Unlike today, it was important for a book to be short to be a bestseller, or it would be too expensive to reach a large audience.
Very short works such as Ars moriendi, the Biblia pauperum, and versions of the Apocalypse were published as cheap block-books in large numbers of different editions in several languages in the fifteenth century.
America remained a zone of piracy until the mid-nineteenth century, a fact of which Charles Dickens and Mark Twain bitterly complained.
By the middle of the 19th century, a situation akin to modern publication had emerged, where most bestsellers were written for a popular taste and are now almost entirely forgotten, with odd exceptions such as East Lynne (remembered only for the line "Gone, gone, and never called me mother!
In everyday use, the term bestseller is not usually associated with a specified level of sales, and may be used very loosely indeed in publishers' publicity.
Books of superior academic value or literary merit tend not to be bestsellers, although there are exceptions.
In the United Kingdom, a hardcover book could be considered a "bestseller" with sales ranging from 4,000 to 25,000 copies per week, and in Canada, bestsellers are determined according to weekly rankings in the country's national print sales tracking service, BNC Sales Data.
The same could be said of the works of Voltaire, particularly his comedic and philosophically satirical novel, Candide, which, according to recent research, sold more than 20,000 copies in its first month alone in 1759.
Likewise, fellow French Enlightenment author Rousseau, especially his Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (1761) and of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's novel, Die Leiden des jungen Werther (The Sorrows of Young Werther) (1774).
"), the wildly popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Sherlock Holmes.
Bestsellers are usually separated into fiction and non-fiction categories.
Some lists are broken down into classifications and specialties (number one best selling new novel, nonfiction book, cookbook, etc.). are published by Publishers Weekly, USA Today, New York Times and the Washington Post.