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.
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.