What Best-Seller Lists Can Tell about Authors’ Potential

This is the first post in Digital Book World’s new “Databox” column. Learn more about it here.


Publishers have long sought out authors with the potential to reach wider audiences if brought under their own roofs. Especially in genres where ebooks have performed well, like romance and sci-fi, list growth often depends in part on how well publishers can attract promising indie writers.

To that end, many publishers have developed data dashboards and other instruments in order to systematize and fine-tune the identification process. Most of those tools remain proprietary, though, and some of the industry’s best available measures are still a far cry from offering a comprehensive, publicly available picture of the market.

What’s more, the sorts of indicators publishers may find helpful in making informed decisions often aren’t all that complex, even if they remain hard to come by.

Below is a list, provided to Digital Book World by Iobyte Solutions’s eBook Market View report, of 34 self-published romance authors whose titles are currently performing well at two leading ebook retailers, Nook and Kindle. Both retailers’ weekly best-seller lists are posted publicly; Iobyte has simply automated a comparative process that would otherwise mean combing through both lists manually over a period of weeks.

“As a snapshot,” Iobyte founder Dan Lubart says, “this list can give some ideas of the currently successful self-published authors in a given genre. Looking at it over time, you can identify the ‘fast-risers’ who are moving up the Nook list but still haven’t surfaced onto the best-seller lists on either Nook or Kindle.”

Iobyte Solutions Kindle Nook ebooks Databox Digital Book World

The two columns just to the right of the authors’ names show how many titles each author has had as of last week on both retailers’ respective best-seller lists, followed by the combined total.

Nook’s list goes 1,000 titles deep, while Kindle only rounds up the top 100 titles each day. (All but three authors in this sample had titles that placed within Kindle’s top 100 romance books last week, hence the abundance of zeros in that column.)

But simply by watching where rankings get higher over time—for authors as well as for individual titles—it’s easy to project with fair confidence if and when they will crack the best-seller lists.

All but two self-published authors in this snapshot (Jamie McGuire and Tijan) had two or more titles on Nook’s best-seller list last week, and all but one—Tawdra Kandle—has never had a best-seller on either platform.

By contrast, Chelle Bliss landed six titles within Nook’s top 1,000 romance ebooks. And drilling down further (below) we can see that even though one of them, Without Me, falls within Nook’s top 100, all have peaked at rankings between four and thirty. This shows consistently strong performance from one title to the next.

Iobyte Solutions Kindle Nook ebooks Databox Digital Book World

“Other top authors generally show similar behavior,” Lubart adds.

“Once they have a top-twenty title in their series, they tend to reach that peak or higher with each successive release. With other authors, however, you can see their peak ranks getting lower with each book.”

Then it’s simply a matter of watching which direction a writer’s work is trending over time. “Being able to differentiate between those two patterns is very valuable to an acquiring editor when considering a takeover deal.”

Let us know in the comments section below what other ways you’d like to us to use Iobyte’s tools to shed light on aspects of the ebook market and spark conversation about data in a publishing.

One thought on “What Best-Seller Lists Can Tell about Authors’ Potential

  1. Reese

    Hi Rich,
    I was previously using the Top 25 E-Books as a way to find what the top independently published books were for the month. Now that that list has gone away, is there anyway I can find a ranking of ebooks with independents on it still? The list you provide above is certainly useful—if I was only looking for the romance genre.
    Any help you can provide would be wonderful! Thank you!



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