To become a bestselling author, you must outsell others in the same or similar market category. Amazon rankings are based on how well your book is selling when compared to others. In general, sales of about 5000 to 15,000 copies can be labeled bestsellers, depending on the category and competition at the time. 

It may help to understand a bit about Amazon rankings. Let’s say you wrote a Southern biography, and it ranks #2 on Amazon. You know your book has sold 10 books in that category for the month. The #1 rating goes to the guy that sold 11 copies, and the #3 ranking goes to the one who sold 9 copies. Ranking is a relative position in the marketplace, and does not directly reflect the number of units you sold. 

The Times list is more accurate in judging one’s level of success. The newspaper collects physical book sales from bookstores and the big data aggregators and analyzer, Circana Books, which acquired NPD BookScan and collects 85 percent of print book sales. Subscriptions are extremely expensive and are not usually available to authors. 

The criteria for reaching bestseller status is complex. It involves not only quality writing but also a highly marketable concept, extensive promotion, timing, and a whole lot of luck.

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