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Registered Members => Book Talk => Topic started by: Woods on February 01, 2012, 01:23 PM

Title: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Woods on February 01, 2012, 01:23 PM
So often I read a great book--a book which has strong, realistic characters, showing and. . .well, just good writing period.

But these good books I read tend to collect dust on shelves in book stores. When I research reviews on the Internet, the book gets good reviews, yet not many people know about it.

It seems like the books that are currently flying off the shelves aren't really that well-written. (I know which book series y'all are thinking about. Shhh. . .) Writing a book is hard. But writing a good book is even harder.

So which well-written books do you think deserve more attention?
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 01, 2012, 01:54 PM
Hmmm, I must confess to having some difficulties with this question, mostly because it posits a couple of things that I don't necessarily think are true.

The first is that bestsellerdom currently has an inverse relationship with literary quality - I really don't think this is true. Sure, everyone can list at least one example of a best-selling book that IN THEIR OPINION (emphasis very deliberate) isn't written very well. But I personally can list a whole bunch that are. Maggie Stiefvater's books fly off the shelves, and she's as gifted and skilled as any writer out there. THE HUNGER GAMES are superbly written books. John Green is nobody's hack. Libba Bray's books make me want to weep with gratitude, they're so good.

The second thing is that bestsellerdom should correspond with any one person's standards of quality. I could name a book that I don't think it very well-written, but does that necessarily make it so? What if that book, which I think is such a piece of crap, has millions of fans who love, love, LOVE it? Are they wrong? I have a hard time saying they are, because their opinions are no less valid than mine.

To be fair, the discussion of which books deserve more attention is, I think, entirely valid. I just have trouble framing it around the idea of bestseller status as something that any given author deserves or doesn't deserve.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: xiaotien on February 01, 2012, 02:23 PM
gosh.

anything by francisco stork and andrew smith.

i've been loving hard on these two dude writers in YA.
so original and talented.

i love lisa mantchev's Eyes Like Stars series. so fun, original
and well written, with a completely believable love triangle.

huge fan of our very own dia reeves (i think she's been offline
for a while?): Bleeding Violet and Slice of Cherry. she takes the
reader to dark scary places in a uniquely dia way.

i can't praise holly black's The Curse Worker's series enough.
i don't think it's as well read as it should be because it's different
than what's out there in YA paranormal currently. but it's so smart,
twisty and well written.

also sarah rees brennan's The Demon's Lexicon trilogy.
my personal favorite is The Demon's Covenant. srb makes you
love a demon like no other. not to mention the strong heroines
she creates. win.

 :bunnyrun
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: C.K. on February 01, 2012, 02:24 PM
Well, in 2011 I absolutely loved Bronxwood by Coe Booth and Recovery Road by Blake Nelson so I feel copies should've been flying off the shelves. I do find it frustrating when books I greatly admire don't get the readership or attention I feel they deserve. Unfortunately, I usually find the books I enjoy most aren't the top sellers - so often that in fact it's surprising when my taste does align with the bestseller's list. For instance, I really admired Delirium but there was another YA sci-fi bestseller (which I won't mention by name because I don't want to knock it) I read a couple of months ago and the characters felt like cardboard cut-outs to me. I had to slog through it.



Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Joni on February 01, 2012, 02:26 PM
To be fair, the discussion of which books deserve more attention is, I think, entirely valid. I just have trouble framing it around the idea of bestseller status as something that any given author deserves or doesn't deserve.

While I agree with the above, I'm going to disagree, for the sake of lively threads, with this:
I could name a book that I don't think it very well-written, but does that necessarily make it so? What if that book, which I think is such a piece of crap, has millions of fans who love, love, LOVE it? Are they wrong?

Quality of writing and how satisfying or enjoyable a book may be to millions of fans are two separate things, IMO. While I acknowledge that there is SOME lack of agreement (such as whether adverbs are permissable or not), I don't accept the idea that there are are no commonly agreed standards on what quality writing is or is not. I think we CAN generally agree on books that are well or poorly written. There is actuallly much more agreement on what constitutes literary value than there is disagreement. But STORYTELLING ability -- which is what tends to make bestsellers -- and WRITING ability are two separate things. (If they weren't, verbal storytelling couldn't exist, but it predates writing.) And a book that has strong storytelling can sell well regardless of the quality of its writing. The reverse is almost never true.

