The Shocking Truth About the Bestseller List

I’ve noticed that “bestselling” seems to be describing any book that crosses my path these days. I own a Kindle Fire and use it every day. I pretty much use Amazon every day too. I also subscribe to a number of Kindle book clubs. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t get offered a bestseller for $1.99. Hard to believe, isn’t it.

Has the moniker of a bestseller lost its luster? I know that I gloss over those words these days as meaningless. When I was researching for my book I found a “bestselling” author who wrote and sold a lot of books about blogging and selling books. And I’m sure he made a lot of money. I read a couple of his books and then vowed to never read another one. I think we have to remember that bestselling doesn’t mean best quality.

What does bestselling mean and how does the aspiring writer achieve this holy grail, this pie in the sky, this award to end all awards?
My findings were startling. You’d think I was living in the middle of a corn field in Iowa for not knowing about this scam. Rest assured that the number one thing you don’t need to make the bestseller list is talent. It may help, but it’s definitely at the bottom of the list.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal lists use a metric based on the Nielsen BookScan. But they only use sales from print, not from digital, and not from Wal-mart or Sam’s Club. As an author wouldn’t this make you crazy? What difference does it make in what format someone buys your book. The NY Times will also use only a select group of sellers, secret to their committee. I’ve also read that they weigh a book’s purchasing differently. A book bought at Amazon “weighs” less than one bought at independent book dealer X. Talk about subjective.

Want to buy your way to the top?

 

I also discovered that you can buy your way to the top by book laundering. There are a number of marketing firms, ResultSource being one of the top, who will guarantee you a place on one of these lists. You give them their fee, and then you give them money to buy enough books to put your sales in consideration for the bestseller list. Again, no regards for talent. It’s about marketing.

Now that I’ve assuredly convinced you that using the bestseller list as the worst gauge to finding your next tome, what should you use? How do you find the gem among the costume jewelry?

I remember the days of wandering the bookstore gazing over the table of books that the owners picked out just for me. I scanned the outside description to see if it piqued my interest and then the back cover to get a little more taste. Before I left the store, I made sure to peruse the discount rack to see if there were some special books that I had to clear a space for on my already over crowded book shelf.

When I was low on cash, I used to do the same at the library, wandering up and down the stacks reading various book jackets in the mystery section. Once my library got a drive thru those days were gone! Then it was reserve online and pick it up. My wandering days were over.

library-1124718_640

To say that Amazon has changed the book buying market is an understatement. Amazon also has a bestseller list, and I put no more stock in this list than I do the other two. I can say that Amazon refuses to do business with ResultSource which is a plus, and of course they will consider digital sales, but there are far too many poorly written books that have the bestseller status.

Bestseller status is based on books bought, period. That’s why authors have to spend so much time on marketing.
But I digress. How do we judge a book these days when the market is flooded with junk?

I must admit that I am one to read reviews on Amazon. I know what you’re are going to say. Those can be manufactured, blah blah blah. Believe, me I know.

I read the negative reviews first. Someone is more likely to provide a negative review than a positive, and I can see if the same thing that irritates one reader applies to me. What I’m looking for is any review that tells me the writer has poor grammar. This tells me right away that they were not serious about their work and just wanted to get a book up on Amazon to see if they could make some money. This especially applies to eBooks.

I’ll also scan the positive reviews looking for what the book covers to see if the information is what I’m looking for. I should tell you that this process only applies to non-fiction books. I only buy non-fiction. And that’s only after I check it out from the library to see if it’s worth buying. Lately, I’ve cut my book budget even further by buying used books on Amazon and so far I’m very satisfied with the book quality.

You could judge a book by its cover. I used to do this in my perusing days. This was the first step. It helps if you’re looking for a specific genre. My favorite was mystery/suspense/espionage so if the cover had a picture of the United States Capitol or a Nazi symbol, I would check out the description. Did you know that librarians also consider jacket art in their purchase?

Finally, I would check out your library system. The system has a limited budget and will probably purchase books they’ve done some research on. The story or subject may not appeal to you, but the book is probably well written because a publishing house took a chance and published it.

Anyone can write a book these days and self publish which is a double-edged sword. It provides a chance for good writers who wouldn’t normally get published to get published, but it also lets anyone who can type something resembling a book try to sell it. Being the capitalist that I am, I don’t begrudge anyone from doing this, buying or selling. It does make it more inconvenient for the rest of us because we now have more to wade through to find what we’re looking for, but it’s all in the name of capitalism.

 

Ignore the word “bestseller,” dear reader.

 

The bestseller list is only important to the writer because it means more sales. To the reader, it should mean absolutely nothing. Ignore it dear reader. It has nothing to do with you.

I have found a few good fiction eBooks on rare occasions. Let me know if you have a method to finding a great read and share what you have found. Until then, I’ll stick to the list of authors that I’ve compiled over the years, branching out when I get bored. If the author makes the bestseller list it only means he’s making more money. Fortunately, it’s not on my dime. I went to the library.

19 Things You Need to Know Before You Talk to a Cheesehead

Ralph Bruno was re-upholstering his mother’s couch when he got the idea to create a cheese hat. People from Illinois would often refer to us northerners as cheeseheads, so Bruno cut out a cheese wedge out of the stuffing, burned some holes in it  and painted it cheddar yellow. He wore it to a Brewers game in 1987. People noticed, it caught on and the rest is history.

When you meet someone from Wisconsin, I want you to be prepared. If you read, ruminate and resolve to embrace this inside information, I guarantee that you’ll have no language barrier blocking your budding future friendship.

1. Brats.  Even among Wisconsinites, you’ll have  arguments over brats. What is the best brat, Johnsonville or Klements? What’s the true brat bun, a hard roll or a over-sized weiner bun? Do you boil before grilling or slap them right on the grill? There is a lot that goes into having the perfect brat experience.

