Thursday, August 30, 2007

24, part one

We choose 24 books a year for Select Editions. Those books are chosen from the literally thousands published every year, some of which make it to the bestseller lists. Now in a way it stands to reason that the process by which books become bestsellers is similar to the process by which readers can choose what books to read. That is, a hundred books or so make the bestseller lists every year, and since the average reader has enough trouble sorting through a hundred books, much less thousands, it makes sense for readers to limit their selection to those bestsellers. After all, through some mysterious publishing process these have already risen to the top. Why not stick with them?

If it were only that easy! Bestsellers become bestsellers for a variety of reasons. Maybe the author has previously written a bestseller, thus becoming something of a brand name. Since buying a book is, to a degree, picking a pig in a poke, your chances may seem better if you choose a familiar pig. But not all books by all authors, even the very best authors, are uniformly good. Unfortunately you don’t find this out until after you’ve brought it home and read it.

Another reason books become bestsellers is that they are, on their own, really good, although that’s not as easy a process as it should be. As more and more newspapers and magazines eliminate book reviews, it’s hard for a book to be recognized on its merits alone. But it does happen. In today’s era of book groups and web communities, many people look to other people of similar interest as guides to what to read. The only problem is, you have to find the people that you’re most likely to agree with.

More tomorrow…


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