Making A Best Seller List


There are several Best Seller lists, like USA TodayWall Street Week and Barnes and Noble, but the one most everyone knows is The New York Times Best Sellers list. To somehow crack the code to the list is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for most authors. For Savant types like John Grisham, Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks, the code seems to work for all their books.

Today, making the New York Times Best Sellers list is easier than ever, with a total of 40 categories a book can land in from Hard Cover fiction and nonfiction to PaperbackEbooksGraphicChildren’s books and Young Adult. In addition, there are 22 monthly lists with sub-categories like Games, Family, Sports and Travel.

Since each category has 10 to 15 books, there might be 800 different books listed at one time and most of the authors are represented by mainstream publishers. To sell a minimum of about 5,000 copies per week to make the lists, the books must be in retail outlets. What’s the methodology used? According to the New York Times:

“Rankings reflect sales reported by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles. The sales venues for print books include independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; supermarkets, university, gift and discount department stores; and newsstands. E-book rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of e-books in a variety of popular e-reader formats.”

How Many Books to Make the List?

The number of book sales to make any list varies greatly by time of year and by category. The 5,000 copy per week benchmark is a relative number that easily represents all major categories for the weekly lists. Even a book listed at #15 on the Hard Cover Fiction list is likely to be a major author whose books are found in bookstores, gift shops, Walmart, Costco, and the ever-popular airport lounge. If you want to be impressed by a book’s sales, look at the number of weeks it has been on the list. A one-week blip is just that, one big week of sales. A book that hangs in the top ten for 20-weeks is a new lifestyle with all the perks……………

However, small categories in the monthly listings might surprise you. For instance, Tracey Stewarts Do Unto Animals was listed at number 10 in the monthly listing for Animals. It’s a very good book and congratulations to the author for making the New York Times Best Seller list. It also made the USA Today list.

It also makes the Amazon Best Seller list by being #1 in the Animal Husbandry category. Again, well done. The book hovered at #3500 in paperback books and #50,000 in the paid Kindle store. The author sold lots of books, but not a clip that self-published authors can’t also shoot for with their Kindle books.

For lack of a better way of putting it, the New York Times Best Sellers list is the Major Leagues. Amazon’s #1 Best Seller ranking is the minor leagues. Sure, if you get that ranking in “Fiction” you will be very, very rich. But Amazon has a whole lot more than 62 total categories.

The #3500 Amazon ranking in paperbacks (or just non-Kindle) is quite good; selling perhaps 30 copies or more per day. With bookstores and other outlets considered, that could be more than 100 copies per day. And, a book like Animal Husbandry is more likely to sell in paperback than on Kindle. And, the shelf life is likely to be good.

The Kindle numbers are a bit different.

For Kindle sales, the ranking of #50,000 is mediocre. Sales-wise that’s 1 or 2 book sales per day. Everyone has a chance to do that if they produce a decent read for Kindle buyers. The overall ranking includes Kindle Unlimited (you must be exclusive to Amazon for Kindle Unlimited and KDP), where readers opt-in to read all the Kindle eBooks they can for $9.95 per month and authors get paid by page views. Those page views run about a half-cent per page, so a 300-page novel garners $1.50 for the author.

A Kindle book selling for $4.95 pays the author 70% in most markets or $3.47 per sale. At the same time, a KDP (Amazon paperback copy) book listed at $14.95 nets $5.16 for the author.

If you want to be in the Top 10 of common categories on Amazon Kindle, choose a more obscure one than “crime” or “romance.” Obviously, if you choose correctly, you can make an Amazon Best Seller list with fewer sales.

How few? Well, right now the #1 book under “blackjack” is selling at #23,500 which is about 5 books per day! That’s very nice for the author, and in a year, they might reach 2,500 sales. That’s about half of what a New York Times Best Seller does in a week.

I’m not disparaging the Amazon Bestseller’s listings. Not at all. I  love ’em. Just keep in mind you’ll need to keep producing quality work to get tothe New York Times list!

John Grisham: The Rooster Bar

The Rooster BarFew authors have had as much continued success at John Grisham and his latest book, The Rooster Bar, may keep his most avid readers happy. But, there’s more to the story than Mark, Todd, and Zola trying to get through a final year of law school. There’s a heavy dollop of social commentary running through the pages.

That’s not anything new with Grisham, but the narrative seems a bit stunted this time and while he intertwines the social speech well with his backstory and the chapters to come, it’s forced, instead of freely flowing. That’s a shame.

