Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is a Bestseller Really a Best Seller??

This is an interesting article about how books are made into bestsellers and it appears to have little to do with how many books have been sold. From this article it appears even an average book that a publisher decides is going to be a bestseller becomes one because of the pre-publicity for the book.

The publisher may decide they like you. You may have a good list of contacts. You might have a weird lifestyle that could be milked. And what about this about one of my favourite books-

On a smaller scale even our own Arundati Roy's 'God of Small Things' had a roller coaster ride helped by her publisher. Arundati's personal life was as interesting as her book was uninteresting! She had fought with her mother and left house in Kerala to stay in a slum in Mumbai. She joined NID and made a film with an extraordinary and inscrutable title, 'In which Annie gives it those things,' See ? Then she was the daughter of the redoubtable Mary Roy who took on the might of the Church in Kerala to get her share of the family property. There were other more salacious bits some of which were splashed in the tabloids. The publishers then got the 'Big Mouths' to talk about the book. Incidentally, one of the Big Mouths was Shobha De! There were favourable reviews in select dailies followed by interviews. Arundati's own 'in your face' attitude helped sell her book. The rest is history and dear Arundati never wrote another book!

Imagine 2000 books printed just to send out for pre-publications marketing. That's our entire print run around here. So what do you think about this?


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Yikes. How fascinating - the stuff about Da Vinci Code as well. Hmm...
But going sideways - its interesting what makes a 'successful book' from the point of view of the publishers, in many ways.
If for example, a writer is given a vast advance, and the book almost makes that amount in royalties but not quite - leaving the publisher with a shortfall, its thought of as unsuccessful. if on the other hand, writer gets a low advance, and the book does OK, and sells more than the advance - its a success. Even though it may have sold a tiny proportion of the sales of the first book..

Lauri said...

It's mad the whole thing Vanessa. I'm immune to a lot of here, but I suppose if I ever get off the continent (writing-wise) I'll have to deal with it all. It seems crazy- shouldn't bestsellers sell best? And shouldn't successful books be decided by the number sold? At least partly.

Geosi said...

This is an interesting piece and if that's how books become bestsellers, I'm sorry it's never the best way out. The piece on Roy gives a lot to think about the publishing industry.