Lately I've been visiting the Amazon product pages of books that were indie bestsellers six months and a year ago. I'm talking about those 99 cent wonders that hit the Kindle top 100, had two hundred glowing reviews, and sent the authors to blogosphere paradise.
I'll admit it -- I was envious whenever I saw one. My books (the Easton series) sell at a steady pace in the high mid list range, and I've been very happy, in fact elated, with those sales. Yet, every writer has the dream of making it to the bestseller major leagues. Who doesn't think about the fifteen minutes of fame, the reporters calling, the shout out in the local papers? It takes a lot of blood and sweat to write a book, and recognition for your hard work is a great thing.
Anyhoo, of those indie books that were bestsellers a year ago, some are still selling well, but many have fallen completely off the wagon, and some are languishing in their sales rankings to the point where I can see they sell just a few copies a week. Their rankings vs. mine show that I'm selling three or four or ten times as many books at the same or a higher price.
What gives? These were extremely popular books, but it is now apparent: They were the season fad. These darlings were often hyped by a few popular bloggers and opinion leading voices. They experienced a bump, but they lacked the classic lines to make them timeless fashions.
So . . . I'm rethinking what makes a "bestseller". I think the book to write is one that has "legs", one that continues to sell well over a longer time frame. While some bestsellers go on to respectable perennial sales, many others do not. The steady selling mid list book can, and often does, outsell the designated bestseller.
What's more, this concept of steady, long tail sales is more important now than ever, as a digital book never goes off the sales shelf.
The traditional "bestseller" is really a fast out-of-the-gate seller. Bestseller status today does not mean that good, steady sales will be sustained one, two, or five years beyond initial publication. It's the old tortoise and hare scenario; the steady sales will add up to more significant income over the lifecycle of the book.