Choosing Your Billing

How people bill themselves and their products fascinates me.

You know what I mean, right? The “best,” “tallest,” “newest,” “most.” Advertisers have been after this method for years, trying to convince consumers that this particular thing is special, unique, superlative and Must Be Purchased. Of course, there are laws that require Truth in Advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the main federal agency that enforces advertising laws and regulations. Under the Federal Trade Commission Act:

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive

  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims

  • Advertisements cannot be unfair

However, it’s fairly easy to get around this sort of thing. “Truthful” is a relative thing. My “healthy” granola bars might be low-fat and through the roof on sugar and sodium. Depends on the definition.

Writers, of course, are faced with selling themselves to the world. Yes, yes – I know we’re really selling our stories, but the almighty BRAND is the author herself. Do you want to read a book by Crappy Author or Bestselling Author? Knowing nothing else, you’ll probably pick Bestselling, because at least that means a bunch of other readers liked the author’s work enough to buy it.


See, it’s really great for an author to have a book make it to the New York Times Bestseller list. Or the USA Today Bestseller list. And now the Amazon Bestseller list. The best part is, a writer gets one book on one of those lists – even in the very bottom spot – and ever after you get to pimp yourself as Bestselling Author. Fair enough, really. However, now that there are so many digital presses and online bookstores, there are ever so many more lists to be on. And I see authors glomming onto the “Bestseller” title if they’ve made it on any list anywhere.

For example, when Sapphire came out, it was number one on the Carina bestsellers list for about a week. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t love this. I may have clicked on the link and looked at it approximately every ten minutes. I might have even made little gleeful noises while I looked. Okay, I have screenshots saved. And someone said to me “Now you can call yourself a #1 Bestseller.”


Obviously, I haven’t done that. It just feels wrong. I know a bunch of you will snicker at this, but I’m a fairly modest person. Not that I don’t have a very healthy ego and strong self-confidence. But I really don’t like talking myself up. I run into this at the day job, too. Those people in the company who make sure everyone knows how wonderful they are? I’m not one of them. I’m wary. Wary of jealous gods and obese egos. 

So today I noticed a writer described as “World Renowned Author” and I tripped over it. What the hell does that mean? I recognized the author’s name, even read one of his books, but I would never have described him as world-famous. And then I thought, well, hell – Carien who often comments here, lives in The Netherlands and she likes my books. And @arzai lives in Malaysia and she likes my books. I figure, this makes ME world-renowned, right?

I’m low-fat, all-natural and healthy, too.

8 Replies to “Choosing Your Billing”

  1. I think you are indeed world-renowned!
    I’m not sure if the low-fat, all natural and healthy thing is good for advertising though. People might try to eat their ereader 😉

  2. I don’t know if I’d ever feel comfortable calling myself a ‘world renowned author’, but hey, if I ever become one, other people can feel free to call me that. ;o)

    Personally, though, I don’t pay much attention to the bestseller lists – except when someone I know has worked really hard makes it to one. It doesn’t change my outlook on their work, but it does give me an opportunity to squee for them.

    1. I’m poised to slap the title on you, B.E. Just you wait! And I agree – I just love when someone who’s been “midlisting” it for a while hits a big list. Such a great thing to see!

  3. Lol, it is funny what you see on some books. I found out with my debut that publishers actually police this a bit. I hit #2 on the Barnes and Noble Trade Romance Bestseller list my first two weeks and was in the top ten in a number of the book clubs. Asked me editor if that meant I could use that “nationally bestselling author” thing. She was like, um, No. Apparently I can’t. Damn. 🙂

    Hmm, but nationally renowned has a nice ring to it… 😉

  4. I think I’ll go with “internationally infamous”. It has an aura of danger and mystery!

    Really, although I hate to perpetuate a monolithic system, I think there are about two lists that count for the bestselling thing, and most people who make one will subsequently make the other. I say this not because I love the NYT or (God forbid) USA Today, but because I think those are the lists most readers are thinking of when they think of a “bestseller”. And since it’s a branding issue, it’s really the reader perception that matters.

    1. All really good points, Del. I think because of that, it’s only “fair” to use the NYT or USA Today to slap the “bestseller” label on there.

      Of course, “internationally infamous” is now YOURS!

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