Are Best Sellers Really The Best?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Each week, several major newspapers publish a best-seller book list. Most notably is the New York Times, but other popular lists include the Chicago Tribune, USA Today and the Washington Post. Many people turn to the best-seller list each week to find books they want to read. I think this is a real shame. Best-seller lists are not indicators of good books. They are not even indicators of which books sell the most copies. They indicate which books sell the fastest within a one-week period at certain bookstores. According to an article at Slate, a book that sells 20,000 copies in one week will reach the top of the best-seller list, even if it never sells any more copies. Whereas a book that sells 200 copies every week for 10 years, will never make the best-seller list. The New York Times doesn't even follow all the books published each year. The Times "tracks" certain books they believe have potential to become best-sellers, which often come from publisher tips. In addition, bookstores now allow publishers to pay to have a book displayed in the front window, so best-seller lists are often indicative of the books that have the most money spent on publicity. Each week, we see the same big-name authors on the best-seller lists: James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, etc. This is not to say that these aren't good books. These are all very popular authors with large fan bases. However, there are so many wonderful writers and books that never make the best-seller lists or get pushed off after only a few weeks.



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