What "90 Days to a Bestseller" really means
Updated: Sep 17
This article describes my experience with a "90 days to a bestseller" course. If your experience significantly differs, feel free to let me know so I can update the article.
If your short-term goal is to be able to say (technically) that your book is a "bestseller", this may (or may not) accomplish that. If your goal is long-term success as an author, beware of the hard-sell tactics of courses touting that you’ll be a bestselling author in 90 days.
In order to get right to the meat of the issue, I'll save the process rundown for the end of the article.
First, you need to understand what is meant by “bestseller”. It does not mean that your book will sell thousands of copies or that you’ll receive editorial acclaim in professional book reviews. Far from it. Here’s what it does mean:
They’re talking about Amazon.com.
Amazon has over 10,000 book categories, according to a Reedsy blog. (I’m a Reedsy subscriber, not an affiliate.) For a thorough explanation of Amazon categories and how they work, here’s the link to the Reedsy article.
The categories include high level categories (think “science”), subcategories (think “biology”), and the subcategories can be several levels deep (think science & math -> science -> biology -> genetics -> epigenetics). Each category and subcategory contains numerous options, until reaching the bottom level. It’s that bottom level that is intended in these courses’ definition of “bestseller”.
Here’s an actual example: Bill Nye’s Great Big World of Science is #1 in these three categories (as I write this; it’s subject to change):
Teen & Young Adult Chemistry eBooks
Astronomy for Teens and Young Adults
Teen & Young Adult Biology eBooks.
Here’s the category nesting for Teen & Young Adult Chemistry eBooks: Kindle Store -> Kindle eBooks -> Teen & Young Adult -> Education & Reference -> Science & Technology -> Science & Nature -> Chemistry. That’s 7 levels deep.
The path would be the same, but replacing “Chemistry” with “Biology” for the Teen & Young Adult Biology eBooks category. At that level where the decision is made for Chemistry versus Biology, these are two options among ten categories at that level.
Moving to the Science & Nature category, which is up one level from both Biology and Chemistry, Bill Nye’s book is #3 in the bestseller’s list for that category. Up another level to Science & Technology, the book is #4.
Another level up to Education & Reference, it’s #38.
Moving up yet another level to Teen & Young Adult, Bill Nye’s book is no longer in the Top 100 list.
This illustrates that as you drill deeper down to narrower and narrower categories, a book rises higher in rank (with a lower rank #) in the specific category because the number of books becomes spread across more and more categories, and a particular book (yours) has less competition.
If you drill down to an obscure category that contains only 10 books, the worst your book can do in that category is #10. It could still be 11-millionth overall on Amazon. It could rise to #1 in its category by selling only a few – maybe 3 – copies, for example.
If your book sells 3 copies and that places it at #1 in an obscure and irrelevant (to your book’s actual topic) category, winning it an orange “bestseller” banner for a few days, and you screenshot that accomplishment, that is what is meant by “bestseller in 90 days”. You have a screenshot to show that it really did get the bestseller status, albeit for a very narrow category. You’ve given away several copies for free during your book launch and made $6 when you flipped from free to paid a few days after your launch. Is that really your “bestseller” goal?
Is it ethical to place a new book about ‘how to use social media on your cell phone’ into the “finite math” category? Not in my book.
It can happen that your book may get an orange “bestseller” banner for a short while on Amazon, but it likely will not last the week, may not happen at all, and methods can be questionable. I recently came across a category that appears to be a dumping ground for questionably-placed titles.
On the other hand, it's possible that your book will maintain long-term bestseller status in categories in which it legitimately belongs. This occurs, but rarely.
Here's a short rundown of the 90-day process:
you to write your book
get it edited
have a book cover designed
gather a launch team of readers from your fellow students
upload the finished product to Amazon
set a free promotion or set price to 99 cents
launch team downloads the Kindle ebook on a free or 99-cent promotion
launch team reads the ebook and leaves reviews on Amazon
at end of promotion, book's original price is restored, flipping its status from "free" to "paid"
Generally, you initially enroll your book in Kindle Select (Kindle Unlimited to readers) and set it to free for a couple of days. Your readers may have already read an advance reader copy (ARC) of your book as a pdf file you'd have emailed to them.
Regardless of the ARC status, the readers are requested to download a copy from Amazon when it's set to free, so the reader's review will be marked as a "Verified Review", which has a heavier review weight than a non-verified review.
Launch team readers take a day or two to go through the whole book from front to back (so Amazon can tell the Kindle book was actually read), then leave a review.
Amazon has a status set for "Free" books and another for "Paid" books. After two or three days at free, and presumably gathering reviews, you may set the price to something low, that you'll gradually raise later. When the book flips from the Free list to the Paid list, theoretically the high status from the launch reads and reviews will carry over to initially place the book in the Top 100 Paid list as an actual bestseller with an orange "Bestseller" banner.
The success toward bestseller status relies largely on the support of your book's launch team. It's likely that only some of the launch team will actually leave a review.
If your goal is to be a long-term successful author, you might better look into Mark Dawson's Self Publishing Formula and Ads for Authors courses or Joe Bunting's courses at The Write Practice. If blogging is part of your overall plan as a writer, look into Jeff Goins Writer.
For more information, with links: