B is for Bestselling*

One of the writer’s most coveted words. The word that signifies success, popularity, and authority. While it might not have the same clout as Pulitzer Prize Winning, what author doesn’t want to be able to put ‘Bestselling’ next to their book title or, perhaps better, their name?

Except now, it doesn’t really mean a damn thing.


Oh, a little thing called BLUSTER.

Bluster is common in marketing, where anything that has a measure of subjectivity might not fall under the premise of promise … like:

The best car wash in town.

The best car wash? Really?

(Excuse the eye-roll.)

Because of our love of bluster, anything that can be shown to be at least partially true becomes fair game. Authors certainly need to market their works, but I personally draw the line at the following scenario (names and titles changed to protect the incompetent):

The bestselling author of The Tiny Stitches of Doctor Moreau.

How is the author ‘bestselling’? Well, they’ve decided they’re bestselling because they ranked No. 1 for at least one cycle of Amazon’s list of Medically Inspired, Post-Apocalyptic Needlepoint books. And, by the way, that list is updated hourly.

I mean, how many books do you have to sell within such an obscure category in order to be the ‘most popular book’ therein? I’m guessing it’s going to have to be fewer than 100, maybe even fewer than 50.*

That’s blusterier than a tornado to Oz.

Gone are the days when Bestselling had a tiny, modicum of meaning. New York Times® Bestselling—now that still has some cachet, even though no one outside of the Illuminati is certain how those bestsellers are calculated. Likely it’s more complicated than the Explicit Formula for the Fibonacci Sequence.

I know authors gotta eat. I know they have to pay bills. I’ve been on the receiving end of disconnected power and dinners of guess-what-casserole. But I still maintain that it’s better to be an honest, Damn Good Author, than bestselling* any day.

By all means celebrate making No. 1 in any category. That’s a victory. Those can be few and far between for writers. Just don’t be like that party guy who brags about being able to have ten drinks and stand naked out in the cold because he doesn’t feel pain … only to end up in the hospital with frost-bitten genitalia. Yeah, until you can claim a true title, please do us all a favour—don’t be a lonely nut.


If you ever catch me using bestselling without an applicable asterisk, write me some nasty mail demanding I verify my claim to use. I’ll send you the clipping from the Weekly World News.

Trust me, it’s legit.


* Update: Having first published the ebook version of A is for Adverb, I now know that fewer than 10 sales is enough to reach a niche category ‘No. 1 Bestseller’ ranking for at least one cycle on Amazon. Hurray, me! Boo, people who don’t use asterisks.

This is an entry from my bestselling* book, A is for Adverb: An Alphabet for Authors in Agony. To read the entire alphabet, join me weekly for #WriteTipTuesday. If you’re in a rush, get the whole book free by signing up here, or do this writer a solid and buy the book on Amazon.

*Totally a bestseller for, like, a day on Amazon.ca.

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