Books that have a high literary quality *can* (not must... but frequently) be seen by readers as harder to read simply because they rely more on techniques such as symbolism, allusion, patterning, understatement, meta-fiction techniques, etc. to carry the meaning -- rather than pure narrative. (And the mere fact that they DO use some of these other techniques can be both what helps elevate their writing quality and makes them "harder.") But that often results in those books feeling less satisfying to anyone not willing to make that effort or who has never learned how to do it, or had much practice.

So anyway, rant over, but I'd nominate:

- Jenny Moss' TAKING OFF
- Many National Book Award nominees, such as Laini Taylor's LIPS TOUCH. (Just because you've heard of a book doesn't make it a bestseller. Editors say that award recognition in general, and NBA recognition in particular, rarely has much impact on sales. There are plenty of award-winning books that don't sell well. This is the crux of our awards vs. bestselling dichotomy.)
- I'll assume it'll be a bestseller if it's not already, and I've already raved elsewhere, but Maggie's The Scorpio Races.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: anonymous on February 01, 2012, 03:59 PM
I want to say I agree with both Mike and Joni. One of my goals right now is to read more really popular books, to try to understand better what "everybody" sees in them. And I have to say, I don't think there's a secret. As a group, bestsellers are no better or worse than non-bestsellers, as a group.

But I do find it interesting and kind of disappointing that the first five posts of this thread mentioned books by (perfectly wonderful) authors who are ALREADY bestsellers: Maggie Steifvater, Laini Taylor, and Holly Black. Really, Blueboarders?

Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 01, 2012, 04:26 PM
Put 'em up, Joni!  :batman ;)

Lively threads are a good thing! Your points are well taken, of course. But I only partially agree that there are widely accepted definitions of what constitutes quality writing. This is just my opinion, naturally, but I tend to think storytelling vs. writing is a bit of a false dichotomy. Book-based storytelling is actually a writing skill, if you ask me - I don't think oral storytelling (or visual storytelling skill, or kinesthetic storytelling skill etc.) automatically translate into the ability to WRITE a good story.

And I like anon's point very much - on the whole, looking at something like the full spectrum of each group rather than specific examples, best sellers and non-best sellers aren't all that different in terms of overall literary quality. I was actually using Maggie as an example of a best seller, but I certainly have thoughts about non-best sellers I'd like to see enjoy huge commercial success. Joanne Rocklin is one of the best MG authors around, I wish ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET had its own display in every bookstore in the country. Kurtis Scaletta writes terrific, under appreciated books for boys. Kevin Emerson's CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT is a stunner. I want Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich's 8TH GRADE SUPERZERO to have a million copies in print. And on and on and on...
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: xiaotien on February 01, 2012, 04:36 PM
anon, i guess it's all relative as to what
defines a bestseller.
but i personally do NOT believe the curse
worker's is getting the love and attention it deserves.

sorry you took issue with this one among
the ones i listed.

but yes, *really*. =)

joni, i'd venture that quality of writing isn't
always necessary to write an enjoyable novel.
(or for that matter, to have a best seller.)
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 01, 2012, 04:52 PM
I TOTALLY FORGOT TO LIST CINDY PON! Everyone should be reading SILVER PHOENIX and FURY OF THE PHOENIX!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: xiaotien on February 01, 2012, 05:08 PM
*slips a fiver to mike*

eunuchs need love too.

haha!

let's just say that i've made peace with the
fact that i don't really write commercial. and
by that, i don't mean my writing style or anything.

but who the heck has a teen eunuch anti-hero in YA?
yeah. only me. ha!

so i think that there ARE ways to define books more
likely for commercial success. and trends are one of them.
they are not a guarantee for success, but it never hurts to
catch a popular trend. if you've written a strong novel AND
it is riding a trend, you're more likely to get the marketing dollars
to back you and be shelved more widely, etc.

so many factors in so many different areas.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: C.K. on February 01, 2012, 05:11 PM
Quote
As a group, bestsellers are no better or worse than non-bestsellers, as a group.

I don't think we can even really say that. This is all totally subjective. What criteria would you even use to determine whether they're better or worse?
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 01, 2012, 05:24 PM
I don't think we can even really say that. This is all totally subjective. What criteria would you even use to determine whether they're better or worse?

