Authors covet the designation “bestseller.” They often make questionable claims, like authors who claim to be an “Amazon bestseller” (no, leading in one category for one hour doesn’t make you a bestseller) or paying loads of money to manipulate your way onto a list.
But as a reader, should you buy and believe a book because it is a bestseller?
All a bestseller label tells you is that, maybe, lots of random people bought this book. That doesn’t make it a good book. More importantly, it doesn’t make it a good book for you. It might be helpful when picking out good fiction, but it’s not much of a selling point for nonfiction, especially business books.
How to choose a book to buy
Ask these questions:
- Is this book for me? Am I in the target audience? Marketers solving marketing problems should read books for marketers, not confidence-building rah-rah books for everybody.
- Does this book solve a problem I have? One quick read of the description in an online bookstore or on the book flap should reveal the problem the book is trying to solve. If you find that compelling, consider buying it.
- Is there credible evidence? You need more than self-important rambling. Evidence means data, experience, case studies, or ironclad reasoning. Don’t buy if there’s no proof the solution works.
- Should I trust this author? Author A has solved the problem for 200 clients. Author B has research from thousands of people like you. Author C works for small company and has been in the same role as you for 18 months before they wrote the book. Authors A and B are probably worth listening too, but I’d ignore author C.
- Is it recommended by people I trust? Look at the blurbs. Look at online reviews columns. Even look at the ratings on Amazon. A recommendation from people you trust is a selling point — but only if the book ticks the four other boxes I’ve just listed.
None of these things have much to do with being a bestseller. If you read a bestseller, you might get to absorb the same insights as 10,000 other people. Sure, that will allow you have conversations with other people about that popular book and the ideas in it.
But that’s nowhere near the top of the list of criteria that should tell you if this book is actually going to help you.