Aiming for the NYT Best Seller List Marketing

NYTlistUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week – with no wifi! – you are probably aware we released The Indie Author Power Pack on Monday, with the aim of hitting the New York Times Best Seller list.

We won’t know the result until next week, but I’ve had a few tweets and emails asking how we were doing, so I thought I’d give you an update.

Before that, if you somehow missed the blanket promo we have been conducting, The Indie Author Power Pack is a stonking deal – only 99c – and contains three top rated writer’s guides:

  • Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant
  • Let’s Get Digital (2nd ed.) by me
  • How To Market A book (2nd ed.) by Joanna Penn
  • PLUS exclusive content.

You can read more in this blog post, and you can pick up the box for just 99c (saving you $16!) from:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Apple | B&N | Kobo

Everyone who pre-ordered the box should have received it on Monday, and if there was some issue purchasing the box set, or if your pre-order hasn’t dropped onto your device, please let me know in the comments or by email and I’ll help.

The Numbers

The box set has been selling extremely strongly since it went up for pre-order and Joanna Penn got the ball rolling on her blog. I stepped up to the plate the following Tuesday, then Sean, Johnny & Dave put their shoulder to the wheel a couple of days later, and then we all recorded a podcast last Friday.

I don’t have access to the exact figures, but I think we had around 3,000 pre-orders before it actually went live this Monday. So far so good.

This week, we went wider with our marketing. We had a number of ads on reader sites, lots of guest posts in key venues – the Kobo Writing Life blog, Joe Konrath’s blog, a week-long series of posts from all of us on the Nook Press Blog (see sidebar for individual posts) – and a huge number of authors sharing on social media, blogging about the box, and even hitting their own mailing lists.

It was a huge collective effort and my sincere thanks go to everybody involved, especially those that hit their mailing list – that was amazing.

EDIT: It was extremely remiss of me not to give a shout out to Phoenix Sullivan of Steel Magnolia Press. She is managing the box and put together the awesome marketing plan. She also knows more about Amazon’s algorithms than anyone outside Amazon (and most inside too, I suspect), and she did an incredible job.

The last figures I saw (yesterday morning) showed a total of 5,499 sales. The box set has been holding pretty steady in the Amazon rankings since it launched, mostly bouncing between #130 and #200, with a couple of surges almost breaking the Top 100 in the Kindle Store – including one that fell agonizingly short at #101.

The performance has been even better when you compare it to our competition for those list spots, as non-fiction doesn’t sell half as strongly as fiction in the Kindle Store.

We have been camped out in the Top 20 of the Kindle Store Non-Fiction charts all week, selling almost as strongly as Lena Dunham’s media-attention-grabbing memoir, which hit #6 on the NYT Non-Fiction Best Seller for the week prior to the one we are targeting (that list will be published on Sunday, but is circulated in advance). We’ve also been well ahead of some heavily publicized books from big names, like Walter Isaacson’s Innovators (which hit #12 on the list for the week just gone).

Of course, it’s this week’s sales that matter and we’ll be facing competition from all sorts of new books too from authors like Jennifer Lopez (which feels weird to write on many levels). And traditionally published books will be relatively stronger outside of Amazon.

That said, the raw total, current sales trajectory (EDIT: I just heard we are over 6,000 sales now but haven’t seen a breakdown yet), and relative sales performance seems to point towards garnering enough sales to hit the New York Times Non-Fiction E-book Best Seller list – which is the particular list we are targeting.

But when you drill down on those numbers, and factor in the particular quirks of the NYT list, the challenge ahead of us becomes apparent.

Out of those 5,499 sales, not all are countable in terms of the NYT. For example, the box set has been doing particularly well in Canada but those sales obviously don’t count towards NYT placement. There are 981 such sales from non-US Kindle Stores, which reduces the countable total down to 4,518.

That total, at this point in the week, is still pretty strong versus what I think will be needed. But that’s not the biggest challenge we face.

One of the quirks of the NYT list is that they completely disregard books which only have sales from a single vendor. You can see the following in the small print under the Best Seller lists:

From the NYT: "E-books available exclusively from a single vendor will be tracked at a future date."

