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Decoding the Amazon Best Seller: What It Means to Have a Best-Selling Book in Publishing Today

Whether we want to admit it or not, becoming a best-selling author is a dream most of us writers aspire to. But while having the best-seller badge can open doors to opportunities, we like to think of it as just one step in an author’s publishing journey. It starts with writing an outstanding book (or chapter if you’re part of a multi-author book).

Amazon Best Seller - Show Your Work book

It’s no secret to most authors that the quickest path to best-seller status is through Amazon, but with millions of books competing for attention in one marketplace, securing a spot as an Amazon best seller is no small feat. That said, it’s not nearly as hard to pull off as becoming New York Times or Wall Street Journal best sellers, which each have their own proprietary and sometimes secretive methodologies for determining who makes their lists. In this post, we'll look at what it really means to be an Amazon best seller and explore the opportunities and challenges that come with it.

What Is an Amazon Best Seller?

An Amazon best seller is a book that reaches number one in any book category on Amazon's sales charts. The status is not determined by types of book sales or other methodologies, like some of the more esteemed best-seller lists. It’s determined purely by sales data. Amazon’s sales charts are dynamic and can change by the hour, reflecting the real-time buying behavior of customers.

To achieve the Amazon best-seller status, a book must rank number one in one or more of Amazon’s book categories, which are separate for digital, print, and audio. These categories can be as broad as “Nonfiction” or as narrow as “Electron Microscopes & Microscopy.” Really. Sometimes, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the depth of Amazon categories. And just because a book is a best seller doesn’t mean it has sold a bazillion copies—or that it will. It merely means it sold more copies than the other books in its particular category at this particular period in time. This is why it’s so important to choose the right categories for your book.

Publishers often strategically choose categories where they believe a book will perform well, but because this is a dynamic and ever-changing environment, it’s impossible to guarantee a book will achieve best-seller status. We view it as a red flag when we see a publisher making this statement.

There is an art and science to choosing an Amazon category, and Amazon has recently made changes to the process of selecting categories, making it more difficult to become an Amazon best seller. Much of the flak surrounding being an Amazon best seller is because of the number of authors who used to try and game the system by selecting obscure and irrelevant categories solely for the purposes of securing an easy win. Amazon also has the discretion to decide what category to put your book in, so think twice before sticking it in an irrelevant category just to get the best-seller label.

It’s important to remember that being an Amazon best seller is also not a guarantee of long-term book sales. Some books perform well in “dying” categories, where sales are declining. Authors and publishers need a long-term marketing strategy in place for consistent book sales over time.

The Potential Challenges of Being an Amazon Best Seller

Before we get into the benefits of being an Amazon best seller, we want to highlight the challenges and controversies associated with this status. They are:

Sustaining the Position

Because of the hyper-competitive nature of the digital marketplace, it can be challenging to maintain best-seller status for an extended period. Many books experience a rapid rise and fall on the best-seller charts. Authors must continue to promote their books and engage with their audience to maintain long-term sales.

Pressure for Perfection

The pursuit of becoming an Amazon best seller can sometimes lead authors and publishers to prioritize short-term sales over other important qualitative metrics. Ideally, authors should aim to select categories where sales are strong, even if it may mean not getting the coveted best-seller label.

The Benefits of Making the Amazon Best-Seller List

By now, it should be clear that being an Amazon best seller isn’t just about accolades and numbers. It's about visibility, credibility, and the ability to capture the attention of readers in a crowded marketplace. Here are the advantages that come with becoming a best seller.

Increased Visibility

One of the biggest benefits of being an Amazon best seller is the boost in visibility. As a book climbs the sales charts, it becomes more prominent on Amazon's website and is often featured in "best seller" lists, increasing its discoverability by potential readers.


The title of Amazon best seller can confer a level of credibility on the author and his or her work. Readers are more inclined to trust and purchase books that have received this recognition.

Promotional Opportunities

Being an Amazon best seller can open doors to marketing opportunities, speaking engagements, and media interviews. Authors can mention their best-seller status in their promotional materials, which can help attract more attention and book deals.

Increased Sales

Achieving best-seller status can create a positive feedback loop, as increased visibility and credibility can lead to more sales, potentially propelling the book to even higher rankings.

Personal Achievement

For authors, becoming an Amazon best seller represents a significant personal achievement. It validates their hard work, dedication, and writing skills. It's a moment of pride and fulfillment in their journey as authors.

In conclusion, being an Amazon best seller is a coveted title in today's dynamic publishing landscape. It signifies not only commercial success but also increased visibility, credibility, and personal achievement. However, it's essential to pursue this status with honesty and integrity and remember that it’s just one step on your publishing journey. We think it’s an honor to achieve Amazon best-seller status and are so proud of our books that earn this title.

Sulit Press offers a number of multi-author book opportunities year-round. View our current multi-author book opportunities. Have a question about our multi-author book program or have a topic you think would make a terrific multi-author book? Reach out!

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