Is a book really a bestseller? A litmus test.

The lack of a single Amazon review belies an author's "bestseller" claim.

What does it mean to write a bestseller?

It’s not an easy question to answer. I’ve written before about how bestseller lists are downright suspect. Brass tacks: there’s no official body that sanctions books as official bestsellers. What’s more, authors with questionable ethics and deep pockets can buy their way onto Amazon and New York Times‘ lists via companies such as ResultSource. (Read how it works here.)

Suspcious Claims

But that doesn’t stop many “regular” authors from making disingenuous bestseller claims. I recently saw an author’s website describing him as a “bestselling author.” I didn’t think that his book did that well, and I took a gander at his Amazon author page. As it turns out, nary a review was to be found.

How can you square that circle? How is it that a bestseller failed to garner a single review—either positive or negative?

The lack of a single Amazon review belies an author’s “bestseller” claim.

Let me state the obvious. Perhaps he was lying or offering truthful hyperbole. It’s been known to happen.

Then there’s the “product category” best seller. Amazon ranks books by category. In this vein, a book quickly moves up. It’s not a bestseller per se, but a best seller in a provincial sub-category. See below how the numbers for Message Not Received appear much better when viewed in a narrow window:

Brass Tacks: Be wary of specious claims.

Real bestselling books invite reviews—lots and lots of review. If you don’t believe me, click here.

A good general rule of thumb is that one out of every 100 readers / buyers will write a proper review. (No, they are not the same thing.) If even 3,000 people bought this author’s ostensible “bestseller”, then one would expect around 30 reviews. The lack of a single one belies an author’s claim. Remember that when someone tells you that s/he is “bestselling author.”

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