Best Seller’s List – What do you know about them?

I’ll admit I don’t know exactly the way these lists are compiled and most of the more popular “best-selling lists” claim to have their own secret way of doing things, but I did stumble across this:

“. . . Most(best-selling lists) don’t even rely on actual sales, but on supplier’s orders: If a bookstore orders hundreds of copies of a particular book, that number is counted before the store itself reports a single sale. That’s how Harry Potter books showed up on best-seller lists weeks early, if anyone was wondering . . .”

To be honest, I’ve heard this before and it makes perfect sense. You can’t realistically keep tabs on what bookstores are selling so you keep up with what they’re ordering under the assumption that they’re only ordering what they think will sell.

This was an eye-opening revelation for me though because as an author and now a publisher. I completely look at the list differently. A bookstore can order books in bulk on the hype some larger publisher has put out and then return 95% of those books because they didn’t sell. Nevertheless, the book is on the top best sellers lists because the book store ordered.

Take this a step further, into the Christian Publishing Industry, and things become really frustrating. Many CBA and ECPA affiliated titles (targeted fiction written for a specific audience of Christians, with a specific purpose) make their way to the top of best seller’s list every day yet these same authors often bemoan the fact that their work just isn’t selling.

Does that make sense?

It does if you consider that the larger Christian Book stores only shelve CBA and ECPA affiliated books and usually in bulk as CBA and ECPA were both formed by a group of Christian Book sellers in 1950 and 1974 respectively to provide appropriate fiction for those who frequented these stores.

Is this a problem?

It is if you don’t know this about the larger Christian Book Sellers. I honestly didn’t. I just assumed all Christian Book Stores would carry any book deemed appropriate by Spring Arbor, their official distributor. But now I learn that most are irritated that Spring Arbor is approving non-affiliated Christian titles and all of the larger Christian Book Sellers use their own system of approval. Ironically, they even turn down some CBA and ECPA affiliated work. I suppose the child is out-growing the parent.

I was excited, and still am, that readers from this market enjoy my work but a little discouraged and disappointed that I won’t be able to take advantage of the way they operate, typically ordering large number of books to increase the chances of making a best-sellers list and hopfully increasing dwindling sales. Keep in mind though, they only do this for CBA and ECPA affiliated titles.

Do know that should my work ever take off to the point that sales to bookstores ever place it on a lists with other best-sellers, it won’t be because larger Christian Book Sellers had anything to do with it, even though I have many of their readers excited about what they’re reading. And for the record, larger Christian Book Sellers had nothing to do with The Shack being the phenomena it is. That was all Mr. Young and lots of general market readers hungry for fiction they could enjoy. Christian Book Sellers only approved it after they couldn’t ignore the attention/money it was getting.

If you ever do see my titles on a larger Christian Book Sellers shelf, please let me know. I’d prefer not to have it there based on my current knowledge of the way they currently operate.

Smaller Christian and some Independent Christian Book Stores simply carry what the official distributor of Christian product, Spring Arbor, approves and provides, meaning they’ll actually put it on their shelf without question if you ask. Lifeway and all the other larger Christian Book Sellers will only order it it’s avaialbe through Spring Arbor and not affiliated.


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