Why I don’t call myself a “bestselling author.”

Hitting #1 in the Free categories on Amazon isn’t that hard.

It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t qualify you as a bestselling author.

Hitting #1 in the Paid categories is harder, but not that hard. I did it today with 64 sales.

I’m a bestselling author on Amazon right now.

And some of my books are bestsellers semi-often.

But that doesn’t mean I earn the title, all the time, to put on all my websites.

Technically, it probably does, because that’s how everybody is using it.

But it’s misleading.

It’s like saying “I’m a chef” because I ran a kitchen 10 years ago.

Are you still a chef? Right now?

Is being a chef how you make your money?

Calling yourself a bestselling author is as bad as calling yourself a writer just to impress someone at a party, when you either A) haven’t published anything or B) have published lots of books but don’t make any money.

OK, not as bad, I take that back. It’s still misleading, but it’s OK if you are actually writing. 

But there should be qualifiers. Did you actually do any writing today? This week? This month?

Or do you just like to identify yourself as a writer, even though you haven’t actually done any writing for years?

If that’s you, cut it out.

And if you call yourself a writer – fine. But don’t intentionally mislead people when they’re obviously asking about your vocation, not your job or sense of self-identity.

When I was an English teacher, I didn’t call myself a painter – even though I spent more time each day painting than I did teaching.

When people ask “What do you do?”… they’re talking about your job. If they want to know about your hobbies or interests, they’ll ask you. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t intentionally mislead people.

I might, sometimes, call myself a writer (though, probably not!) because I spend most of my days writing.

But actually, I usually call myself a cover designer, even though I don’t actually do it much anymore, because that’s still where most of my income comes from. I wouldn’t dare to call myself an author unless I was a full-time writer, making a living from my writing (by SELLING books).

You want to call yourself a writer because it inspires you and keeps you motivated? Fine. You gotta do what you gotta do.

I know some authors who call themselves a “bestselling author” even when they haven’t published anything, because they believe you need to manifest your dreams into the universe and state your intentions clearly.

Fine, if that’s your thing. You can distort and change your reality all you want.
The trouble is when other people don’t know how much of your bullshit is real, and how much is just in your head.

Just be clear.

Or don’t be, if you don’t care what people think of you. But you do care. Otherwise you wouldn’t be using pretentious labels to influence their perception of you.


It’s been brought to my attention that my negative thinking might be limiting sales. To become a bestselling author, maybe you have to act as if – by saying “I AM” a bestselling author or “I WILL sell 500 books a day.”

That might be true. I’m going to try it out. I agree that belief that a big influence over taking necessary action. But I’ll keep such statements private until they show up.


  • pd workman Posted

    I agree about not giving people false impressions or being pretentious. But not being able to call yourself an author unless you are writing full time and making a living wage off of it? I wouldn’t (and don’t) go that far. I write books, people read my them, and they pay me for them. That makes me an author. Not a bestselling author, not a full-time author, not a traditionally published author, but still an author.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      I agree, it’s fine to say you’re an author if you’ve published a book. I just mean, calling yourself a ‘bestselling author’ because you hit #1 for a day is misleading.

  • Jenetta Penner Posted

    lol… “Because I’m not a pretentious asshole.”

    shakes head…

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Yeah, I probably just proved myself a pretentious asshole through this post. Oh well.

  • Maria Slaby Posted

    Interesting post. I’ve noodled this around in my head forever. Depending on my mood, sometimes the hardest question to answer at a dinner party is, “What do you do?” I usually blow it off and deflect it to something self-deprecating since it’s such a loaded question, as innocent as it seems. If you don’t make money at it, as you said, it’s hardly deemed worthy. Therein lies the problem for all stay-at-home moms. Just-A-Mom ends the conversation. Maybe this monetary score card isn’t all it’s cracked up to be . . .

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      You’re right, I hadn’t considered that; and then there’s moms who write and publish, but don’t earn money, and moms who are bestsellers and supporting their whole family. “I’m a mom and a writer” is a good start, then they can ask more about whichever.

      • Maria Slaby Posted

        Yep and as to your original post, I totally get what you’re saying…to basically be real and not fall into puffery in promotion. Amen to that. The money scorecard just hit a nerve especially when in the weeds getting started. Perception is probably 9/10 posturing. On both sides.

        Great post. Got me thinking.

    • pd workman Posted

      I think it probably took a year after starting to publish my stuff (after three decades of just writing without publishing) that I finally started to expand my “what do you do?” answer to “I am a Legal Secretary AND I am also an author.”

      • Maria Slaby Posted

        Indeed. I so get that! It usually takes us longer to realize “who we are” than what others see in us. Dollar votes usually exacerbate that confidence or in the case of motherhood, good kids.

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