The New York Times Best Seller List

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The New York Times Best Seller list is a widely followed list of top selling books in the United States, that is published each week in The New York Times Review of Books.[1] The list has been published since on October 12, 1931.[2]

The list is compiled by the editors of the paper's "News Surveys" department based on weekly sales reports obtained from selected samples of independent and chain bookstores and wholesalers throughout the United States.

Historically, publishers first offered books for sale to the public as hardbound books. After all of the hardbound books were sold, some of the books were then reprinted as paperback books. Bookstores wanted to know what books were popular nationwide so that those books would be well-stocked. Similarly, readers followed the best seller list to select which book they wanted to purchase and read next. The early best seller list covered only hardbound books, but more recently, the list has been separated between fiction and non-fiction in hardbound or paperback editions.

As technology advanced, purchasing patterns have changed. First, publishers began to offer "books on tape" which are recordings of an actor or actors reading a book. Now, many readers purchase electronic versions of books to view on a tablet or smartphone without owning a printed version. Many people purchase books online rather than from a bricks and mortar store. Finally, so authors self-publish books rather than using traditional publishing houses. As the means for purchasing books multiply, the process of developing a list of the most popular books becomes challenging.


In 2013, Forbes magazine printed a story titled "Here's How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestsellers List." [3] ResultSource, a San Diego-based marketing consultant, specializes in placing books on the list. The New York Times was informed of this practice and responded: “The New York Times comprehensively tracks and tabulates the weekly unit sales of all titles reported by book retailers as their general interest bestsellers. We will not comment beyond our methodology on the other questions." [4]

In 2014, the Los Angeles Times printed a story titled "Can bestseller lists be bought?"[5][6] It describes how pastor Mark Driscoll contracted the company ResultSource to place his book Real Marriage (2012) on The New York Times Best Seller list for a $200,000 fee. The contract specified that ResultSource would "conduct a bestseller campaign for your book, 'Real Marriage' on the week of January 2, 2012. The bestseller campaign is intended to place 'Real Marriage' on the New York Times bestseller list for the Advice How-to list." The contract stated that "RSI will be purchasing at least 11,000 total orders in one week." This took place, and the book successfully reached No.1 on the hardcover advice bestseller list on January 22, 2014.[5]

In July 2015, Ted Cruz's book A Time For Truth was excluded from the list because the "overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales [of Cruz's book] were limited to strategic bulk purchases" to artificially increase sales and entry onto the list. In response, Cruz called the Times "a liar" and demanded an apology.[7] The Times stood by its statement and evidence of manipulation.

Author James Wesley Rawles has bulk purchased large numbers of his book "Survivors", which resulted in the book appearing on the New York Times Best Seller list for just one week.[8] Based on this one week appearance, promotion of Rawles' following books claim to be from a "New York Times bestselling author."

Currently, some books with bulk orders are still included in the list, but are marked with a dagger symbol. A footnote on the list says, "A dagger (†) indicates that some retailers report receiving bulk orders."


  1. John Bear, The #1 New York Times Best Seller: intriguing facts about the 484 books that have been #1 New York Times bestsellers since the first list, 50 years ago, Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1992.
  2. The New York Times, October 12, 1931. 19
  3. Jeff Bercovici (February 22, 2013). Here's How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestsellers List. Forbes. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  4. Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg (February 22, 2013). The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carolyn Kellogg (March 6, 2014). Can bestseller lists be bought?. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  6. Julia Fleischaker (March 7, 2014). Got $200,000? Congratulations, you're a bestselling author.. Melville House Publishing. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  7. Dylan Byers (July 10, 2015). Cruz campaign: New York Times is lying about bulk book sales. Politico. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.