The Enigma of a Best Seller

What makes a book a best seller? The answer still alludes literary agents and publishing houses alike. An article in The New York Times, titled The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller, looks at what makes a book a best seller. In the end, the experts are still scratching their heads.

According to the article, many times a book is predicted to be a big hit and goes to auction, it falls flat; and many times a book is predicted to have low sales, it rises to best seller status. Literary agent, Brian DeFiore asks: “Is it the cover? The title? The buzz wasn’t there? Timing? It wasn’t that good?”

William Strachen, editor in chief at Carrol & Graff Publishers says: “It’s an accidental profession, most of the time. . . If you had the key, you’d be very wealthy. Nobody has the key.

Once a book is picked up by a publisher, it generally gets a marketing makeover, but before a book is picked up, much of the time, publishers rely on their gut feeling about how a book will sell. The article points to the fact that, unlike other industries such as gaming and television, publishers don’t have enough contact with their customers to know what they buy and what they want to see more of.

Susan Rabiner, agent and former editorial director says: “Before Amazon, we didn’t even know what people thought of the books.

Okay, get it together publishing people. What’s wrong with a little marketing research?


2 Comments to “The Enigma of a Best Seller”

  1. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is a example of this, I think. It was turned down by countless publishers who never saw any potential in it. One publisher went so far as to tell Rowling not to quit her day job. And look what happened! It’s true – nobody really knows what makes a best seller. But we all want to write one!

  2. Can’t go wrong with a good HERO QUEST story.

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