Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Bestsellers

In Praise of #Libraries


I’ll start with a praise of libraries from Columnist and Author, Caitlin Moran in her article, Libraries: Cathedrals of Our Souls:

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.”

If you have the time, do go read her full article…

Now, a rather ironic offering from the site, No Shelf Required, What’s the Best Way to Get Indies into Libraries?

Just a few excerpts:

“…ever asked why your library had a Kindle bestseller title in print but not as an ebook?”

“…while libraries focus their acquisitions efforts on books from the Big Five, there is a parallel universe of publishing that generates bestsellers and sells them to the public. Some of these bestsellers get into library collections, but not all.”

“When an indie author is ready to publish a book, there are several options for creating and then distributing the ebook edition to major retailers and library sales channels.”

“There is no reason libraries can’t provide their patrons with ebook editions of most popular indie authors.”

Now, I’ll link to just a few of the many past posts about libraries on this blog:

E-books, Libraries, and the False Notion of Digital Scarcity…

Little Free Libraries All over the World

Even Small Town Libraries Can Afford to Self-Publish

Readers & Libraries

To read more about libraries, scroll down a bit in the left side-bar and click on “Libraries” in the Top Tags widget :-)
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Bestsellers of 1986


A book’s being a “bestseller” doesn’t automatically make it a “good” book… 

Bestsellers

Image Courtesy of Judith P. Abrahamsen ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/jpmgrafika-36454

Here’s a past post with a group of “all-time” bestseller lists.

Then, the past post that explores what a “bestseller” might actually be

And, I need to mention that the list of bestsellers from 30 years ago which I’ll share is made up of books that sold lots of copies in the USA.

I live in that country and know it’s had lots of influence on other countries; but…

Well…

Perhaps, even if you live in another country, it might be interesting (maybe only “defensively”) to know what “Americans” were reading in 1986 (courtesy of Aerogramme Writers’ Studio):

10. A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

9. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

8. Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour

7. I’ll Take Manhattan by Judith Krantz

6. Wanderlust by Danielle Steel

5. Hollywood Husbands by Jackie Collins

4. The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum

3. Whirlwind by James Clavell

2. Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy

1. IT by Stephen King

For the brief blurbs of these books, check out the article at Aerogramme Writers’ Studio

And, I can’t let this post end without quoting Ursula K. Le Guin about “bestsellers”:

