Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Bestseller That Isn't: Going Rogue Hits Bestsellerdom With A Wimper!

Will New Book Help Her Run For Office?
Or Run
FROM Office?

In 1936, when Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind was published, the population of the country was approx, 128 million people (about 42% of what it is now) and the "average Joe" (to use the sexist terminology of the times) put out a whopping $3.00 (roughly 15% of his weekly salary) to read about the exploits of Scarlett O'Hara. Whole city blocks would chip in between five and ten cents a neighbor to have a turn at reading it. It came out in May 30th with a print run of 5,000 and then a rushed print run in June of 50,000 copies. By Christmas, one million copies were in print.

There was no New York Times Bestseller List at the time, but the nation viewed it as #1 for a over 2 years. That, however, was a time when books were popular because their authors were, at the very least, captivating. In 1984, for example, Erma Bombeck's Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession was on the top of the charts for several months. People read it for its wit, humor and professionalism.

Times have changed, haven't they?

What constitutes a bestseller these days? The number of copies sold is still the criteria, but there is something else, or rather, there are things which don't "pal around with" good writing. Notoriety of the author or subject sells. Even negative publicity sells. Booksellers are still banking on brisk sales for Carrie Prejean's book Still Standing, but perhaps that's because people sometimes buy books for "camp" value. One truly funny "five star" review:
Although the writing in Miss Prejean's book caused me to throw up a little in my mouth, the spirit moves me to give it five stars. I know some might find that a little strange, but a book is more than simply words, sentences, and chapters; it's also cover art, spine glue, and the little blurbs the publisher commands its other authors to write. In sum, all these pieces must come together to make a book. If I love the smell of the book's spine glue, shouldn't I be allowed to reward the publisher with a few extra stars? I certainly think so.
Now the erstwhile Governor-of-Alaska-for-eighteen-months has penned an autobiography of sorts: Going Rogue will sell in the millions, to be sure, and will (briefly) be on the New York Times bestseller list simply because it had so many pre-orders. And die-hard Sarah Palin fans will brace themselves for a culture war skermish against any liberal MSM onslaught.

Harper Collins' description of the book:

Going Rogue traces one ordinary citizen's extraordinary journey and imparts Palin's vision of a way forward for America and her unfailing hope in the greatest nation on earth.

Certainly the making of a literary megastar! Not! Harper Collins may be trumpeting the pre-publishing sales, but in the end, it's the bookseller who knows what's happening to the book.

At Amazon the list price of $28.99 has been marked down to --$9.oo
! That's a 60% markdown! In other words, damn the pre-pub sales - let's remainder it before we get stuck with it!

A tongue-in-cheek five star review:
All I know is this means she wont be running for President in 2012...she will make so much money from her book deal that she can shop at Wal-Mart for 1,212 days spending $3,000 each day. This will take her way past electioneering season.
Under "Tags Customers Associate with This Product" the tag with the most customers is Keeping America Stupid. The book is also paired in sales with a right wing polemical book about the Obama administration with the prescient title: Catastrophy!

I've been in books and publishing long enough to know that a book ala Ann Coulter is only read because of who the author is trashing no matter whether it's truth or "fibrication." Of course, even Ann Coulter can lie more convincely than Sarah Palin, but that won't stop some people from determining the book as the gospel truth. And Going Rogue: An American Life will proudly rest in their bookcases along with the conspiracy theories of Pat Robertson (A New World Order) and My Pet Goat.

And yet another commenter put the relationship between writer and reader beautifully:

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer, must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

*The other two titles are Marvel Comic Books - not really that much of a stretch when you come to think of it. But their cover art has hoisted their prices (collector items) to $45 each making them better investments.