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Hereford Eye
May 1st, 2006, 09:29 AM
What sells? What do people read? Why? According to Publishers Weekly, these are the cold hard numbers for best sellers and most read books:

Hardcover Fiction – May 1, 2006
1 Two Little Girls in Blue. Clark, Mary Higgins
2 Blue Shoes and Happiness. Alexander McCall Smith
3 Oakdale Confidential. Anonymous
4 Dark Harbor. Woods, Stuart
5 Gone. Kellerman, Jonathan
6 Dark Tort. Davidson, Diane Mott
7 Chasing Destiny. Eric Jerome Dickey
8 The 5th Horseman. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
9 The Tenth Circle. Picoult, Jodi
10 The Debutante Divorcče. Plum Sykes
11 The Templar Legacy. Steve Berry
12 The Secret Supper. Javier Sierra
13 A Dirty Job. Moore, Christopher
14 The Da Vinci Code. Brown, Dan
15 Shiver. Lisa Jackson

Trade Paperback – May 1, 2006
1 The Da Vinci Code. Brown, Dan
2 Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals. Rachael Ray
3 In Cold Blood. Capote, Truman
4 True Believer. Nicholas Sparks
5 Night. Wiesel, Elie
6 The Mermaid Chair. Sue Monk Kidd
7 The Covenant with Black America. Smiley, Tavis
8 Saturday. McEwan, Ian.
9 The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini
10 Vanishing Acts. Picoult, Jodi
11 The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Albom, Mitch
12 The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Malcolm Gladwell
13 Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert Kiyosaki
14 My Life So Far. Fonda, Jane
15 Su Doku for Dummies. Andrew Heron

Mass Market Paperback - May 1, 2006
1 The Da Vinci Code. Brown, Dan
2 Angels and Demons. Brown, Dan
3 Marriage Most Scandalous. Lindsey, Johanna.
4 No Place Like Home. Clark, Mary Higgins
5 The Twelfth Card. Jeffery Deaver
6 Full Scoop. Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes
7 Deception Point. Brown, Dan
8 Countdown. Johansen, Iris
9 Time and Again. Nora Roberts
10 One Shot. Child, Lee
11 Iron Orchid. Woods, Stuart
12 Digital Fortress. Brown, Dan
13 Dark Demon. Christine Feehan
14 Bump in the Night. J.D. et. al Robb
15 Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Michael Baignet, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln

Books Borrowed – May 1, 2006
1 Mary, Mary. James Patterson
2 Predator. Cornwell, Patricia
3 S Is for Silence. Sue Grafton
4 At First Sight. Nicholas Sparks
5 The Camel Club. Baldacci, David
6 Memoirs of a Geisha. Arthur Golden
7 The 5th Horseman. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
8 The Lincoln Lawyer. Connelly, Michael
9 Blue Smoke. Nora Roberts
10 The Da Vinci Code. Brown, Dan
11 Chill Factor. Sandra Brown
12 On the Run. Johansen, Iris
13 Lifeguard. James Patterson and Andrew Gross
14 The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini
15 Toxic Bachelors. Steel, Danielle

I suppose it is a reasonable argument to postulate the reading masses are dumbed down, have no taste, are victims of media sales pitches. I think it may be just as reasonable to suppose that the reading public is the public not so susceptible to mass media as they are the ones out there reading instead of watching. Either way you want to look at it; does it impress you how many of the authors are familiar, have been around for awhile, seem to be able to tap into a nerve of their audience?
Isn’t that what good writing is supposed to do?

Do you notice as well the absence of sff? Does that mean that authors of sff are poor writers? Victims of the mass media? Cannot reach their audience?

Dawnstorm
May 1st, 2006, 11:03 AM
Sales figures have little to do with the quality of the writing. The quality of the writing is just one aspect among many that feeds into what can be sold.

Consider this:

There are 100 readers in a community. All of them know every book that is published within the community. This year, there are two books published.

Book A is loved by 50 of them, and hated by other 50.

All of them like book B, but it's nothing special.

Since only two books are published this year, the readers who love book A buy all two books, while the readers who hate book A buy only book B.

This makes 50 sales for Book A, and 100 sales for book B.

When asked which book they like better, it'll be 50:50.

When asked which book is probably the better written one, the ratio goes 75:25 in favour of book A (because nobody really loves book B, and because some of them realise that they hate book A for other reasons than the quality of the writing - moral reasons perhaps, or style preferences - and they've always known that book B was fluff - they've read better books last year, and hope to read better books next year).

I would argue, that this model (as a gross simplification) could serve to show how market forces tend to prefer decent books over brilliant ones in a systematic manner.

Add to that that there are many, many books out there that readers don't know much about, and the whole thing becomes very dodgy.