If you enjoy Grisham’s usual look at lawyers and the law scene, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed there too. Instead of chapters uncovering a law firm deftly using the law, their investigators, and some crafty speeches, this book deals with friends in a for-profit law school getting a poor education and bitching about their student loans.

To get back at their school (and to get over a shocking death), they decide to quit with a single semester left and start practicing law without licenses. Could be a bad decision.

Picking up this book and expecting action like we found in The Firm probably is too.

Two Stars


Mark Sullivan’s “Beneath a Scarlet Sky”

Beneath a Scarlet SkyAuthor Mark Sullivan turns in an amazing story with Beneath a Scarlet Sky. It’s based on the true story of Pino Lella, a young man thrust into the big picture of World War Two as it rages around his country (Italy) and changes people’s lives forever.

Pino’s predicament and response are no more courageous than other war heroes, but his vantage point certainly is. After his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, he and his brother are whisked away to the relative safety of Casa Alpina in the Italian Alps.

However, instead of being a place of safety, Pino joins a group of insurgents working secretly to smuggle refugees and downed allied pilots to the safety of Switzerland.

Pino is both daring and clever, and he’s a teenager in war who falls for an older woman, a beautiful widow, Anna. It creates what we could accept as just another tragedy and blessing at a time when the whole world was in chaos. At least until Pino’s parents convince him to enlist as a German soldier, which they think will keep him from being sent to the Russian front.

Instead, Pino is injured and then recruited to be the personal driver for General Hans Leyers, the most powerful German commander in Italy. He knows the Third Reich’s strategies and plans for Italy, and before we know it, Pino is a most powerful spy suddenly inside the German High Command.

And still there  is Anna, his family, and the country that kept him happy and safe until the German occupation. A story that runs 526 pages. The book is currently $2.99 on Kindle and Free on Kindle Unlimited.

What the author presents is a tragic, gripping tale set against the backdrop of war. A thought-provoking and triumphant story that unveils the brutality held in the deep recesses of the minds of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and the passion and love held in the souls of people all across the scared lands of Italy. Especially those highlighted in Mark Sullivan’s story.

In the end, this is a story of war, courage, but also the love Pino feels for his country and for Anna. The writing and plot-line is steady, sometimes much more detailed than others, with a hint of a memoir.

At Amazon, the book has more than 23,000 reviews. Mine is likely nothing new to the mix, but this is an enjoyable book, obviously loved by many. In fact, it has garnered 96% 5 and 4 star reviews, with 83% of them the highest available. Now that’s something!

I’ve also listed this book as Fiction, although the setting and characters are based on true events. I’m sure readers of this story understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction and are willing to accept this as a novel, not a definitive recreation of the events in every detail.

Five Stars


Al W Moe “Getting Thin is Murder”

getting thin is murder - kindle coverEver been on a diet? Ever looked at someone at the beach or in a movie and said, “Wow, I’d die for that body.” Hmmm. Careful what you ask for.

Author Al W Moe brings characters to life in his private detective mystery Getting Thin is Murder. Set in Santa Barbara, California. Ex-ballplayer Blair Saxon makes a difficult and stilted transition to detective work, fighting real and imagined obstacles at every corner.

Best friend Megan guides his thoughts and actions when she can, but Saxon’s got issues. He lacks a filter in public settings and his whit isn’t nearly as sharp as he thinks. So, he takes to investigating sideways, like a slow curve-ball, digging up more than he or Megan expect while fighting an overzealous police department.

The characters are well-motivated, if only slightly introspective, with the exception of Katarina, a tough local lawyer and as luck has it, Saxon’s sister. The pace is moderate to upbeat, building to an unexpected last few chapters that turn the story towards a surprise ending, but promising a sequel.

I’m reminded slightly of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in this novel with colorful main characters in the forefront and rather shadowy back characters lurking behind secrets, lies, and corporate B.S.

Unfortunately, the corporate issues revolve around an all-too-true narrative where healthy, natural products aren’t always what they are cracked up to be. Is it worth striving for the perfect body when getting it might kill you?

Getting Thin is Murder is available in Kindle and is a Kindle Unlimited book, so it’s free if you are a member. Give it a look!

Four Stars




Happy Birthday Dolly Parton

Country Singer Dolly Parton in ConcertDolly Parton at Harrah’s Casino in 1980. Getty Image, photo by George Rose.

It’s Dolly Parton’s Birthday (January 19), and we’re here to tell you the lovely lady with the amazing voice and country charm deserves all the best wishes she can get!

Dolly Rebecca Parton is best known for her work in country music. Before she was 20, Dolly was a songwriter for other artists and made her album debut in 1967 with “Hello, I’m Dolly.”

