Tim Grahl Gives The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists


By most standards, I’m still new to the publishing industry.

It’s been just 8 years since I worked on my first book launch campaign. But since that time I’ve worked with hundreds of authors in just about every marketing capacity you can imagine. I’ve played the role of publicist, community organizer, web developer, social media expert, and on and on.

In various roles, I’ve bumped into the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists many times.

I’ve helped launch two #1 New York Times bestsellers, and several top five bestsellers. At one point, five of my clients had books on the NYT list at the same time. While I haven’t tracked the Wall Street Journal list as closely, I’ve had quite a few hit that list as well.

I also have my hands in a few launches right now—some now finishing up, and some just getting prepped for later this year—and more and more, I’ve become incredulous at the complete disaster that are the major bestseller lists.

As I’ve prepped to write this article, I’ve had trouble organizing all of my thoughts, data, stories, and sources into one cohesive narrative. So instead, I’ve decided to list point-by-point, in no particular order, the things I’ve either personally witnessed or experienced via one of my clients or colleagues in the publishing industry.

My goal is to shed some light on what really goes on with the two top bestseller lists—the Wall Street Journal and New York Times—and offer some information to authors who are hoping to hit them one day.

Here goes:


It’s true, the bestseller lists are becoming obsolete. There are plenty of books that, despite never gracing the pages of the WSJ or NYT, go on to sell thousands of copies, and have a great fan base.

However, the fact remains that having a New York Times or Wall Street Journal bestseller can greatly enhance your career.

Since the publishing industry still shows great deference to these lists, hitting them significantly impacts the advance on your next book contract.

If you’re a nonfiction author, and particularly if you write business books, it means more speaking gigs, higher consulting rates, higher visibility, and an enhanced reputation.

It also means more sales. If your book is a bestseller, it all of a sudden gets more face time on bookstore shelves and other promotions. It’s a self-feeding system.

It also means more appearances in the media. NYT bestsellers get phone calls and emails from the media.

And let’s face it: it matters because it’s pretty damn cool to be a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

But the bottom line, especially if you have anything to do with the traditional publishing industry, is this:

WSJ or NYT bestseller = More money for authors, publishers, and agents.


If you ask a typical person this question—someone who has never descended into the muck of the behind-the-scenes reality of the bestseller lists—they’ll of course answer something like, “It’s a book that has sold tens of thousands of copies,” or “It’s the book that has sold the most copies.”

How naive.

Here’s a brief intro to how it really works. Further points will go deeper into some aspects of this.

Click here to continue reading.

SOURCE: TimGrahl.com – Tim Grahl