The Imaginarium 2020 signing event is coming May 2, 2020 in Washington D.C.! Check out our website!

Jun 3, 2013

M.E. Monday RANT #36–Free Books can't be Bestsellers...or can they?


Please take everything I say here as my own personal peeve and nothing more.

*Rant Begins*

Every evening, I go on my Twitter and follow back some of the few dozen tweeps that follow me everyday. I'm sort of particular in that I only follow back bookish people–authors, book bloggers, publishers, and plain ol' book nerds. The little personal description that most post on their profile helps me decide who fits the criteria and who doesn't (why do so many porn stars follow me? Does anyone else have this problem?)

Anywho, as I go through these descriptions, the number of "bestselling" authors with "bestselling" books consistently pops out at me. I'm at the point now where I'm starting to wonder just how many of these authors and their books are truly bestsellers, and how many of them are just full of shit.
My guess? Quite a few.

I am in NO WAY a bestselling author and would never put it out there that I am if I'm not, and some of the things I've been seeing have been irking me like crazy. A few thoughts come to mind, like:

1. Free books don't count. There's a missing keyword in "FREE".

SELL. Can't become a bestSELLing novel at the price of FREE.

I don't care what anyone told you. GIVING AWAY thousands of books and making Amazon's Top 100 in FREE BOOKS does not constitute a bestselling novel. Do you know how many free books I've downloaded? Hundreds. Why? Because they were free. 

Who the hell doesn't?

As I said, in my rant Why My Books will Probably Never be Free, I explain how I feel about free books. Unless I'm familiar with your work and am a fan of yours, your book will probably hold little to no value to me. Harsh words, but true. I don't value books I download for free as much as those that I spend my hard–earned money on, which means I may read them this lifetime. But probably not.

Can't hate on your achievement though. If you make Amazon Top 100 Free then awesome! That's quite an achievement considering all of the books out there. I'm just saying, stop calling your book a bestseller because of it.

I know, I know. There's an exception. There's always an exception. If giving away a book made YOU a bestselling AUTHOR by throttling some of your other books into success, well then congratulations. Accept my apologies as I perform my grandest curtsey.

But that brings up another issue...

2. Who told you, you or your book were bestsellers? Did you come to this conclusion all on your own, did the book gods deem you so, or did your mom tell you one day that would always be a bestseller to her, and you just ran with it?

How many times have you seen this on Twitter?

#1 Bestselling author of Blah, Blah, Blah. Blogger. Wife, mother of two gorgeous girls and one mad old cat, more stuff we don't care to know...

Again, who told this author they were a bestseller? #1 constitutes there were other books that didn't quite make the cut, which also means some sort of list was formed. What list? Where can I obtain a copy, good sir and/or mam? If it was New York Times or USA Today, or even Amazon Top 100 PAID, they would undoubtedly say so. This only leads me to believe the author dreamed up the list one day and voted their book right into the top spot.

Listen up people. What I'm trying to say is, a random "bestselling" tag doesn't mean crap to me and I bet a lot of other people feel the same way. They were just waiting for crazy Diantha Jones to say it first.

So now that I have, I guess this rant is over.

Yeah, it is. Later.



  1. Oh God! It's like you're reading my mind on this. I agree with a lot of what you've said. I also find it strange that so many authors on Twitter put "bestselling" in their bio, when a lot have made the Free Kindle Store Top 100 in general fiction and more often than not in a specific category or sub genre. Fair enough if you've made the Top 100 in the Paid Kindle Store.

    O the other hand, there has been a lot of controversy about some of the "genuine" bestsellers as well, i.e. those appearing on perceived big names like the New York Times. "Buying" reviews that raise rankings, bulk buying books on the first day of release to artificially inflate book sale figures, traditional publishing appear to have a lot of expensive tricks up their sleeves to "make" a bestseller. The link below is one of a few examples.

    For me, the word has lost its lustre. I made the Top 100 in a few of the Free Kindle store categories/subgenres with my KDP promo days in July, and may do that again with the next promo days coming up? Does that make me a bestselling author? Not in my books!

    My Twitter bio says "author of an award winning series". I can justify putting that up because it's an irrefutable fact. It's not a big-ass traditional publishing industry award, but it's still a recognised one in the publishing world. But I won't be putting bestselling up there any time soon! ;)

    As for offering books for free, I was of a similar opinion as you last year. Why "free" when so much hard work has gone into it? Surely, £free" means poor quality and an author who doesn't value their work? Can't make a living out of "free"!

    One of the greatest things about the current publishing industry (I'm principally talking self-publishing here) is the number of amazing authors who are willing to blog about their publishing and marketing experiences. Having been following quite a few of these inspiring souls and seen their success with "free", I've come around to their way of thinking about this particular aspect of marketing. I've also become a fan of several of these authors because I loved their novels, some of which I downloaded for free. Yes, there are a lot of poorly written, poorly edited, and/or poorly presented free novels out there, but there is a rising number of lovely gems and fresh new voices. The message I took from them about "free" is that it works best with a series. Offer the first one in the series either as perma free or do well advertised free promo periods for it. Experiment with timings, marketing packages, even pricing. The current buzz I'm hearing is that 99 cents is the new free, especially since Amazon pulled the rug out from under its affiliates re: free ebooks.

    1. I agree. "Bestseller" is a dull word with almost no meaning to me.

      As I mentioned, I personally am not a fan of FREE but I will admit I have read a free gem or two. But most truly suck. Again, I totally get why authors do the free route. And knowing me, I will probably give it a try one day. But it won't be with my current series. I'll give it a go with a less tedious series maybe. But I'm no hater. I'm all for honest success however you can get it. If free books get your others to sell then by all means go for it.

      Thanks for commenting A.D.!!


I'd love to hear from you!