makes a best seller? A major effort? Luck?
I’ve heard this discussed a lot
and it is hard to say.
There are several major paths to
a traditionally published book becoming a best seller.
First, the most common path is
the book is by a previous best-selling author. There is a huge
readership base, and the author really has to drop the ball for the
book to fail to achieve best-seller status. In addition, based on the
track record of the previous books, the publishing house throws major
advertising, promotion, and the full distribution and placement support
behind the title. Occasionally a book fails to live up to this promise,
and all of the publisher’s support does not get the job done.
Second, an author, regardless of
the strength of the writing, has so much name recognition and such a
huge platform that the book has major potential. Presidents,
politicians, major sports figures, and other celebrities fit into this
category. Once again, based on this potential, the publishing house
throws major advertising, promotion, and the full distribution and
placement support behind the title. And sometimes this does not work,
so in spite of the huge name identification, the public does not
respond in the desired numbers.
Third, publishers can decide
when they acquire a book that it is going to be a best seller. The
editor who acquires the manuscript takes it into committee and
convinces the PR people, the marketing people, and the company
leadership that the book has the potential to become a best seller.
Even though it is a debut author who does not have a large platform,
the publishing house decides the book justifies the time and money and
puts major advertising, promotion, and the full distribution and
placement support behind the title. Yet again, in spite of the faith
and confidence of the publisher this does not always work.
even if the publisher has not pegged the title as a potential best
seller and the author does not have name identification, the author may
generate so much word-of-mouth publicity, or buzz, and may pursue
several avenues of publicity and promotion that the book becomes a best
seller. Even if a publisher has not planned major support for a title,
it will respond when a book attracts notice and will
to match or
exceed author efforts. There generally isn’t a large number of authors
who achieve this, but it can work, and again ends up with the publisher
putting advertising, promotion, distribution and placement behind the
title. On occasion a book starts producing so strongly in a small house
that a major house comes into the situation, taking the efforts to a
whole new level. That’s what happened with The Shack.
So, is it luck? Yes, I’d have to
say some luck might be involved.
For Christian authors is it
something ordained by God and beyond our control? No. Ordained by God,
yes, but the Lord works through people. If God wants it to happen, it
will, as long as we do what He needs us to do in the process.
Do publishers decide what books
will be best sellers, or not? Both yes and no. If I am correct in my
assumptions, it is very difficult to reach best-seller status without a
publisher that believes in the book and throws its support behind it.