-selling book in history. Perhaps that’s just another urban legend, or maybe it has to do with sales over the long haul. Still, I did a double-take when I saw it listed as #2.

    Thanks for continuing to point us to interesting sites and provide useful information. Happy New Year.

  4. Terry Whalin Says:


    Interesting commment. It’s Mike Hyatt’s list and I can only speculate–but it probably has something to do with the sales channels issue. This list was from retail sales. The Bible is probably still the bestselling book–just look at the recent New Yorker article which validates it. The list in this post has to do with retail sales. Many copies of the Bible are given away to people. It remains in the top spot–just not on this particular list.


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Very interesting.

    Would this list include online sales e.g. Amazon? I have noticed that the Amazon bestseller list is markedly different from the NYT list.

    It’s also confused by the fact that the 2006 Amazon list only refers to books published in 2006. Obviously some books that were published earlier continued to sell well in 2006.


  6. Terry Whalin Says:


    I’m afraid I can’t do anything to clarify Mike Hyatt’s list or how he put it together. It’s his data and not mine. I’m glad you found it interesting.

    Happy New Year,

    Book Proposals That Sell

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