Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is a Bestseller the best?

What makes a book a bestseller?

Is there prescribed formula for each genre? A decomposing body by page 5 in a murder mystery thriller?The eventual realisation of unrequited love by page 200 in a romance novel?

Or perhaps it’s not the contents at all and it’s the cover itself that sells the book.

Nestled in the archives of the ABC website is a “Jennifer Byrne presents” discussion

with Lee Child, Di Morrissey, Bryce Courtenay and Matthew Reilly, about bestsellers. The program attempts to answer all these questions and dovetails into a random assortment of stories about the hidden world of writing. Including the "birth" of Lee Child's name.

To paraphrase Matthew Riley - the font in which a bestselling author's name is written in never changes, like any brand it requires continuity. Funnily enough our country's most renowned popular author Bryce Courtney, hates his gold embossed font and tries in vein to get it changed whenever he has a new book for publication - however his marketing team say it'll be a disaster if they attempt to change it.

Lee Child remarks that his bookcovers all go through vigorous test groups and marketing panels before a decision is ever made - which is surprising as they all appear so bland and slapdashed.

It's worth watching the program, even just to hear Bryce Courtney compare masturbating with literary hobnobs writing unreadable highbrow "art".

The group successfully cut down the notion of bestselling author "selling out" with a typically succinct phrasing- First it's written, then it's read and then it exists.

I must admit, as a book snob this resonated with me – I’ve been trying to more broad minded and stop belittling bestsellers. Sure I won’t pretend that I wasn’t an outspoken naysayer of the Stephanie Myers phenomenon, but I am getting better at knowing when to keep my opinions to myself and not encroach on what other people view as pleasurable reading. In fact I have only recently learnt to give up on books – in the past I’ve strained my eyes and sanity with reading laborious literary tomes, because it’s what “bookish” people do.

Plus I’ve also learnt [thanks to the program], that I shouldn’t be shy if I ever see Bryce Courtney in the cereal aisle of the supermarket. As apparently he mails a copy of one of his books to anyone that stops him for a chat mmmm that would be a handy way around my self imposed ban on buying books...gosh saving money is hassle!

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