Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pub Life: Secrets of the USA Today Best Seller List

Ever wondered what it takes to add "Bestselling Author" to your name? Today's post focuses on the USA Today Best Seller List.  In case you missed it, here's my last post on the New York Times Best Seller List.

USA Today Best Seller List

The basics:

USA Today surveys book sales and gathers weekly sales data to create a list comprised of the week's 150 best-selling titles.  The list is available here.  The USA Today print edition publishes the first 50 titles and the online list includes all 150.  The list recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary.


The sales data comes from a variety of sources including: independent bookstores, mass merchandisers, online retailers, and bookstore chains.  Some of these sources include: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Costco, Kobo, and Target.  The list includes sales for all book formats (i.e. hardcover, paperback, e-book, etc.).  The selling week is calculated from Monday through Sunday.  Unlike, the New York Times list, USA Today doesn't distinguish between formats and genres/categories.  Rather, all book formats are represented as one sales figure, and all genres/categories are included in one list. 


Similar to the New York Times list, your release week heavily influences the number of sales you need to hit the list. During slower weeks you will be able to hit the list with fewer sales than you may need in weeks saturated with popular releases.  Also similar to the New York Times list, you want to try to maximize your sales so that your first week sales aren't spread out between two weeks.  Therefore, you may wish to time your release close to the beginning of the list's selling week.

Chanel Cleeton writes New Adult contemporary romances and Young Adult thrillers.  Her New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 1, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year.  You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her own website


  1. Another great post! Have you ever heard any hard numbers associated with the list? For example, did the book in 1st place sell 5000 copies in a week or 50000? I know it probably varies but I'd be curious to know what actual numbers it takes to be #1.

    1. Thank you, Holly! I've heard you have to sell at least a few thousand copies in a week (really in any given week) to hit the list, but it's harder to find numbers on how many it takes to hit number one. I did some more research but had a hard time finding concrete numbers. While it does vary, it looks like you would need to sell a few tens of thousands of copies in a week to hit number one. If anyone else has heard differently, please share!

  2. Does books sold during pre-order get calculated into the your first week sales? This would greatly impact an author's ability to make the list. Thanks!