Saturday, April 25, 2015

The TRUTH behind the Bestseller Lists

Unspent Time
by Graham Parke

We all know there’s more to creating a best seller than mere fine writing. There’s marketing, timing, luck, and more. I decided to find out exactly what it takes to create a best seller. What I discovered will shock you! In this post I transcribe a revealing conversation I had with a prominent industry figure. I’ll be giving you this verbatim, because if I summarized, you wouldn’t believe me. So relax, grab yourself a glass of cucumber juice, and prepare to be stunned!


John: “So, if I understand you correctly, Mr. Parke, you’re here to apply for a position of best selling author?”

Graham: “Internationally best selling author, yes. I’d like very much to be considered. I’ve brought writing samples.”

No Hope for Gomez!
John: “Writing samples, yes, so you’ve said. Mr. Parke, I have to ask, do you know what we do here?”

Graham: “Yes, of course I do.”

John: “You’ve seen the signs throughout the building?”

Graham: “Yes. They state that you sell meat packing equipment.”

John: “Precisely. Meat packing equipment. So, to be brutally honest, I’m not entirely sure what it is you think we can do for you.”

No Date for Gomez!
Graham: “Come on… you know…”

John: “No, I really don’t. Now, if you’d be interested in a warehouse position, or something in accounting, I could hook you up today. Barring that…”

Graham: “Come on, don’t play dumb with me. Look, I’ve brought writing samples. Won't you at least take a look?”

John: “That’s entirely beside the point. Even if we weren’t in the business of selling meat packing equipment, I’m quite sure that you don’t actually apply for a position as a best selling author. It’s all down to sales numbers. They’re tallied per region. It all happens automatically I believe.”

Graham: “Come on. Everyone knows best sellers are chosen by a secret committee.”

John: “I don’t know much about publishing, Mr. Parke, but even to me that sounds like a load of fanciful nonsense.”

Graham: “Please, just look at the samples... Here, this one is really funny.”

John: “Are you sure you don’t want to take a job at our warehouse while you’re waiting for this writing gig to pan out? I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find good warehouse jockeys. You’d be doing us, as well as yourself, a favor.”

Graham: “I’m sorry John may-I-call-you-John it is sort of common knowledge that you, in fact, are the very people who decide the bestsellers.”

John: “I see. And who told you this strange tale?”

Graham: “It was Google, actually…”

John: “Ah. Yes. Well, the thing is, Mr. Parke, this blasted Information Age makes our task very difficult. The ranks have to be kept small, you have to understand. We have to keep more people out then we let in. So I’m afraid we cannot simply make anyone who comes through these doors a best selling author.”

Graham: “I don’t expect you to.”

John: “Good.”

Graham: “Just make me one. That’s all I’m asking.”

John: (sighing) “So, what kind of best selling author did you want to become?”

Graham: “A mystery-slash-comedy author. I’ve brought writing samples.”

John: “That’s amazing!”

Graham: “It is?”

John: “Yes. That you actually believe your writing abilities would have anything to do with this, it's wonderfully naïve.”

Graham: “Eh…”

John: “Have you ever taken a look at a bestseller list? I mean, a good look? What on earth makes you think that narrative voice or level of originality have anything to do with matters?”

Graham: “Well, I’d just assumed that if my writing was good enough…”

John: “How morbidly stupid of you… No, Mr. Parke, when I asked you what kind of best selling author you were hoping to become, I was of course referring to the number of first year sales, growth rate, staying power, that kind of thing. We need to keep the categories from over running.”

Graham: “Oh, I see.”

John: “Here, why don’t you fill out this form. It will tell us everything we need to know about you. I’m not making any promises here, but if you want to be considered, this is the only way in.”

Graham: “Thank you so much. You won't regret this. Let’s see, this doesn’t look too complicated, name, address, social security number. But, why does it say ‘Warehouse Job Application’ at the top of the form?”

John: “Don’t worry about that. It’s just a cover, like the signs plastered all over the building. We have to at least appear to try and keep this operation hush-hush. I’m sure you understand.”

Graham: “Of course. My lips are sealed. So, what happens next? You’ll be in touch?”

John: “Just show up at the warehouse at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. They’ll tell you what to do. They might have you perform some little rituals for a while. Just go with it. All will become clear pretty soon.”





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