From the Newsstand

Now You Know: The Mysteries of NYT’s Best-Seller List (or Not)

By posted at 7:56 pm on October 21, 2007 1

It is a ubiquitous feature in bookstores – especially at airports: The New York Times Best Seller List. The words “From The New York Times Best-Selling Author” flash at a reader from the top of a book cover, capturing interst and, well, dollars.

The Times’ Public Editor Clark Hoyt explains the selection process, why the list is more widely followed and valued than other, competing “best seller” compilations – from USA Today and Rupert Murdoch’s (ouch) Wall Street Journal – in an informative column.

Apparently an NYT Best Seller sticker can drive up sales by as much as 57 percent for a first-time author. Publishers are, naturally, conscious of this priceless marketing tool and accordingly try to rig the market, Hoyt writes. Not to worry, the editors at the Times safeguard readers against such shams.

But Times editors too might not fully understand the procedure, according to Hoyt. And while the Times might make sure that “evergreens” like Catcher in the Rye or an SAT study guide don’t stay on the list forever, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point – which came out in paperback in 2002 – has been on it for a stunning 164 weeks.

The column might leave you a tad confused, but at least you won’t ask yourself what the heck an “NYT Best Seller” is next time you are idling at an airport bookstore.

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One Response to “Now You Know: The Mysteries of NYT’s Best-Seller List (or Not)”

  1. Dolen
    at 11:30 am on October 22, 2007

    So glad you led me to this article. I've often wondered about the NYT bestseller list.

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