Since that time, Parton has amassed 25 RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards. 25 of her songs have reached No. 1 on Billboard’s country music charts, and has 41 top-10 country albums. Over the past 40 years she has received 47 Grammy nominations.

Alright, you get it, she’s a country music superstar. And, she’s invested her time and money in successful business ventures like The Dollywood Company, which she co-owns. It’s most prominent business is the theme park Dollywood.

But It’s About Books

However, she ties into our conscientiousness here due to her work with children and her Imagination Library. According to Dolly, her father never learned to read and she wanted all children to fall in love with reading.

To that end, she started her little library in Sevier County, Tennessee where she was raised, in 1995. Her dream was to get books to children in her county; age-appropriate, free books preschool kids would want to read.

But something happened! The message she had for children spread across the globe. Today, the Imagination Library sends books to hundreds of places thousands of miles from Sevier County.

In fact, the Imagination Library sends more than 1 million free books to children in the US, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom every month! To date, more than 112,500,000 free books have been mailed to children hungry to read.

I know her music is amazing, soothing, and sometimes heartbreaking. But really, 112 million books for children? How can you beat that?

Thank you and cheers to Dolly on her birthday! She’s sure earned the accolades!


Paul McCartney Still Touring

McCartney In Vegas

Photo Credit: Harry Benson

Paul McCartney welcomed old friend Ringo Starr to the stage at the O2 Arena in London during a massive 40-song set of McCartney, Wings, and Beatles music. Starr rocked away on “Get Back,” along with Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, helping make the night memorable for thousands of fans.

McCartney continues to tour, hitting the US in 2019 and playing the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, AZ Wednesday, June 26 at 8:00 PM. Starr will be close by in March (21st, 8 PM) when Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band play at Harrah’s Resort SoCal The Events Center, Valley Center, California.

The rockers have a storied history with gaming and casinos, having played an early date in Las Vegas that required police and security guards from Phoenix to help quell the screaming crowds. Their pending arrival hadn’t looked promising, but oh, how things changed as their concert dates drew near.

The Legend of Las Vegas and the Beatles

According to legend, booking agents approached the Sands, Dunes, and the Flamingo about sponsoring the Fab Four, but they weren’t too interested in throngs of teenagers in Sin City. Fortunately, Stan Irwin down at the Sahara casino knew about the Beatles and took a chance. He planned to have them play in the Sahara’s Congo room, but soon realized they would need a lot more space than the 600-seat room offered.

Instead, Irwin arranged to have them play two shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center; 7,000 seats in the rotunda and another 1,400 in the balcony. Prime tickets were $5.50 with the balcony spots going for $2.20. The show sold out easily.

The Beatles’ chartered plane arrived hours early at McCarran Field to fool their fans, but word of the 1:45 AM flight on August 20, 1964, spread like wild-fire. By the time the Beatles arrived at the Sahara, there were thousands of fans, mostly teenagers, nearly surrounding the hotel-casino.

The Beatles were able to use a back entrance and service elevator to get to their suite, but their plans to take their limo around the city and cruise The Strip ended. Instead, they spent their hours before the first show sitting in their room.

Sahara management was kind enough to deliver plenty to eat, and as only could happen in Las Vegas, a pair of slot machines were brought to the room to entertain the four musicians. Getting them back out of the hotel for that evening’s show presented another challenge, performed by dozens of police officers with riot sticks and bullhorns.

The show itself was a huge success, setting the stage (sorry) for many future concerts by other big-name acts in Las Vegas. As for the Beatles, they managed to get out of town without any disasters, but the show in Las Vegas was much like others to come. Future gigs sold out, but there was so much screaming that the musicians themselves couldn’t hear their instrumentation or voices.

The Beatles never played Las Vegas again, doing their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco just over two years later before becoming a studio-only band. Can we blame them?

George Harrison put it best, saying “Every city we went to there was some kind of a jam going on and police control, and people threatening to do this and that, and [us] being confined to a little room or a plane or a car.”

Jeffrey Bardwell “Rotten Magic”

rotten magicAuthor Jeffrey Bardwell shapes a strange, complex world out of a bucket of words and gives us plenty to chew on in a metal and magic, steampunk saga. There’s some adverb gristle to chew through, but Bardwell’s writing is surprisingly good, making Rotten Magic indie gold.

The story begins in first person with Drusilla, an Artificer’s apprentice, mired in the enigma of a cold metal box of gears he can’t figure out. Not that it should be a surprise, since the other apprentices are also at a loss for what the box really is. Except for Devin, who joins us in the second chapter in third person.

