some of the books i read say ‘new york times #1 bestseller’ or ‘national bestseller’, like the one i’m reading now, eating animals by jonathan safran foer. if it’s a bestseller, why aren’t more people convinced, why aren’t more people doing something, like changing their ways? doesn’t financial conversion first mean ideological conversion? or am i too impatient? too gullible? too naive? when he wrote not wanted on the voyage, timothy findley thought books could change the world; when i was young, i thought if a person thought hard enough he or she could arrive at the truth, convince others, and change the world. but i guess the world doesn’t want to be changed; rather, the world changes you, or your precious message.
i used to comfort myself by saying ‘if the buyers of bestsellers aren’t doing something, at least they know about it.’ or do they/we? afterall, we have to contend with the huge popularity of hollywood celebs, rock stars, and sports figures. even politicians. what’s a bestseller, anyway? wikipedia says it’s ‘a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling or frequently borrowed titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and library circulation statistics and then published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains.’ however, ‘bestsellers have gained such great popularity that it has sometimes become fashionable to purchase them. Critics have pointed out that just because a book is purchased doesn’t mean it will be read. The rising length of bestsellers may mean that more of them are simply becoming bookshelf decor. In 1985 members of the staff of The New Republic, placed coupons redeemable for $5 cash inside 70 books that were selling well, and none of them were sent in.’ there are inaccuracies in reporting. some lists don’t report sales at all. also, some lists fail to include e-book sales. dearauthor.com rpts, ‘Publishers Weekly noted that Snooki’s A Shore Thing (which is categorized as a romance) only sold 8,998 copies yet made it onto the NYTimes extended list’. hardly a bestseller, eh? especially when someone like adele gets millions of hits on youtube.
penny sansevieri, CEO and founder of author marketing experts, inc., wrote in the huffington post a few years ago that she decided to do a little research to find out what it really takes to get on a list (‘hit a list’) and found ‘the term “hit a list” can mean hitting a bestseller list at any point of entry. This can even be the bottom 100. Many books that hit a list are never viewed by consumers, they land there, stay for a week, maybe longer or shorter, and then vanish. The numbers and metric for this can be tricky and in fact, not entirely accurate.’ she advises ‘that you do some research on your own’. since you’re bothering to do this research–or even if you’re not–why not think for yourself and act, whether you’re reading a bestseller or not?