1. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Traditional New York Times Bestseller List?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by aikoaiko, Oct 16, 2014.

    This isn't a serious question---or maybe it's more of a comment instead---but what in the heck dictates inclusion on the NY Times Bestseller List??:confused::confused:

    I looked this up the other day, and I know it's based on a secret formula that tallies weekly sales at bookstores (both chain and independent), and I know it's also been criticized in the past because it is possible to buy your way onto it. However, this week I read a book that was far and away (without question:eek:) one of the worst I have ever read, and its author is a permanent fixture there.

    Now, I don't mean to sound crabby (though I guess I do now, ha ha:oops:), but what is the worth of these lists when the quality of their offerings seem to belong in the landfill??:( I mean, I realize it's an indication of popularity, but I guess I am just frustrated by the fact that popular quality has sunk this low.:( USUALLY--though it's not carved in stone either---the books on the Times list are decent. At least decent enough to make people want to buy them. This one that I read was horrendous. It had typos, amateur writing errors, insane amounts of repetition, and a story that was too ridiculous to be believed:(.

    I mean, I know there are different tastes in books and I shouldn't disparage a thing that so many people seem to like. It could also be, of course, that my personal judgment of quality stinks:D. It's just that the writers here and elsewhere spend so much time honing their craft that coming across an aberration like this is like an unexpected slap in the face. Ugh!:eek: Does anyone else feel this way about this list??
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Well, sometimes author's either get lucky and end up getting lots of sales or they're well known and people by the book simply by the name on the jacket.
    A lot of NYTBS are like that. The name sells the book, not the quality.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I never buy a book based on bestseller lists because most of the books on there aren't books I would normally read (either because of genre or the author's reputation of being a bad writer). It all has to do with popularity and marketing. Consider this: the only reason Cormac McCarthy's The Road got on that list is because it was featured on Oprah's book club. It all goes back to the things people like to buy and read. Most readers read novels for pleasure and as a way to relax, so it doesn't seem like they're looking for anything too intellectually stimulating. Anyway, you're right that most of the stuff on that list is crap. So I totally understand where you're coming from and your frustration.
     
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  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Well, in some countries in the music industry, it is not determined by public sales but by stock supply to vendors. There have been 'no. 1' hits that have been stocked heavily but not sold to consumers. I know a few insiders who admit you could/can literally buy a place in the top 10. So the 'best-seller' list could just be how many have been sold/sent to the bookstores, not how many have been bought from the bookstores.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2014
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  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What dictates a winning day in a Vegas casino? Skill comes into it, but in the end, blind luck makes the decision.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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  7. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Well, maybe that's the case with this one, though the book itself got 5 star reviews by a few thousand fans on Amazon and Goodreads. It was basically a Chick Lit book which I don't normally read, but I've been trying to expand my reading lately and included some current bestsellers.

    It was kinda funny, because in between these bubbly, ecstatic reviews that seemed to be written by pre-pubescent girls (or something!) there would come this really, really good one that went on about how dumb the whole thing was and how shocked they were to see such great reviews for trash, LOL. I mean, I haven't seen formal reviews of this author which probably speaks for itself, but she's raking in the cash alright. And she's got a movie deal to boot.:eek:
     
  8. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    So in other words, most of the Pulitzer/Nat. Book Award/Nobel winners have never even been on it, LOL. That's tragic and hilarious at the same time.:rolleyes:
     
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  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Well, to be fair, it is a best-seller, not best-quality list

    I mean, look at some of the best selling products in the world.
     
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  10. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Yes. I think they do try to account for actual sales, but since it's such a big deal and there is so much riding on inclusion certain authors and businesses have figured out ways to get around it. For example, there's actually a company you can pay to get your book jacked to the list for a paltry fee of $200,000.:dry: They purchase X number of copies per week and conduct a bestseller campaign, and it eventually makes the list. I also heard that Oprah Winfrey's boyfriend got on it because she bought a zillion copies of his book and hid them in a warehouse somewhere, LOL.
     
  11. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Yup. And I guess the NY Times does have a 'Best Books of the Year' list, which is probably meant to amend that somehow.:rolleyes:
     
  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Time to get funky with Oprah.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why is it that best-seller lists inevitably bring out "They're all crap!" discussions? Obviously there's something good in them - unless one is saying that readers, in general, are idiots. Do I like all the books on anyone's bestseller list? No. That doesn't mean the books are crap - it just means I don't care for them. As writers, we shouldn't belittle readers, or ascribe poor judgement because their tastes don't mesh with ours. Seems a bit of a conceit to do so - but that's just my opinion.
     
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  14. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Absenthe sells well, and that is one hell of a bad decision. :D

    To be honest, the only time I ever hear of the New York Times Best Seller's list is for some reason when a new Stephen King book has been released. And that seems to be a message from the universe saying 'Lemex, a new one is out, hop to it!'

    Other than that, I don't think I could name you a single book that has been on the list in years.

    I can see where this might lead, but fuck it: some times these best seller lists do get it right. Heaney's Beowulf, Murakami novels, and a number of classic novels are often on the Amazon Top List. Just because it is on a top ten list does not mean it's cheap fiction. However, these lists are only based on sales, and not on anything else - like critical feedback.
     
