Unlike some lists of "best sellers", the New York Times list is not based upon actual sales figures, but instead upon surveys of a selected pool of booksellers.
The list is divided into a Fiction and a Non-Fiction section, each containing 15 titles. The New York Times has created the image, for some readers, that a successful book is only seen as being truly "successful" in the eyes of the public if it makes an appearance on this list. Other readers consider a "bestseller", by definition, as a slightly lower form of literature. The New York Times maintains that its bestseller list is merely a list, compiled from sales figures of literally "bestselling" books.
There have been accusations of some books being marketed in a manner that deliberately places them on the bestseller list, so as to boost exposure of the book to a wide audience of potential buyers.
In 2001, a separate section of the bestseller list was created to track the sale of children's books. Critics of the New York Times claim that the children's book list was created especially so that the Harry Potter book series, which dominated the list for over two years, could be moved to a separate section and other titles allowed to appear on the list.