While The Indie Author Power Pack is available at all major retailers, it’s generally assumed that sales have to reach a certain level at each retailer before those sales are counted. Some have speculated that number is 500 sales, as that is the respective reporting level for Barnes & Noble and the USA Today bestseller list, but facts are thin on the ground. Nevertheless, that’s what we have been shooting for.

If you don’t hit the necessary threshold at a second retailer, it seems that the NYT considers you exclusive to one retailer and then you are excluded from the list no matter how many copies you have sold. I know one particular author who sold tens and tens of thousands of copies of one title in a single weekend – several multiples of what was needed at that time of year – and didn’t hit the list at all because he was exclusive to Amazon.

These are the breaks.

EDIT: I should underline that this is a theory with regard to the NYT. Anything to do with how they calculate their lists is guesswork (and please check out some contradicting info/alternative theories in the comments). Although it’s clear that Amazon-exclusive titles don’t make the list.

We always knew that hitting 500 sales at a second retailer was going to be the biggest challenge we faced, even more than the raw total needed, which is why we put a lot of focus on sales outside Amazon.

But despite a lot of effort on our part, and yours, we haven’t made as much of a dent elsewhere. Here’s the breakdown by retailer, as of yesterday morning (except where indicated):

Amazon: 5,160

Barnes & Noble: 134

Apple: 146 (as of Wednesday, reporting is delayed)

Kobo: 59

Note: the above includes all regions, so a good chunk of Apple/Kobo sales will be international and thus not countable for the NYT.

Considering our focus on Barnes & Noble in particular, the numbers outside of Amazon are a little disappointing. We’ve had some reports of people with difficulties purchasing the box from Barnes & Noble, but I think it’s more down to our respective reach on that platform being relatively small, and just not getting a break… so far at least.

But it’s not over yet.

How You Can Help

We need a bit of luck to get Barnes & Noble numbers up to the required level of 500, and we need to keep the momentum going elsewhere too. And there are ways you can help get the word out.

1. Retweet these tweets. All you have to do is click a button!

2. Share. If you want to post on Facebook, write about the deal on your blog, or whatever, I have a handy zip file full of covers, mugshots, banners, and text that you can use, which you can download from Dropbox here.

Remember to tell your friends that this is $17 worth of top-rated self-publishing guides, and the price of the box won’t stay at 99c forever. It could rise as early next week – depending on what happens this week.

If you haven’t bought The Indie Author Power Pack yet yourself, don’t delay! You really should grab it while it’s still 99c. A sale from Barnes & Noble will help us most right now, but all sales are really appreciated. Here are those links again to save you scrolling back up:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Apple | B&N | Kobo

March To A Bestseller

We have one final promo opportunity lined up, which starts today.

March To A Bestseller 2 is a giant Facebook event with tons of great books on writing, publishing, marketing, and platform building discounted to 99c. There are some really great competitions and prizes, as well as Q&A sessions with some really big authors.

You can check it out on Facebook here, and it’s free and open to anyone (with a Facebook account). It’s running all day, and proceedings kick off at 9am Eastern (2pm GMT) – i.e. in less than an hour. I’m among the first authors doing Q&A sessions, along with Steve Scott, Heather Hart and Michelle Campbell-Scott, so pop along and say hello! Each session runs for two hours, then a new bunch of authors take over.

That’s it for today. Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll let you know if we hit the NYT list as soon as I find out myself – which should be the middle of next week.

Cross those fingers!

48 Replies to “Aiming for the NYT Best Seller List”

  1. David-
    Looking forward to reading it! I made the NYT eBook NonFiction list back in September off the back of a BookBub ad. I don’t think your info about a minimum of 500 sales on other channels is correct – I only sold 329 copies of “Combat and Other Shenanigans” on Nook during that week, which was my biggest secondary retailer by a long shot, and I still made it. You guys probably already did, too!

