Bestseller Badge Balls

You’d be forgiven for reading this headline and thinking, “Huh, she’s bitching about bestselling books, I bet she’s not a bestseller. She’s probably crap.”

Well, you’d be right: I’m not a bestseller.

I’ve never won an award for my books.

I’m not famous. (And that’s definitely the way I like it.)

But I also am not crap. And neither are you.

That being said, it can hurt sometimes—especially when we see our peers and colleagues with their shiny “bestseller” badge. It can feel like a kick in the teeth and prod ye olde imposter syndrome into biting you on the butt.

“Oh, you’re not a bestseller? Well. You must be somehow deficient.”

Balls to that. You can be amazing at what you do and write a wonderful book that never becomes a bestseller.

We don’t need a bestseller badge or an award to write a meaningful book that makes a difference to people’s lives. And yet...

Pretty much everyone who writes a book wants that bestseller badge.

Including me, if I’m dipping my toe into some personal feelings honesty. I’d love to be top of the New York Times bestseller list; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care.

We want what we want

Becoming a bestselling author is definitely an awesome thing and deserving of celebration.

But a whole industry has grown up around the idea that we must all write a bestseller: like the now-defunct “Bestselling Book System”, which promised to help you write a bestselling book “Even if You Have No Book Ideas, Writing Skills, or Any Clue Where To Start” in a “5 Phase Formula”.

Erm. Excuse me? Doesn’t sound shady at alllllll.

There’s the Bestseller in a Weekend. Write a Bestseller on Your Cellphone. And tons more.

The whole industry is obsessed with grabbing that bestseller badge—usually the orange one on Amazon. And you know what? No shade to them; I’m sure some of these companies are great at what they do and I’m sure they deliver on their promises.

But let me tell you a secret about Amazon bestsellers: I could grab that badge for myself next week with a little prep work and some snappy marketing.

Is all as it seems?

I could be number one in the category Humour>>Limericks simply by miscategorising my book and then pushing the marketing over a few days. I’d be bestseller in a fairly obscure category... which I think you’ll agree, is a little misleading for a book about writing and creativity.

As for other bestseller lists, like the New York Times list, they use different criteria... and many of them generally exclude independently published authors. (More on that in another article.)

Take Amanda Hockings, for instance. She sold over a million books (unlike a lot of NYT bestselling authors who don’t come close to selling a million)—and yet she never made the NYT bestseller list.

There are many methods used for calculating bestseller status, and they’re all kind of esoteric and quirky, so take the bestseller badge with a giant pinch of salt and remember this: the quest for bestseller status is external validation for something that can only come from inside of us.

Are we happy with our book? Are we writing for that bestseller badge… or are we writing because this book matters to us?

Are we writing for an externally bestowed, somewhat arbitrary accolade? Or because we know that someone, somewhere, will be grateful we’ve written this book?

Remember why you’re doing this

If your sole or main reason to write a book is to get that bestseller badge, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

My experience working with dozens of clients over the years is that if we don’t have a strong internal reason for writing our books, we won’t get it done.

And if we do get it done, we won’t write a book we’re truly proud of.

Going after that bestseller status as a priority isn’t a strong internal reason for writing.

To conclude: if you or I or any of your friends achieve the lofty heights of a bestseller list it is, of course, cause for celebration—I’ll be the first one at the party with fizzy pop and a bag of posh chocolates.

Just don’t make it your raison d’writing.

Write your book because you can’t not write your book.

Write it because you know it’ll make a difference.

And hey! If you’re thinking about writing your weird and wonderful book but you’d like some help along the way, I am looking for two new private coaching clients to join me on my 6-month Creative Book Coaching Adventure. Find out more here—and if you have questions, contact me here.

Notes in the Margin

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About the Author Vicky Fraser