The topic Jordan started on traditional mysteries has evolved, with more discussion about marketing/trends etc.

I have a question: Can you manufacture a trend? Can you deliberately create the next big author?

Here's my thinking. To some degree, the average consumer is more sheep than wolf. I grew up in a tourist town, spent time working in retail. You've got your impulse items near the tills and use end displays to move items. From time to time there have been the inevitable scandals - things marked down as discounted to make them look like a deal when they were never sold at the full list price. Yet the perception, the idea of getting a good buy, often moves merchandise.

How many readers realize that the publishers are usually paying for prominent displays in bookstores, not that the bookstores think these are the books of note right now that their customers should be interested in?

Will good writing win out over the long term, or do you think it's possible to 'create' a superstar if you put enough money behind them? (I guess this may go to the same debate with American Idol - Kelly Clarkson hasn't been a flash-in-the-pan but I hear more about Clay Aiken than Rueben what's-his-name.)

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Why should they spend the money? It's in the bag.

It's funny how the publishing industry relies so much on history to determine forward performance. In my energy industry, this is called lagging indicators. People feel more comfortable with hindsight than sticking their neck out to predict the trend. Interesting. With the crystal ball comes risk. Hummmm
Absolutely on the Harry Potter front. They've built up the momentum on the books to the point no marketing is really necessary. I wonder, is it just YA books that can survive without reviews? Harry Potter could get not a cent of promotional money and still be a huge best-seller. It may be an anomaly, but it's interesting to think about. Could the same thing happen with adult books?

Check this out - here's an excerpt:

The hunt for the key has been much more extensive in other industries, which have made a point of using new technology to gain a better understanding of their customers. Television stations have created online forums for viewers and may use the information there to make programming decisions. Game developers solicit input from users through virtual communities over the Internet. Airlines and hotels have developed increasingly sophisticated databases of customers.

Publishers, by contrast, put up Web sites where, in some cases, readers can sign up for announcements of new titles. But information rarely flows the other way — from readers back to the editors.

“We need much more of a direct relationship with our readers,” said Susan Rabiner, an agent and a former editorial director. Bloggers have a much more interactive relationship with their readers than publishers do, she said. “Before Amazon, we didn’t even know what people thought of the books,” she said.

Most in the industry seem to see consumer taste as a mystery that is inevitable and even appealing, akin to the uncontrollable highs and lows of falling in love or gambling. Publishing employees tend to be liberal arts graduates who enter the field with a starting salary around $30,000. Compensation is not tied to sales performance. “The people who go into it don’t do it for the money, which might explain why it’s such a bad business,” Mr. Strachan said.
Wow, what a spooky story.

But I have to say ... I'm not sure I care that much what the trends are or what foolishness publishers are paying attention to this week. I want to read interesting books. James Patterson apparently is able to manufacture something that a lot of people like. I can't read more than a paragraph of his stuff.

There's an interesting piece in the New York Times about how impossible it is to predict what will sell. It bears out something a senior editor once told me - being owned by big corporations fixated on the bottom line means you have lots of money to devote to acquiring and developing "big" books. It also means that making a few expensive mistakes can be disastrous.

It's sort of sad to see the editor in chief of Caroll & Graf quoted - “It’s an accidental profession, most of the time" - given it was just announced that Caroll & Graf is closing its doors as soon as the books it has under contract are published.
I don't know if any of you all have tried to write a bestseller. I can't imagine sitting down and saying, let alone knowing, that I'm going to write something that will sell a million or more copies. They are ineffable, aren't they, those qualities that make us love or hate books.

Imagine a thriller written by committee--particularly a committee made up of a marketing guru, an editor, a publicist, an accountant, and an idea person (the writer). Not pretty. What happens in a writer's head is a confluence of that writer's experiences, dreams, technical skill and, perhaps, a smattering of market savvy.
Overdetermined writing is always bad writing. I'm no mystic, but I do believe that there is something mystical at the heart of every good book--an alchemy that can't be taught, but only discovered. It will never come out of a conference room.
Well said, Laura.
I tend to agree, although I wasn't thinking about the writing process. I was thinking strictly about how a book is marketed. Think of it in terms of 15 new authors with the same publisher and they just pick one to put all their marketing behind it. That article Barbara mentioned and I overlapped with is very interesting, because it proves that the reviews and word of mouth can carry a book without a lot of other promotion, right on to the bestseller list.

But I consider DaVinci to be somewhat manufactured in terms of success. 10,000 ARCs. That's one heck of a promotion budget that book got. It's impossible to know how the book would have done without it though.
A subject near and dear to my bitter heart. Yes, the publisher makes or breaks you. If you are very lucky and can hang in long enough, you may get some word-of-mouth advertising. That (and I speak from experience) is very slow, but it does work. For me, future success is in the hands of my fans -- or perhaps another (different) book. Hope springs eternal.

I'm not sure that Sarah's figures for Amazon are current. I have watched my sales for the past 5 years and it seems to me that Amazon is getting more of a work-out. The numbers of books sold per day have increased to judge by the way the rankings jump. It is also an important venue for all those authors who do not get the marketing push and may not be able to keep their books permanently available in book stores.
Everyone has great comments here, much more thoughtful than my own. My 2 cents--You can't "manufacture" a bestseller but you can certainly "market" one. I love the times when the story sells the book, but too often it's the marketing push and how much money is devoted to a media campaign.

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