    1. That’s VERY interesting Piers. As with anything to do with the NYT list, there’s much opacity and guesswork involved in figuring out anything to do with how they calculate it (for obvious reasons).

      I’d heard the 500+ rule was definitely in play for fiction, but there was a question as to whether it was different for non-fiction. Your experience certainly seems to suggest so.

      Although we don’t know what the exact hurdle is. It could be arbitrary, or there could be a different hard number for non-fiction, e.g. 250 or 300, so we could easily still need the extra push at B&N, where we have sold ~150 or so.

      But thank you for sharing, that’s very useful info.

      Okay, I’m off to this Facebook event for the next two hours. I’ll be back right after to check the comments here.

      1. Ah, so I had it wrong. The 500 sales thing is with regard to B&N and the USA Today list. That has led some to speculate that the NYT has something similar in place but no one really knows for sure. We know for a fact that huge selling Amazon-exclusive titles have been excluded in the past (and still are), but the exact mechanism with regard to reporting and thresholds etc. is unknown. That said, shooting for 500+ on a second retailer is prudent for obvious reasons.

        I’ve updated the post above to reflect same.

  2. Hmm, it’s a toss-up between this amazingly cheap deal or a single book that can explore one of Jennifer Lopez’s most defining periods—the transformative two-year journey of how, as an artist and a mother, she confronted her greatest challenges, identified her biggest fears, and ultimately emerged a stronger person than she’s ever been. It’s apparently even “guided” by both intimate and electrifying photographs. Oh wait, I couldn’t care less about Jennifer Lopez. You’ve got another buyer!

  3. Fantastic value and too good to miss. I’m telling all my writer friends and putting the link on FB. I have no idea how you have managed to come up with 77p [in English money] as a price for these stunning guides, but I applaud your generosity. Heartfelt thanks to all three of you!
    [author of MICKA and DOLLYWAGGLERS]

  4. Good luck, David! I’ve hit NYT once (for fiction ebook) and USA Today twice — and if you can get your numbers above 10k you will likely hit USA Today, which covers the top 150 books in all genres and formats.

    I have no experience with the nonfiction NYT list, but I have noticed that the fiction NYT list is no longer allowing multi-author book bundles on, despite sales. Not sure if that correlates to nonfic…

    Either way, your numbers are strong and I’ll have my fingers crossed! Also, I bought a copy 🙂

    1. Hey Shoshanna. That has been a persistent rumour now since August/September – that multi-author boxes are now excluded from the NYT list – but I don’t think it’s confirmed. Do you know of an example of someone who got enough sales and should have been on the list and missed out?

      Because I’m thinking that the list was cut from 25 to 20 places, around the same time, making a higher sales total needed to hit the list.

      1. The fact that there are bundles making the top 50 on the USA Today list but not the NYT list would seem to point toward the rumor being true, especially since the new lists are so genre/format specific. And the fact that we’re not seeing any bundles hitting the NYT now, when they used to. When I was on NYT at #16, it was #48 on USAT. But every week is different. We’d sold over 15k copies that week.

        And when my bundle hit USAT recently, Oct 16th at #101, we were #3 on an Indie Ebook bestseller list that was based on culling info from the various lists including Amazon bestseller lists. We didn’t hit NYT. That was 9k or 10k copies I think?

        The non-fiction list is a different animal of course. I only have experience with fiction lists.

        1. Hey. I just heard that Lisa Renee Jones is on the list this week with a box set. It will be in tomorrow’s NYT, but they circulate the list in advance and I just saw it. #12 “Tall, Dark And Deadly Books 1-4” by Lisa Renee Jones.

          We’re going for the Non-fiction Best Seller list. It requires less sales overall. Quite a bit less, actually. In a really slow week, you can hit the back of the list with just 2.5k. This time of year will be higher. I don’t know how much higher though. Could be 5k/6k. Could be more. I really don’t know.