“Best Seller lists have been around for quite a while. Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable.”

~~~ From Up the Amazon with the BS Machine
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What Is a #Bestseller, Really? And, Should an Author Try to Write One?


I have 10 posts here tagged Bestsellers (including this one…)…

The one most folks would associate with the normally understood meaning for “bestseller” might be, Bestsellers . . ., which includes this quote:

“…the definition wasn’t just something like: books that sell a lot of copies.

Here’s my dictionary’s entry ~ “A book that has had a large and rapid sale”

Then, there’s that other post of mine called, Want To Be A Bestselling Author? ~ Don’t Read This Blog . . .

Here’s an excerpt from that one:

“Who made it seem success wasn’t merely the next stage, from which further action becomes possible, but rather a pinnacle of achievement that leaves all other contenders breathless on the sides of the conquered mountain? So, who did that? Businesspeople? Fundamentalist religious folk? Football coaches?”

Which, for me, raises the issue of whether having a bestseller is a rational goal for an author

Then, there’s that post of mine called, So Ya Think Your Book Will Be a Bestseller?

Excerpts:

“…I continue to attempt to market my first novel…

“…I shrivel at the kindly meant enquiry, ‘How are sales?’

“…my lovely novel, my first-born, has not sold as many copies as I thought it would.

“I am lucky to live in an era where I have access to the free marketing potential of social media. I realise that. Yet I have still to work out how social media sells or, indeed, whether it does at all.”

Those quotes all come from Kate Evans‘ article, The Measure of Success in Indie Publishingdefinitely worth a read

Finally, there’s that one I did called, Why Trying to Write a Bestseller Is Bad for Your Mental Hygiene.

And, excerpts:

“If you persistently scan the writing blogs and the publishing news, you’ll find an overabundance of articles telling you how to write and market a book so it will become a bestseller.”

“Nearly all those articles are bunk…”

“I hear a few readers saying, ‘Alex, how in the world can you write such generalizations?’.”

I go on to explain; then, later:

“I feel that beginning the process of writing a book with the dream of it becoming a bestseller is going to make the writer, consciously or subconsciously, write in an imitative fashion—trying to write to the folks who like bestsellers—killing any true originality and honest creativity…”

I’ll share some excerpts from Ursula K. Le Guin‘s article, Up the Amazon with the BS Machine:

“Best Seller lists have been around for quite a while. Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable.”

“If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.

“The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.

“I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. Fortunately, I also know that many human beings have an innate resistance to baloney and a taste for quality rooted deeper than even marketing can reach.”

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The Ecology of A Blog Post & The “Rules” of Writing


I’d never considered putting “ecology” and “blog” in the same sentence ’till yesterday.

The Ecology of Blog Posts & The

Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian ~ http://www.sxc.hu/profile/nkzs

When the idea shot through my mind, I went to my Oxford dictionary to confirm my hunch and found:

“…deals with organisms’ relations to one another and to the physical environment in which they live.”

If I change one word and drop another one, we have:

…deals with posts’ relations to one another and to the environment in which they live.

Let me demonstrate…

On 30 May, 2013 I wrote what I consider one of the most important posts on this blog—What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

On June 26th of this year I wrote the post, Why Trying to Write a Bestseller Is Bad for Your Mental Hygiene.

The second post had a link ( a “relation” ) to the first post

Both posts had links out to other blogs ( relations to the environment [ blogosphere ] in which they live ).

There’s more to the ecology of the post about trying to write a bestseller—the following comment on that post:

“Thanks for the post – the truth will, indeed, set you free. I’ve begun to suspect that a lot of advice is an echo chamber. One ‘tip’ is to make money off wannabe authors with advice – I’ve seen many posts that seem to contain a lot of copy/paste and pacing outlines to force your story into. I’ve also read a number of successful novels that violate ‘standard advice’.

That comment was contributed by Kate Rauner and she provided a link ( relation ) out of the comment to examples of writing advice on her own blog

Many blogs take advantage of what used to be called “hypertexual” links—to posts within the blog itself and to other blogs (which can well have their own internal links)

I just might start calling them Ecological Links.

So

To continue the ecology of posts idea and show you a couple of my favorite posts by Kate, here are some Ecological Links out of this post:

The Sirens of Titan and Vonnegut’s Writing Rules

On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft

What Makes a Novel Successful Is In the Mind of the Reader

Even though many of Kate’s posts are an exploration of why certain books are popular; and, she’s looking for writing advice, she did say, in that comment on one of my posts (about not trying to write a bestseller), that “…the truth will, indeed, set you free.”, and “I’ve begun to suspect that a lot of advice is an echo chamber.”
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Why Trying to Write a Bestseller Is Bad for Your Mental Hygiene


If you persistently scan the writing blogs and the publishing news, you’ll find an overabundance of articles telling you how to write and market a book so it will become a bestseller.

Writing A Bestseller

Image Courtesy of Michael & Christa Richert ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/ayla87

Nearly all those articles are bunk

They’re either written by deluded folk or by people trying to scam you for your money.

I hear a few readers saying, “Alex, how in the world can you write such generalizations?”.

Well, partly from my own experience and partly from the experience of other rational people.

Let me share a few quotes from my past post, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?:

“An extremely small percentage of writers sell more than 500 copies of a book…”

And, this one from a New York Times Bestselling author—nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author:

in business school there’s this point made that if you interview rich people who have won the lottery, you might come to believe that playing the lottery is the only way to become rich. I thought that was interesting. One of the things I’m constantly trying to point out is that we’re not doing nearly enough to highlight both median and failure modes, because that’s where the real lessons lie.”

Then, a quote from a linked article, Survivorship Bias:

“If failures becomes invisible, then naturally you will pay more attention to successes. Not only do you fail to recognize that what is missing might have held important information, you fail to recognize that there is missing information at all.

“You must remind yourself that when you start to pick apart winners and losers, successes and failures, the living and dead, that by paying attention to one side of that equation you are always neglecting the other.”

If you are pinning your hopes on writing a bestseller, I heartily suggest you go to that past post of mine and read it and all the linked material

Also, I feel that beginning the process of writing a book with the dream of it becoming a bestseller is going to make the writer, consciously or subconsciously, write in an imitative fashion—trying to write to the folks who like bestsellers—killing any true originality and honest creativity

Certainly, there are methods and practices that will help you make sure a book sells as many copies as the market will bear.

And, it has been argued that the never-closed nature of e-book stores (and, the fact that a book will stay on the shelves as long as the e-retailer stays on the “Net) can, eventually, help a book sell more copies.

Bottom-line, unless you’re some hot-property sports or movie or business person with a Traditional Publishing house’s money behind you, you need to write a book that expresses your deepest creativity and let the sales-chips fall where they may

I knew my book, Notes from An Alien, was non-genre and non-niche, so I self-published it and give it away—I want readers, period.

Finally, to round-out this argument, I’ll share some excerpts from Ursula K. Le Guin‘s article, Up the Amazon with the BS Machine:

“Best Seller lists have been around for quite a while. Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable.”

“If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.

“The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.

“I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. Fortunately, I also know that many human beings have an innate resistance to baloney and a taste for quality rooted deeper than even marketing can reach.”

Would Love your thoughts and feelings in the Comments
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