Drusilla  musses while missing her old friend, “Devin was a human puzzle box….by the five gods, you were just starting to open up and then suddenly you go silent on me. What broke?”

We don’t know until later, when we find that the Artificers are revered, and those with magic, the Mages, are violent criminal outcasts. Or are they?

Eventually, Devin admits he loves the art of dragons and builds mechanical armor befitting the most godly dragon, but is that enough for him? Of course not.

Rotten Magic is the first book in the Artifice Mage Saga, a three book series. And, it appears it was originally written and offered as a much shorter lead-in to the series than its current 336 pages.

The cover may also have changed, as both Rebecca Frank and Les Solot added work. It would appear Les Solot is the artist of the new third edition, and I like the cover very much.

Characters are well developed in this story, with motivation for several to guard their secrets, and try to destroy their true or imagined adversaries. To make things better, the book is currently free. Amazon lists it now as:

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Gaslamp

Give it  a look. What are you afraid of?

Will Lowrey “Chasing the Blue Sky”

Chasing the blue skySome things are simple for people. Others things are a bit crazy. For me, a big challenge is getting in the front door each night, and I love it. That’s because I’m greeted by my wife, and our girls, and our dogs. And while scuffles ensue from time to time with both the girls and the dogs eventually trying to escape between my legs or through the open door, it’s always great.

I know that feeling is something author Will Lowrey has for dogs, and his story Chasing the Blue Sky  proves it. Still, you don’t have to love dogs to enjoy the story of Toby, a puppy given-up to an animal shelter. The writing is solid, without being overly schmaltzy or animal-driven preachy. It’s a real story through the eyes of man’s-best-friend. From the mistaken kindness of taking an outdoor animal a new blanket, to the cold, frozen iceberg it becomes in frigid weather.

Most of us try our best to treat our animal friends well, but we make as many mistakes as they do in trying to interpret what each other needs. That’s life. But, we can always learn to do better. Chasing the Blue Sky made me want to do better.

The author presents a rich story seen through the tiny squares of chain-link fences, the  low level of cold concrete floors, and the love that comes from adopting a new family member. It’s a read, available on Kindle for just $2.99, and free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Give it a home.

Four Stars

Brian O’Hare “The Coven Murders”

Coven Murdersfront1025 (1)Author Brian O’Hare makes a daring move in the third book of his Inspector Sheehan Mysteries by setting the stage instantly with a ritual killing, and by gruesomely linking both crime and horror genre’s in The Coven Murders.

I’m a fan of both, and enjoyed the Inspector’s sharp insight and determination. And, since I’ve never been to Ireland where the story is set, I got a kick out of learning a bit about local customs, speech, and even the temperament of the main characters.

I came away feeling as though I’d watched a somewhat twisted episode of NCSI New Orleans, with Scott Bakula as the Inspector. And that’s not a bad thing, as Sheehan’s  investigators battle the local environment and political leanings, as well as strict religious views dependent on just who they come in contact with.

What’s left is a smart, well-honed story with a crew of inspectors doing a scary but believable job. And, the crew is manned by believable characters. They have friends, families, and a place to go after a hard day at work. They just can’t get the day’s work out of their minds.

The Inspector himself isn’t perfect, but he’s meticulous, inquiring, and well worth following along for the trip through Northern Ireland.

I enjoyed the novel and think you’ll feel the same way. And as a reward, there are other books in the series that let you follow Inspector Sheehan on similar investigations. So, give author Brian O’Hare a look!

Four Stars

Morgan C. Talbot “Smugglers & Scones”

Smugglers and Scones cover revealAuthor Morgan C. Talbot offers up a smart, smirky cozy mystery in Smugglers & Scones. As mysteries go, I tend more towards hard-boiled fare, but sometimes change is good. In this case, the change was very good! I honestly didn’t want to put my Kindle Fire down.

This is a first-person affair with Oregon Coast bed-and-breakfast queen Pippa Winterbourne running the show in Moorehaven. Well, at least when Rex and Svetlana, her feline fans, aren’t in charge.

I’ve spent time in Oregon, and my visits were always blanketed with fog and buffeted with cold. Probably nothing has changed. In Scones, Pippa’s business location is the former home of a world-famous mystery writer, and her guests arrive daily to wallow in writers’ block or finish their little darlings and get the pages off to their publishers. That sounds fine for me. Might as well be inside writing if the weather’s a bit blocky outside.

Of course I wouldn’t have kept reading without that tricky murder and the clues leading a call-back to Prohibition days. Yeah, there’s plenty here to keep you reading, and pondering what’s up next as you reach the end of each chapter. Really an enjoyable read.

Four Stars

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