Tess Gerritsen has a post up which explains the complexities behind what ends up at the top of the NYT bestseller list.
She’s looking primarily at the way month of release influences the NYT list. She was recently offered the possibility of releasing her new book in March (better chance of getting to Number One) or August/September, when she’d sell more books. She chose August/September.
Here’s the thing. Most authors aren’t ever offered a choice on pub date. You hand the manuscript in, you work through any kinks with your editor, and then you wait to hear when it will be out. I finished Pajama Jones (new title still being discussed) in the fall of ’06, and I found out in January that it won’t be out until ’08. This did not make me happy, but there’s absolutely nothing I (or even my excellent agent) can do about this. In fact, my policy is to let the whole thing go. What I can’t do myself, what is out of my sphere of control, that I have to let go.
When Homestead came out, I had been hanging around the industry for a good while, and I knew very well what its chances were: not good. A small independent press, not much of a marketing budget, a quiet little sad book, these things equal a short life span on the bookshelves. But I was prepared for that. The fact that it did so well, that took me by surprise.
It’s good to understand more about the vagaries of the NYT bestseller list, but actually trying to join the game — that’s available only to certain, very high selling authors.
And I’m looking forward to Tess’s new book.