Best SellerBookMouth.com defines a best seller as any book that has been deemed popular solely by sale numbers. These numbers are regularly compiled and recorded by newspaper, television, magazines and by the bookstores that sell these books. Some of these charts are very well read and followed devoutly by their readers, like the New York Times Book Review. It is widely believed that every best selling book on the New York Times list is deemed “good” by the general public. This particular list can be a bit deceiving, though, because every best seller on their list is a best selling book in traditional brick and mortar bookstores, as a the New York Times does not tract retail on internet stores. Because internet retail is becoming more and more popular every day, this means that a large sector of the industry is left off of this list.
In general, books on the best seller list tend to be for mass market appeal and are rarely of long standing literary value and even more rarely of scholarly or academic value. Most best seller lists separate books into fiction and non-fiction sections, although some, like the New York Times Book Review, do not. Other lists are separated by hardcover or paperback, but this can be difficult to gauge because most books are only distributed in paperback after having achieved wide acclaim or success via hardcover. Because of this and because they’re less expensive to manufacture and to buy, paperback books generally sell better than hardcovers because by the time a book has been released in paperback, the general public has already been made aware of its merit. This is a statement on how it is becoming popular to buy books; a best selling book is not necessarily widely read. One publishing house who wanted to determine how widely read their books were placed coupons redeemable for cash inside the cover of one of their best seller titles. Despite the fact that thousands of people bought the best seller, no one redeemed their cash coupon, leading the publishing house to believe that most purchasers of books don’t even read them, but rather acquire them for social value.
A best seller is typically defined by the number of copies sold, which on most lists is anywhere from between five thousand and twenty-five thousand copies. This can also be misleading, though, because over eighty percent of all books on popular best seller lists are published by the same “big five” publishing houses: Random House, HarperCollins, Time Warner Publishing, Penguin USA and Simon and Schuster. This underscores the fact that books on these lists are not necessarily better than books that aren’t, but rather they came with the initial start up funding and resources that allowed for mass market production. When adding in the next top five publishers, those ten publishers dominate 98% of all best book lists. For more information on how these lists are compiled, check out BookMouth.com.