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Perks
06-07-2012, 11:07 PM
So, Warren Adler, in The Huffington Post, posited that bestseller lists are irrelevant and should be, perhaps, done away with.


It can be argued that, best-seller lists aside, the true worth and power of, for example, a novel is passed from reader to reader by what is characterized as "word of mouth," and the overwhelming majority of the most enduring works of fiction have never been best-sellers in their time. <snip> ...but there are many of us around who passionately love books, great stories, wonderful writing, and whose lives have been enriched by being stimulated, inspired and informed by such stellar works of the imagination. For readers like us, the best-seller lists are increasingly irrelevant, and they may actually be a deterrent in our never-ending search for great new books to enhance our lives.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/warren-adler/are-best-seller-lists-irr_b_1574664.html

I can easily say that my tastes don't always mesh with The Lists, but I most always see the appeal in nearly everything that hits, even if it didn't spark me. I'm very fuzzy-headed today, but I'm trying to imagine a world without bestseller lists.

What say you people?

Jamesaritchie
06-07-2012, 11:16 PM
That's as moronic as anything I've ever read, and completely impossible to accomplish.

Unless you're a sheep, you'll have no problem ignoring bestsellers list and looking for other writers to your heart's content, though too many think something is crud just because it is a bestseller.

But there is no way to do away with bestseller lists unless you magically take away the power of counting. Remove all math from the world, and bestseller lists will go away. Keep math, and people will count how many copies of a book has sold, and they will let it be known.

Shadow_Ferret
06-07-2012, 11:31 PM
It's the hurfington post...

But the whole idea of eliminating any source that promotes reading, such as best seller lists, is idiotic. And to say word of mouth is somehow better... Does he not believe that a best seller list might have sparked some of that word of mouth? The more sources the better.

Perks
06-07-2012, 11:35 PM
I just can't see how there wouldn't, organically, be bestseller lists. Of course, there are all sorts of calculations (and probably sometimes politics) on what books get the biggest promotional push from their publishers, but listing which ones sell the most, and analyzing their merit seems like a natural byproduct of writing and reading.

lorna_w
06-07-2012, 11:49 PM
Um, can I write an article for them insisting it'd be a better world without the calendar? How well does that market pay for nonsense? I mean, after all, a day is just a day. Especially days of the week. How silly. What is a "week" after all? It has no astronomical relevance. Down with the week!

shaldna
06-08-2012, 12:11 AM
You know, sometimes I come across books I would never have even picked up because I've seen them on lists and wondered what they were because I had never heard of them

Alessandra Kelley
06-08-2012, 12:25 AM
Bestseller lists are relevant, in their time.

Maybe less so later on. There are a couple of lists on Goodreads of books which were at one time or another on the NYT or Publishers Weekly bestseller lists but now have almost been forgotten, or at least have next to no presence on GoodReads' members' shelves:

http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/19216.Underrated_Bestsellers_Fewer_Than_100_Rating s

http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/19247.Sic_Transit_Gloria_Librorum_Bestsellers_With _Fewer_Than_20_Ratings

Beachgirl
06-08-2012, 12:55 AM
That's as moronic as anything I've ever read, and completely impossible to accomplish.

Unless you're a sheep, you'll have no problem ignoring bestsellers list and looking for other writers to your heart's content, though too many think something is crud just because it is a bestseller.

But there is no way to do away with bestseller lists unless you magically take away the power of counting. Remove all math from the world, and bestseller lists will go away. Keep math, and people will count how many copies of a book has sold, and they will let it be known.

This pretty much sums it up.

leahzero
06-08-2012, 01:28 AM
lol @ this thread.


Unless you're a sheep, you'll have no problem ignoring bestsellers list and looking for other writers to your heart's content, though too many think something is crud just because it is a bestseller.

You're basically proving his point.

If bestseller lists are irrelevant to readers, then why are they shoved down readers' throats? Why are they printed in literary review journals? Why are said journals devoting more space to the lists and less space to actual analysis and review? Why is sales rank such an integral part of how Amazon recommends books to readers? What do sales, numbers, rankings, and lists have to do with whether a reader would or would not enjoy a book?

Adler says:


And perhaps, like Don Quixote, I am fighting the windmills, but there are many of us around who passionately love books, great stories, wonderful writing, and whose lives have been enriched by being stimulated, inspired and informed by such stellar works of the imagination.

For readers like us, the best-seller lists are increasingly irrelevant, and they may actually be a deterrent in our never-ending search for great new books to enhance our lives.