I fall into the Johnsonville camp and will stake my reputation on the following statement: There is nothing like two Johnsonville brats on a hard roll. My parents must have thought the same thing because we would drive from Appleton to Johnsonville, 54.2 miles to stock up on Johnsonville meats: brats, weiners and summer sausage. That was in the late sixties, when you could only get Johnsonville brats in where else, Johnsonville.

Grilling brats
If I haven’t convinced you yet, then how about this. Since 2001, Johnsonville has been the featured brat of the World’s Largest Brat Fest, 209,000 sausages consumed in 2010.

 

2. Brandy is not a liqueur. This is not your sit around in your dinner jacket, sipping cognac, puffing on a cigar state. Brandy is often used in lieu of whiskey. Be forewarned. If you order a manhatten in a local tavern in Cheesehead country, you’ll get it with brandy unless you specifically ask for whiskey. Same can be said for an old fashioned. You can even get old fashioneds to go in a six-pack for your tailgate party, see #9.

Korbel ships 43.5% of its brandy production to Wisconsin.

Only California drinks more brandy than Wisconsin. In 2012, California-based Korbel shipped about 324,000 nine-liter cases of brandy. Of those, about 141,000 – 43.5% of Korbel’s production – went to Wisconsin.

3. Packer history. It goes without saying that you need to know some Packer history. It’s the only team that is owned by shareholders. In 1919, the Indian Packing Company organized a company football team with Curly Lambeau as the coach.  According to the official Packer website,  360,760 people (representing 5,011,558 shares) are owners of the iconic franchise.

Known as Title Town, Green Bay is the smallest city to have an NFL team. It may be small, but there is plenty of help when it comes to removing snow in Lambeau for a big game. Fans will take off work to be a part of the “grounds crew” at Lambeau.

4. Women’s formal wear is a new Packer sweatshirt. Okay. This is a joke my husband likes to tell because he’s from that state south of the border.

5. Deer hunting is a nine day holiday season. Over 600,000 hunters bought licenses in 2014 according to the DNR. I’ve known people to finish their early Thanksgiving dinner and then get in a few extra hours of deer hunting.

6. Sturgeon spearing is a winter sport. For two weeks in February fishermen sit in their ice shanties and stare into a 5×2 foot hole in the ice (carved with a chain saw) waiting to spear a big fish. Hard to believe, I know, but true. Smoked sturgeon is very tasty and especially nice because it’s boneless.

7. Roads on the lakes. See #6. How do you expect to get to your shanty? Duh.

8. Master cheesemaker program. Wisconsin is the only state to offer the program, taking three years to complete. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we take our cheese seriously.

9. Tailgating is a year-round sport. We’ll use any excuse to tailgate. Packer games are the ultimate place to tailgate and fans will never be dissuaded because of subzero temperatures. Brewer games, Badger games, and even Grateful Dead concerts at Alpine Valley in the 80’s, or so I’ve heard, are just a few from the long list of excuses.

We take our card games seriously.

10. Euchre/Sheepshead. Coming to Wisconsin and don’t play cards? You better pick up your Hoyle and read it on your bus trip to Wisconsin. Euchre is the most popular because it’s played all over Wisconsin with many areas hosting tournaments. Sheepshead is a little more regional and well known in the German community, 2-8 players so it’s more versatile than the four-handed Euchre.

11. Beer is ordered by tap not a draft. The proper way to order a tap beer is to say, “I’ll have a tap beer.” A draft is what you get on those windy, winter days when you have old windows with even older storm windows.

12. Home of Harley Davidson. If you’re a biker, you probably know this already. You can check out the museum if you’re traveling through Milwaukee.

13. Friday night fish. Look for a tavern, supper club or VFW for your local fish fry. Mostly concentrated along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago where a heavy German population settled, the Friday night tradition is a great way to get together at the end of week for some gemutlichkeit.

14. Winnebago lakeflies. Nasty, nasty and more nasty. Think plague of locusts in biblical proportion. Keep your mouth shut and eyes partly open while power washing your windshield to clean the bugs. Don’t plan your Mother’s Day visiting anyone living around Lake Winnebago because there’s a good change you’ll run into a hatching.

15. Mosquito is the state bird. You’ll hear this often during a bad mosquito season. I’m sure this isn’t just Wisconsin, but we like to think we’re special when the mosquitoes are particularly annoying.

16. Wisconsin: Illinois’campgrounds. Any Wisconsin camper will declare that this should be our state motto. We have beautiful and well-maintained campgrounds that our southern neighbors flock to every summer.

17. Home of the cheese curds. These tidbits are rarely found outside of Wisconsin. Stop at any cheese shop and you’ll find a fresh batch of cheese curds. Before the cheese coagulates, curds are collected from batches of cheddar cheese. They are less than a day old and squeaky when eaten. Deep-fried cheese curds is a staple bar food.

cheese curds

18. Limburger cheese. The only place making limburger cheese in the US is in Monroe, Wisconsin. Follow the smell if you’re interested.

19. 30 degrees is still considered shorts’ weather. I’m not one to partake in this adventurous wardrobe display, but it’s not uncommon to see the frostbite fearless baring their legs.

And there you have it. The list to end all lists, your guide to talking to a cheesehead. I could go on and tell you about all the famous people who were born here, boring!, or equip you with a big list of other websites with interesting facts about Wisconsin, yawn!, but this would be unnecessary.

I’ve given you the meat of what you need to know, so be ready. The next time you find yourself invited to a Friday night fish fry at the VFW, drinking a tap or brandy old fashioned, discussing the upcoming Packer game, you’ll be ready to declare that your favorite bratwurst is Johnsonville.

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