  5. FYI: I’ve heard from two separate people now that my info re the 500 threshold and the NYT was wrong. That seems to be the threshold that B&N will report for the USA Today Bestseller list. There are at least two examples of people hitting the NYT with less than that, so I don’t know what the threshold is, if there is one, or what process the NYT uses with regard to establishing whether sufficient sales have been made at more than one retailer. I’ve edited the post above to reflect same, and to emphasize more strongly that the theories re NYT’s list calculating are just that – theories, not fact. All alternative theories, conflicting data etc. very welcome indeed (and thank you to those who got in touch).

    1. I wasn’t able to reply to your reply above on my phone. I should have specified that NYT isn’t blocking “omnibuses” (such as a one-author compilation, trilogy set, etc). I’m still not seeing multi-author bundles on there anymore. I hope I am wrong as I have a big new cowboy romance bundle coming out in January, and for you of course! The only list that still appears to actually reflect the top 150 selling books in the US based on actual sales numbers is USA Today. Maybe this is only affecting the Fiction NYT list and not Non-fic. We’ll know on Wednesday, please email me bc I’m dying to know too if you hit!

      1. David, I’ve heard the same thing as Shoshanna: that the NYT banned multi-author boxed sets from their bestseller lists in September when they reorganized the lists. Their way of kicking all those darned indie kids off their lawn. :/

        But maybe it’s a different story on the non-fiction lists. Hope so! I just bought the set and will also Tweet. Good luck!

  6. always very kind .and much thank’s for your blog’s
    let’s do it .and make money with intresting book’s
    good luck ..for both
    have a nice weekend
    i will use my power soul to have your luck .(be true)

  7. I just picked up my copy on B&N. It worked out you needed sales more there since I still had store credit from the NY Publishers settlement. Looking forward to reading the book!

  8. UPDATE:

    I’ll have hard numbers to share later, but we should be well over 6,000 sales now.

    Things picked up yesterday, thanks to your support and some extra amplification from the Facebook event yesterday. The box set jumped to #103 in the Kindle Store overall, so I stayed up late to see if it would finally break into the Top 100.

    I had been close on several occasions with different books, most recently last week with this title when we hit #101. The rank seemed to hold at #103 for several updates, so I finally decided to go to bed.

    When I woke up this morning, I checked the rank, only to see the box at #101 again, and let out the kind of primal moan one usually associates with stubbing one’s toe. It’s amazing how quickly the mind turns to conspiracy theories in such situations. Fascinating, in fact.

    Then I saw a PM from Joanna Penn, who captured this:

    We cracked the Top 100! Thank you guys. Woop!

    Now for the NYT…

  9. Pingback: Aiming for the NYT Best Seller List | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
  10. I bought the set on Amazon. I’m not a big fan of Barnes and Noble, but I’ll buy another from iBooks to try to help you along. Besides, I like to check out the formatting differences between the Kindle and iBooks. I’m still trying to figure out where to put the emphasis on my own soon to be published book, iBooks or Kindle. (I know, probably Kindle.)

  11. I pre-ordered for my Kindle and just ordered an iBook–hey, why not? Just a way of saying thx for your blog. Good Luck!

  12. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [11.10.14]
  13. For those wondering, we missed out on the NYT list. Will post in more detail later in the week, but selling lots of books is a pretty amazing booby prize! Thanks all for your support.

  14. For those wondering if multi-author boxes are banned from the NYT list, I think that myth has now been busted.

    On the advance copy of the NYT list (covering last week’s sales) I received last night, you will see “Kiss of Christmas Magic” at #11, which is a multi-author box.

    To confirm same, you can see it on Amazon here:

    It raises the question why the Indie Author Power Pack didn’t hit the list. By my rough estimates we outsold 8 or 9 of the titles on the NF list, so we appear to have been excluded for a rule-based reason. So it goes.

    Much more importantly, I’d like to congratulate my friend Deanna Chase (and everyone else in the box) for hitting the list AND busting a myth.

    Well done guys!

  15. Pingback: December Best of the Web: Holiday Cheer for Your Business Success | Firepole Marketing Blog
  16. Hi David, create 3d Book Cover Box, we like it! If you search for even bigger boxes, don’t search to far. We are one click away. Take care, Claire

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *