Before and After is Officially a Best-Seller – But What Does That Mean?

After approximately 10 days of Before and After hovering around the Top Ten list in two different categories (more on that later), some mysterious salesforce bumped the book not just into the top ten, but actually to the hallowed top slot. I genuinely felt a bit dizzy when I saw what it had pushed back.

Oh, it’s just Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Who?

Before this post starts to sound like a vomit-inducing, overly-premature victory lap I thought it might be interesting to go into what hitting the best-seller means and how you go about getting that much-coveted orange ribbon.

The short and predictable answer is sales. There’s no getting around it, people need to buy your book. A slightly longer answer would be that it’s sales in a condensed period of time. If you take a look just underneath where it says Amazon Best Sellers then you’ll see that it says “Updated Hourly”. So the simple answer is that during that hour, as Amazon measured it, Before and After sold more copies than Good Omens.

Now, I’m not attempting to downplay this, I’m thrilled that anyone buys my books, but it’s fair to say that Good Omens has been on the shelves for some time – it was released in 1990. So, even despite the fact that it’s had renewed attention because of the (nice and accurate) TV series, that’s pretty amazing that a thirty year old book can still hold the number one and two slot on a best-selling chart. Come back to me in 30 years and let’s see how Before and After is doing. More amazing still is that it’s pretty expensive as Kindle books go.

The other thing that’s worth noting when it comes to the best-seller charts is that authors get to choose a number of categories for Amazon to list their book in. My main categories you can see here:

Notice too that it’s dropped to #94 in “post-apocalyptic” now – I’m sure Gaiman and Pratchett are working on their boastful blog posts right now. When you first upload your book Amazon allows you to have two main categories, you can actually email the very helpful customer support team at Kindle Direct Publishing and ask them to list you in as many as eight other categories.

Clearly, this helps a lot because some of those categories are fairly niche and will require far fewer sales to hit the best-seller chart than others. Perhaps unsurprisingly the most competitive category is Contemporary Romance. My chosen battleground of science fiction> post apocalyptic is slap bang in the middle at #54 (of around 100). So it seems that if you’re looking to harvest as many of those orange tags as possible then according to this chart you should write a book about something that fits the following categories.

Romance -> Historical Romance -> Scottish
Literature & Fiction -> Literary Fiction -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Nonfiction -> Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian Living -> Spiritual Growth

Which rather neatly brings me onto my new book series: The Detective Morag Mysteries. The year is 1915 and Curtly Morag is one of the first to ever make the rank of detective in the fiercely misogynistic Scottish police force, she’s certainly the first atheist…