1. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Fiction publishing: Something doesn't add up?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Mercury12000, Jan 7, 2012.

    The whole fiction novel industry seems comparitively caddywhompus to me.

    Look at music, movies, television, art, fashion, etc. and you'll notice massive rotations of names and faces and labels. The charts are always changing and adding new "things" to the list about every week.


    But look at the New York Times Bestseller list and you're likely to see the same handful of names over and over again, every year!

    It's as if the NYT list was made soley to keep track of the Kings', Grishams', Pattersons', Koontzs'.

    Of course, there are always some newcomers like Meyers and Larsson who get added to the mix every few years or so.

    However, let's face it, the rest of the names that manage to scrap their way onto the list, we don't really get to know anything about them. And it's a shame we probably wont get to know their books either. It may actually be a vicious cycle of readers (and writers) not willing to take a gamble on the more "unknown" authors.


    But this doesn't quite equal my point.


    My point really is this: There can't possibly be so few aspiring authors out there who are capable of knocking the dozen or so goliaths off their perch... can there? Are they really that good? Are we really that bad?

    And how can there be such an ever changing music chart and movie boxoffice list but such a stagnant bestseller list?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Book sales depend a lot on marketing and the author's reputation. A new writer isn't really going to stand a chance against bestselling authors without a lot of luck. Unfortunately, writer skill has very little to do with book sales.

    Also consider that the writing (and publishing) process takes a long time. It can take years before a book is completed and on the shelf, which is why a bestseller list doesn't change very much from week to week.
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would someone you've never heard of be on the bestseller list? The bestseller list isn't exactly a list of the greatest songs (edit: don't know why I said songs. I refuse to change it, though). It's just what sells a whole bunch. It's what's popular.

    The reason you see a lot of different names in film, though, is because a lot of different people are working on different projects. Sometimes, certain actors and actresses aren't available because they're already working on something else.
    And music doesn't really change that much. My work's radio is tuned to a station that just plays the Top 40, and I've been listening to the same songs since October. I shit you not, the same Top 40. That's not to mention that in my group of friends, we mostly listen to stuff from years ago that we only just found.

    I can't say much for art or fashion, and I don't know why TV would even be applicable. Television has regular programming. I mean, different things happen on the news, but you've got the same presenters, you've got the same shows with the same characters. You've got Idol pretty much every year. TV is just seasonal.

    So yeah. Music charts change very little, and the box office lists change because there are new movies all the time. The "box office" is where movies OPEN. The best seller list is books that are actually selling really well. Hell, I knew people who read Twilight when it first came out and that was two years before any of the other people at my school started reading it. It didn't become famous or a best seller for a long time.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    btw, 'fiction novel' is a redundancy, as novels are fiction...
     
  5. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    So I guess it's just an accepted fact that only a handful authors become truely famous, top the charts and make millions during our lifetime. And we should always expect the rest to fall by the wayside.


    But in the music industry there are no less than 100 brand new world famous millionaire artists at any given time.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't say they 'fall by the wayside'. They're more like most people and their careers - they do anywhere from very good to failure. You don't have to be 'truely famous' to succeed.
     
  7. Phantom_Of3
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    Phantom_Of3 Member

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    I completely agree. Look at the Christian Writer's market, for instance. Writers like Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Bill Myers, Jerry Jenkins, and many others are very successful, have been best-sellers from time to time, and yet, their names don't "own" the NYT. There are many writers in the mainstream world, too, whose names sometimes show up on best-selling lists, but not all the time; yet, they're still successful (one person who comes to mind is Neil Gaiman). So, don't think that only a few writers are successful.
     
  8. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I know that. Success is very subjective. I don't mean to belittle all of the writers out there who are making a good living and loving what they do.

    My concern was really directed towards the fact that all of those big names have literally lived in the top 10 all of their careers, like since the 1970's! Can you imagine if Kiss and Barry Manilow and the Bee Gee's were still number one best selling music artists this entire time? That's the kind of dominance that those authors have over literary history. Furthur proof of this great disparity is the fact that those dozen or so authors are smack dab in the middle of every shelf where books are sold.

    I think the only way that those authors books wont be #1 and on every single shelf is when they finally kick the bucket.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suggest you re-/read my post.

    It's a Bestseller's list. It's not a list of the greatest fiction around. It's just the stuff that sells well. Big-name authors are safer to spend money on to market, so naturally people will know more about their fiction than about anybody else's, so their books will be some of the first to come off shelves.
    Really, if you're judging these authors as being the best of the best, the fault is yours, not anybody else's. It adds up absolutely fine if you understand why they do it, which you obviously don't. If you want to see good authors, search them out, talk to other people about who they like. Don't rely on some stranger's list.
     
  10. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I'm suggesting that there is a conspiracy at play, my friend. The playing field is not level for aspiring authors like myself. I dream of being the next Stephen King, but how can I be the next Stephen King when Stephen King wont fucking stop being Stephen King?!
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Conspiracy" suggests that it's hidden. I don't see anything hidden here. Stephen King is well known. John Smith is not well known. If it will cost the same amount of advertising dollars for a publisher to communicate a message to half a million people, they'd much rather communicate "Stephen King has a new book out!" than "John Smith just published his first book!" It'll make them more money, and they're going to go with what makes them more money. Even if John Smith's book is better than Stephen King's, it's still not going to sell as many copies.

    We can say that it's _wrong_, and that John Smith should get just as many publisher advertising dollars as Stephen King, but that's just not going to happen. It's not a conspiracy, it's one of the unfair aspects of capitalism. The playing field is not level; that's no secret.
     