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  15. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    In general, yep. Readers, in general, are idiots. There, I said it. That also helps explain the constant success of certain writers and their trash. Also, if people are buying a book because it's on a best seller list, it's a strong indication that they are not very discerning in the first place. Which is generally the case. The masses tend to buy shit they are told to buy. Look at the success of Fifty Shades. People bought it because everyone else was doing it. Herd mentality is very strong in consumerism. People, when it comes to individual choice, tend to be pretty dumb. They like to be told what to buy. That's why those lists exist in the first place.
     
  16. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The average person made Harry Potter and Twilight phenomenons that allowed their respective writers to swim in ponds of money. It's getting stuff out as soon as possible gave Stephen King the impression editing carefully is for the weak. People do like rubbish - McDonalds food is I think worse than the stuff I gave my cat, and yet it's became one of the most popular franchisees on earth.

    Did you know you can smoke the chips? No joke? Did you know they are not even made from potato, they are made from starch? When you eat the burgers, can you really taste anything other than the gherkin?
     
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  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I wouldn't say people like rubbish. I'd just say they are not discerning enough to oppose. They accept rubbish because that's what they're told to do and don't feel compelled to decide for themselves because, in the end, they don't really care.
     
  18. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    Food is a great analogy.
     
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would repeat that it's a great conceit to label readers idiots, to say they like rubbish, or to assume they buy books only because they're on a bestseller list. It makes gross assumptions like people only buy trash (one could enjoy Twilight and Tolstoy) or makes the backward step that people buy from bestseller lists when in fact it's people buying that puts the book on the bestseller list. I have to wonder what sort of audience some writers aim for when they think readers, in general, are stupid, or how grandiose their belief in their own writing must be.
     
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    People do buy just because they are on a top ten list. I know many people who do it.

    It is just a well known fact that people like the unexceptional and familiar. It's why 007 films have been around since the 60s, and yet can you point to a single film in the series that is really that good?

    People like McDonald's food, people liked The Da Vinci Code. Sure the man on the street can like good things - but he can also like bad things. This is a well known fact - and is the subject of a field of psychology. It's called Customer Consumer Theory.

    Also, there is no reason to get nasty just because you don't believe in the idea of quality.
     
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  21. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    That doesn't mean that all people do, or even most people do, or that most people are stupid because some do.

    Who said I don't believe in the idea of quality? I do believe the idea of quality is subjective, and declaring that most readers are stupid because they buy books somebody else doesn't like is conceited. I have no problem with someone stating they don't like a book and why - but saying that those who disagree are idiots - well, the conceit is pretty obvious, wouldn't you say?
     
  22. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've never said people who buy popular stuff that lacks literary quality are stupid. I know some of them - a lot are not stupid people at all. I know a criminal court judge who only reads Stephen King and John Grisham novels. What people buy for enjoyment is not the same thing as what people buy as art. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and digested.

    I think I know why you seem to think I would consider them idiots. Some people do not have refined tastes, some people consciously like crap, it has no baring on their intelligence. It is my belief anyone can 'get' quality literature if they work to try to understand it, I'm not a snob in that sense. Though I don't mind admitting I am a snob in another sense.

    I'm sure that's hardly a revelation.

    My apologies, I meant you don't believe in an objective quality.

    Well, that's not what I'm saying. If you think it is - fine. But I do think quality is objective, and 'bad'ness is something that can be called. Also, to be honest I don't see how this conceit is any different from saying anyone who looks down on 'bad' literature is a pretentious elitist.

    I have to be honest, I don't have a lot of time for people who want to classify quality of books in some sort of list sense. People who say 'Who was greater, Milton or Shakespeare?' I tend to find pretty boring, and it's an unwinnable argument that only comes down to subjective feeling on what is better. However, I do certainly think it is a fact Milton is good, and something like the Da Vinci Code is bad - that much seems beyond dispute to me.
     
  23. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let me first point out that I'm not picking any one person or their statements - I'm talking about people in general who declare others stupid, idiots, or lacking in good taste simply because their tastes differ. I'm also pointing out that just because one likes a specific book does not mean that's their entire reading preference - many people are widely read, choosing books based on what they feel like reading at the time. I happen to love McDonald's french fries - but I also love a good ribeye. So is my eating preference to be defined by the french fries or the ribeye?

    That's my whole point. Just because a reader enjoys a book you (generic) do not does not mean they have no taste, are morons, or sheep. It means one thing - they enjoyed a book you did not.
     
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  24. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Now that we can certainly agree on.
     
  25. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I can agree that people have different tastes and enjoy different types of books, but that's as far as I'm willing to go. There's a huge difference between your average reader and a literary critic like Harold Bloom, who has a PhD and has published papers and books on literary criticism. There's also a difference between enjoying something and really appreciating it. Saying that everyone's tastes are equal is an insult to people who've worked hard and seriously studied literature. By the way, this isn't directed at anyone; I just thought it's relevant to this thread because I truly believe that bestseller lists, which are based on the tastes of the general public, are pretty much useless.
     

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