Either way you want to look at it; does it impress you how many of the authors are familiar, have been around for awhile, seem to be able to tap into a nerve of their audience?

No, it doesn't impress me. New authors have a harder time selling books than established authors. (And names do cycle out of bestseller lists, while others creep in.)


Do you notice as well the absence of sff? Does that mean that authors of sff are poor writers? Victims of the mass media? Cannot reach their audience?

Noticed. It means all of the above and none of the above. It means sff is a specialised market, whatever implications that may have.

What a bestseller list makes me realise is that I didn't buy enough books this year...

BrianC
May 1st, 2006, 01:25 PM
I have to laugh. I've bought probably fifty-plus books in just the last year; usually I have two or three going at the same time (in addition to writing, working, playing with the tot, and occasionally grumbling at the wife). Out of all of the books on all four of those lists, I have read one title and that one--DaVinci Code--was a gift from a friend. Ha! Guess I'm not much in tune with the masses.

In addition to noticing the lackof SFF, I notice that most of these books are thrillers or mysteries of some sort. It's just what the general public wants to read at the moment. That, and the fact that lots of SFF fans watch the TV programs and movies, but do not read so much.

Rocket Sheep
May 2nd, 2006, 05:33 AM
Science fiction is not a corporate conglomerate... it's not all about the money... or we'd all be writing diet books...

...it's a way of thinking...

... or a disease... I'm not sure which.

Holbrook
May 2nd, 2006, 05:37 AM
Science fiction is not a corporate conglomerate... it's not all about the money... or we'd all be writing diet books...

...it's a way of thinking...

... or a disease... I'm not sure which.

I would say the latter.

Boll Weevil
May 2nd, 2006, 08:50 AM
Yes mysteries are popular at the moment. However, to get a true popularity reading for SFF a point in time (snapshot) analysis means absolutely nothing.

One should look at all the bestseller lists for say the last year and total them up. The bestseller list also shows specific book popularity, not genre popularity. It is of course possible to extrapolate, but once again it would be from a single data point.

Also when trying ascertain a pattern from statistic one should be aware of the freak distorting events. The Da Vinci trial and movie are pattern distortions, increasing genre sales and Dan Brown sales in particular. Harry Potter has had similar effects on the bestseller lists in favour of fantasy.

It's entirely possible that the snapshot bestseller lists above, mean something significant, but in of themselves and the data given they prove nothing.

pcarney
May 2nd, 2006, 09:43 AM
I would no sooner make a judgement on the quality of writing, based on a bestseller list than I would judge the quality of movies by the top movies in the box office.

I just read an article about a writer name Matthew Reilly, who collects exotic sports cars. I read one of this guy's books. In it, a special forces unit faces (among other things), giant, killer walruses. Yes, giant walruses who are man eaters. And the dude makes enough money off this to buy Ferraris. Suffice to say, I'm already starting a book about a SAS unit confronted by mutated meerkats. Oh, its gonna rock so hard.

Boll Weevil
May 2nd, 2006, 10:04 AM
I've read a couple of Matthew Reilly's books. They read like video games, each challenge increasing until you reach the really big boss/alien/enemy.

They are very popular. I am do not particularly like them, but kudos to Reilly, he hits what he aims at and understands his market.

There is a market for MacDonalds, for Outback, for local Italian, for top rated Zagat restaurants. Good versions of each stratification hit exactly what they aim at. The same is true in writing, if you hit what you aimed at then you have done well, despite what somebody might claim about overall quality. Starving or driving Ferraris...hmm not a tough choice.

Hereford Eye
May 2nd, 2006, 10:57 AM
The point I wished to make from the best seller and best borrower lists deals with the issue of good writing and what will last over time.
Shakespeare lasted over time but was his intent was to write plays that would become the defacto standard for generations to come or was he trying to make a living?
Was Sam Clemens intending to write the definitive American novel or was he trying to make a living?
And on and on and on for every major author our culture or any other culture has ever produced.
Trying to determine which of today's popular writing will become classics or will be fifteen-minute wonders seems to me to be a foolish exercise as it must always come down to opinion and mine is not better than yours and probably a lot less meritorious. A hundred years from now, perhaps our opinions may prove to have been accurate but we won't be around to bask in our glory. Whatever remains from our era will be the classics. I am fairly confident those future classics will come from those best seller/borrower lists.

BTW, Twain was an sf writer; he had a major time-travel work in his repertoire. :)

Boll Weevil
May 2nd, 2006, 11:04 AM
It's a great question Hereford. "What SFF will be deemed classic in say 50 years." Opinions will certainly differ, but this is a very informed membership, I'd love to see their opinions.

I think that would make a good new topic. Please start a thread, as it was your idea.

Cheers

BW