What is the point of the best-seller list? Depends who you are. If you're a reader, it's a guide to what's popular — what's new, what your neighbors are buying, and what you might like to read next. If you're a publisher, it's a source of feedback and a sales tool: It tells you how your books compete, and gives you triumphs to crow about on paperback covers.
If you're an author, however, the best-seller list can feel awfully personal. It tells you how much the world values your work. It may be a sign of your economic future — say, whether you're going to be able to buy an apartment. It speaks to your professional future as well: whether your career is working out, and whether you're going to be able to sell your next book. And, unlike the private sales data reported to publishers or tracked by Nielsen through their BookScan service, the best-seller list lives in public. Your mom will see it; so will your high school nemesis. If your book makes the list, you can forever after be accurately described as a "best-selling author."
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