Eliminating them entirely might not sit well for authors who have been branded into popularity and those who publish them, but the elitism of market manipulation through such lists does not, in the opinion of this dedicated reader, serve us as well as they did in bygone days.


He's absolutely right, especially on the bolded point. Increasingly, fiction chases the bestseller lists. Publishers are taking fewer risks and placing their eggs in fewer baskets, trying to produce as many bestsellers as possible. We've seen it happen with the music and film industries--publishing is little different.

Bestseller lists are largely worthless to readers. They're meant for those in the business of making money off books--publishers, booksellers, agents, editors, writers.

Why they're foisted on readers is a very good question.

fireluxlou
06-08-2012, 01:40 AM
As a reader I don't consider bestsellers irrelevant because I look to them to see what is new and what's popular at the minute just as I look to the Top 10 films on imdb in the UK and the Top 40 music chart. I also like to look at what's bestselling in particular genres I like to see if I want any of the books and I find other books through recommendations on the bestselling books pages.

Mr. Anonymous
06-08-2012, 02:05 AM
There is a legitimate point to be made here.

Which books are the ones most likely to make it onto the bestseller lists, at least initially?

The ones that have the most money, hype, etc behind them.

Then, once they're on the bestseller lists, they get what essentially amounts to a lot of free publicity.

This publicity helps them stay on the bestseller lists.

Is this going to change? No. But does this kind of a system increase the odds that a lot of very good novels that for whatever reason don't have as much money behind them might get overlooked?

I think it does.

In ideal circumstances, yes, the market will reward those who produce the best products at competitive prices.

In practice, there are a lot of books that get published. Which means anything that helps a book stand out from the rest is going to help sales, and skew the odds in the book's favor.

Of course there are exceptions. But there are always exceptions to any rule.

Perks
06-08-2012, 03:47 AM
So, it's not so much a problem with the lists, but the disparity of what books get stronger backing from the big publishers, making a less steep path to lists.

I can see this, but even if the NYT stopped posting its List, or USA Today, or any of them, we'd still make the list somewhere. Someone has those figures, so their going to line them up in descending order. It's what people do.

And certainly those lists are attractive to readers.

seun
06-08-2012, 12:59 PM
I can't remember the last time I looked at a bestseller list in order to find something to read. I might look to see who's selling but as I work in a library, I've got a pretty good idea what's hot right now.

The lists have always given me a bit of the nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd feeling. I get the vibe some people look to see what's popular so they can buy that book and be part of the crowd.

Probably crap. Just a feeling I get.

KTC
06-08-2012, 03:03 PM
Twitter is my go-to source for finding books. I don't look at the bestseller lists at all.

ChaosTitan
06-08-2012, 05:40 PM
From the retail side of things, I imagine the bestseller lists are quite useful to bookstores. The retail (non-book) store I work for has several different bestseller lists that we use internally, everything from company-wide sellers to what sold best in our store last month. We use them for all kinds of things, such as display set ups and what to tell customers about when they walk in.

As a reader, I rarely pick up things that make the USA or NYT lists. They just don't often match my tastes. But I understand how they're useful from a marketing and retail perspective.

Phaeal
06-08-2012, 09:46 PM
I like to peruse the lists and figure out why the books that are selling are selling. Though her great book The Bestseller is a couple decades old now, Olivia Goldsmith still nails the categories of books that routinely make BS lists (working from memory, so I hope I get her terminology right):



Pinks (women's fic, romance)

Dicks (guy fic, like military/high tech/espionage thrillers)

Uh-Ohs (suspense, thrillers, mysteries)

Hots (not erotica, but books that depended on timeliness and a broad appeal, often surprise hits. She called Michael Crichton the only author who specialized in Hots.)


At the moment, I find "mommy" porn or erotica the most interesting trend. In that, I'd include current NYT bestsellers the Fifty Shades trilogy, The Marriage Bargain, On the Island, and Bared to You.

If something on the list looks tasty, I'll check it out online, at Zon and GoodReads. But I probably find most of my to-read list from hearing about a book on the radio, browsing stores, or schmoozing around on GR.

Get rid of BS lists? Meh, why? If you don't like 'em, don't look at 'em. If they cease to serve a marketing purpose, the market will stop compiling them.

Miss Plum
06-09-2012, 05:04 AM
People love lists and prizes. They'll never go away.

juniper
06-09-2012, 06:40 AM
Twitter is my go-to source for finding books. I don't look at the bestseller lists at all.

Could you explain this please? I've been on twitter for several years and still haven't figured out how to make it meaningful for me.

How do you use it to find books you'd like to read?