  12. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree with this last bit. Yes, it's an unfair aspect of capitalism, but the playing field is just fine and level. Those authors started out from nothing just like I am. They were 19 once. I'm 19 now.
    Some people have different opportunities than others, and that might be unfair, but then again, some people are men and some people are women. Some people have kids and some people don't. It'd be stupid to call any of the regular things in life unfair or unlevel, and I don't see how this is any different to that.

    So, yeah, maybe I am missing some secret, but I just don't see the playing field as not being level. I mean, how likely is it that you'll even be submitting and getting the same editors and agents who work with Stephen King?
     
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  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see your point, and I think I agree, but the OP seemed to be complaining that the playing field wasn't level for _each book_, as if we should expect that John Smith's first book and Stephen King's latest book should each have an equal likelihood of becoming a best-seller. And that's just not how it works.
     
  14. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    That probably is what the OP was saying, I see your points. And you're right... that's not how it works. That's like saying that the baseball field isn't level for the bats and balls rather than the players. xD

    The books are just tools, instruments, equipment on this hypothetical playing field. The prose and story define the quality. The highest quality ones don't always get sold, though. Most of the time, it's just the marketed brands (read: authors).
     
  15. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I was referring to the authors more than the books. Stephen King has arguably been top dog for 30-35 years now. Why is he not falling out of vogue? Even Michael Jackson's music stopped selling eventually and others took the spotlight. But Stephen King and the handful on his level just OWN the fiction market. It's like they're not authors anymore, it's like they are one-man corporations.
     
  16. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Uhh, Stephen King is most definitely NOT "top dog". Yes, he's usually in the Bestseller's lists and such, but that's based on sales and not based on people who like his work versus who doesn't. I still think you're very much looking at this the wrong way.
    I work in a fruit shop. Limes sell really well in our store. We make the best profit off them versus any other thing we sell. They don't require much marketing, but they're on a Bestseller's list because of the profit we make off them. Of the rest of the stuff, we get a whole load of stone fruit sold, so they're on a Bestseller's list alongside bananas for sheer quantity sold.
    We also sell a fairly good amount of vegetables, things like broccoli, for example. Now, at least once every few days, we have a customer ask if we sell broccolini, which is similar to broccoli. Broccolini is like John Smith's first novel. People want it every now and then, but there's not enough demand for it. Ordinary Broccoli, which is like the latest Stephen King novel, is the safer bet because people are used to it and are therefore more likely to buy it.

    I'm in an analogous mood today, I think.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    You seem to ignore the fact that Stephen King (and other long term bestselling authors) was also "John Smith". And he was also faced with long term bestselling authors. So he worked his butt off to get published - and kept working his butt off. It's not like he wrote a few books and lived off his laurels. He wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and is still writing. Keep putting gas in the car and it's going to keep running. Nothing strange or secret about that.
     
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  18. Slinkywizard
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    Perhaps the problem is comparing the incomparable? Music and literature have different shelf-lives, as do authors. For one, authors tend to get better the older they get, musicians tend to be more out of touch. No one really wants to see The Grateful Dead on stage with colostomy bags, but we're quite willing to buy a book by a 90 year old and, provided his or her marbles are intact, likely declare it one of the best things we've ever read.

    Take Christopher Priest (author of Short Circuit and The Prestige), he's in his seventies and his latest 'The Islanders' is among the finest pieces of fictional literature it's ever been my pleasure to read.

    Authors are wine, rock stars are cheese.
     
  19. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    It is not a matter of good or bad. It is a matter of popularity. Most people will always pick up the new book of someone they know over someone they don't.

    I am talking non-writers who are casual readers; they just happen to make up most of the consumer market for books.

    As far as music and movies, there is a much broader audience for those mediums. So it constantly changes.
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anything that ranks popularity based on sales alone is bound to end up that way. But there are many titles (?100) that's plenty of space for anyone new who writes a successful book.
    I think more of a problem lies in publisher bias, not only what they will publish but also, how much they invest in promoting it. and while not all publishers are bad, there are some serious inherent biases that make it very difficult for new writers.
     
  21. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    It's a fluke for a first published novel to achieve global success. However, should, over time, subsequent published works attain some kind of reputation that is reflected in terms of sales, then the flow on effect will flow through to all of the works that author has published. What that means is that success won't come over night, but is something that may happen quite a few years down the line. Those names who you have mentioned are names that have been around for how long... and those authors have how many published works? It's the conglomerate of their previously published works that guarantees that their new work will arouse more than fleeting interest. Furthermore, should a newbie to -- for example -- Stephen King pick up and like his latest book, they're naturally going to want to backtrack through the rest of his works and should they like those, their natural inclination would then be to look forward at his next novel.
     
  22. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    This is a guess by someone who is very ill-informed, but could it be that books are bought over a longer period of time, meaning that a popular writer's sales are more spread out? In terms of chart music, people tend to buy the latest single on release, then a different one the following week, resulting in a quicker rotation.

    That's probably wrong, but it's an idea.
     
  23. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I know a very accomplished historical novelist who writes the most meticulously researched and generally just well written novels about ancient Greece. I am not alone in my opinion - many connosieurs of the genre believe his books to be among the finest they have ever read. Yet, he is still not getting the same media exposure (reviews, marketing) as someone like Simon Scarrow, Ben Kane or even lesser known authors, simply because of the subject matter - Roman army novels pretty much dominate the ancient history genre, so however schloky the novel, if it's got gladiators or legionaries in it, it will fly off the shelves. It' not about quality, it's about popularity.

    And most of the time the public just have really crass, low brow taste. That's how I explain reality TV, anyway.
     

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