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10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Attempt Becoming a #1 NY Times Bestseller Author


Many marketing guru’s and business coaches today advocate a new trend that authors and co-authors pursue Best Seller status for their book. They suggest being a best selling author will help you increase your consulting or keynote rates, achieve wider name recognition, book more engagement, and attract higher profile opportunities in the broader business community. This is true, a best selling book helps achieve these.


  1. Is this strategy the best way for most authors and co-authors to reach their business goals?
  2. Is it worth the costs and the risk of not achieving it?

One year ago this week I helped three co-authors put their business book #1 on the NY Times Bestsellers list. I helped design and execute the bestseller book campaign to pre-sell over 10,500 copies of Tribal Leadership.

View Tribal Leadership #1 ranking on NY Times website

Even though I consult with authors about how to achieve best seller status, I recommend that most authors and co-authors do not attempt becoming a #1 NY Times Best Selling author. Very few have the assets and the business case that requires it.

Top 10 reasons to NOT attempt becoming #1 NY Times Best Selling author

You must:

1. Pre-sell lots of books

Over a period of days or weeks you must pre-sell at least 10,000 copies of your book. Toward the end of the campaign, these books will be distributed over a period of 2-3 days through a variety of outlets to show. This strategy will maximize your book’s popularity when the NY Times runs their weekly report.

The problem is if your book is already published, many people on your mailing list will be reluctant to order another copy. If the book is yet to be published, it is tough to promote a book that has no reviews yet.

2. Have a big mailing list

You must have a mailing list of at least 10,000 subscribers to have a fighting chance of making the best seller list. You can do it with less, but will take lots more time, money and work.

3. Have a responsive mailing list

Every time you email your list, at least 4,000 people should consistently open your emails and 2,000 unique people click throughs to your website. If you don’t have enough response to your book offer, you will not pre-sell enough copies of your book when you extend the offer.

4. Complete with the online retailers selling your book

Unfortunately online booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, usually undercut your retail price by 30% even if the book hasn’t been released yet. Your customers are thinking “why should I order it from you when I can order for less on Amazon.” In the end you may need to subsidize the difference so you can compete the online book retailers.  This isn’t fair to you as the author, but this is the way it is, and you need to provide a counter to this..

5. Currently sell digital products or live programs

People do not want to buy multiple copies of your book. That would be like eating 5 mud pie sundaes at Red Robbin on your birthday. One is enough. What that means for your book campaign is that you need to make 10,000 order.

An effective counter strategy is offering hundreds or preferably thousands of dollars of your top info products or live programs when people order multiple copies of your books. Customers will gladly purchase your top digital products at a highly reduced rate. This is easy for you to automatically deliver or through a group training.

Watch out though. Even if you offer your top info products for pennies on the dollar, if you don’t message and position your offer correctly, customers will still push back saying, “but I don’t want extra copies of the book.” And you also risk damaging your brand or products’ reputation as well.

6. Hire a project manager, marketer, and design team

Unless you put your business on hold, there are too many things for most busy professional to manage while doing a best seller campaign. You need a project manager to keep track of all the pieces, a marketer to work out the detailed strategy, and a designer to create web pages and graphics that compel your prospects and customers to take action.

This team is just to get the pre-orders to then distribute to your customers. That still requires another expert team for that.

7. Hire a book re-distributor that intimately knows how to achieve best seller status

There are only a few firms who will guarantee you will even reach the best seller list if you meet your pre-sell quota. It will cost about $15-30k to hire them and they usually keep some of the money from each copy of your book. You are you are still on the hook to pre-sell the books for them to distribute. You need the reseller though otherwise you have to pre-sell lots more books.

8. Have 50-200 hours of extra time to invest in the project

Even though you have a team of people running the campaign for you,  as the author(s) you will need to put your own time and energy into the campaign. You will need to make several videos, engage your top business associates as promotion partners, host calls, review emails to your list, and make major decisions about the campaign. For about  2-3 months this project will be your primary focus when not working with your clients.

9. Have $50,000-$100,000 to fund the project

After you’ve paid for your book campaign and redistribution teams, and subsidized copies of your books, you will have invested a sizable amount of money. Many best selling authors do not see the immediate returns in increased rates and business outcomes for many months. This money should be set aside before you even begin and allocated as an investment in your professional future.

10. Have a well written book that’s been published or will be published in the next 3-6 months

Nobody wants to be a best selling author of a book that sucks. If you achieve the NY Times Best Sellers list, but your book ends up gets bad reviews that will reflect poorly on your “Best Seller” status.


Attempting to place your book on NY Times Best Sellers list is a major commitment. There are a number of potential rewards as well as a specific way to overcome each of these 10 obstacles in this post.

1. I suggest that anybody wishing to pursue becoming a #1 NY Times Best Selling author to make a list of all the reasons driving you to do consider this. What will it do for your reputation, prestige and bank account both short term and long term?

Then consider if there are other ways to achieve these same objectives. In all but a few cases you will probably recognize more effective strategy to achieve the same ends for the less time, money and energy expenditures. You may need to focus initially on building your list and resources to make your attempt more viable.

2. If the benefits outway the expenditures then you need to make sure you have a sufficient plan and team in place that assures you of reaching your target on the NY Time Best Sellers list.

I’ll gladly offer an evaluation session to determine how I might support you. I can help you create the ideal plan leveraging your current resources and support with the detailed execution of the plan if desired.