C.K., I think the subjectivity is a big reason why we CAN say that. Determining that one group is clearly better or worse than the other in terms of writing quality would require some kind of objective measure that we just don't have. Although I get your drift, it might be more accurate to say that it's simply not possible to make any kind of side-by-side comparison of the two groups, especially since this thread is showing that we don't all define "best seller" the same way.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: C.K. on February 01, 2012, 05:31 PM
Mike, I understood that for a second and then my head exploded a little.  :stars But I thought the whole point of the thread was that we were talking about books we thought deserved more success? Not scientifically or anything but, you know, just our opinions. Okay, my head is starting to explode again.  :evil:
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 01, 2012, 05:48 PM
Sorry C.K., didn't mean to make your head explode! *head explodes in sympathy*

I think mentioning books that we wish were more successful or visible or celebrated and so on is a great thing to do! I just had difficulty with the idea that there's some correlation between commercial success and bad writing and an opposing correlation between lack of commercial success and good writing. Bestsellers=bad writing, non-bestsellers=good writing, in other words. I just don't think that's true, so being able to say "On the whole, the writing quality of all bestsellers is higher/lower than the quality of all non-bestsellers" is not, IMHO, a valid thing to say. And by the same coin, maybe it's equally invalid to say "On the whole, the writing quality of all bestsellers is about the same as the quality of all non-bestsellers." Maybe the answer is "It's all pretty @#$%ing subjective so there's no answer, let's just go have a beer and talk about the Hunger Games movie..."
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 01, 2012, 05:52 PM
*slips a fiver to mike*

Five? That's it?? FIVE DOLLARS??

;)
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: JennaWren on February 01, 2012, 06:08 PM
Maybe the answer is "It's all pretty @#$%ing subjective so there's no answer, let's just go have a beer and talk about the Hunger Games movie..."

:werd


Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: xiaotien on February 01, 2012, 06:23 PM
Five? That's it?? FIVE DOLLARS??

;)

bribe in direct correlation of best selling status
of my novels. HAHAHAHA!

seriously tho, i don't think there is a formula, subjectivity
aside.

i think what WOULD be interesting is to look at novels
that were best selling that did NOT get a strong marketing push
and see what was it that made them be break outs?
tho i don't know off the top of my head which these novels
would be. i know Twilight had a strong marketing push for certain.

what about harry potter?

i honestly don't think "break outs" from midlist happens very
often at all.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Joni on February 01, 2012, 09:56 PM
I don't know how it did in sales either way, but I don't see it talked about much: Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King.

And Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi. (award winner, though. Dust might have been, too.)

And Tell me a Secret by Holly Cupala, which I found very impressive for a debut novel.

But one thing this thread is making me realize is that in my limited reading time, I rarely get past three sets of books: award winners (which I want to keep up with), buzzy books (which I feel I HAVE to keep up with), and books by my friends (which I buy but sometimes take years to get around to reading because I'm "keeping up" with the others. I'm probably not reading enough to have a long list of "unknown" books to recommend because if they are that unknown, I probably haven't read 'em yet -- unless they're written by friends.

And I think that's sort of the Catch 22 of this whole proposition (and part of the answer to why some of the books named in this thread are by bestselling authors).
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Amaris Glass on February 01, 2012, 10:05 PM
Oooh, ooh, I have one! Not any kind of contribution to the lively conversation going on, because you all are much more eloquent than I, but an actual book I wish more people would love:

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

That's all I can think of now, but I love to hear about books that people love that maybe I haven't heard very much about before.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: MysteryRobin on February 01, 2012, 10:43 PM
First off - I agree with this:
Quote
Quality of writing and how satisfying or enjoyable a book may be to millions of fans are two separate things, IMO. While I acknowledge that there is SOME lack of agreement (such as whether adverbs are permissable or not), I don't accept the idea that there are are no commonly agreed standards on what quality writing is or is not. I think we CAN generally agree on books that are well or poorly written.

And I'm gonna even say that one of the author's Mike mentioned initially (not Maggie - adore Maggie) has some issues with structure. I think you can *love* a book that has some technical issues. But it doesn't mean they aren't there. I think taste is subjective. I think some rules can be strategically broken, but I think sometimes things are fumbled, and maybe we love the book anyway, but maybe that's the thing that takes one reader out of the fictive dream and that reader just really dislikes the book.

So, I *do* think it's a fair question. Some books are beautiful and just get overlooked for whatever reason. Just like there are some amazing singers that never make it out of the local scene. I also don't think it diminishes the bestsellers in anyway to say "Hey, good for you, but why didn't A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Ann Schlitz sell a million copies?"

I think as author's we know that some books are quiet and don't have the high concept that might make them have broad appeal - but the crazy thing about this industry is that some do, and are wonderfully written, and just don't get the attention that others' do and it doesn't make sense.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: hairaplenty on February 01, 2012, 11:16 PM
Joni--I think Tell me a Secret was Holly's debut.  Don't Breath a Word is the one that just came out, right?

I have not read either:(  Because I fall into catagory:"books by my friends."
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Joni on February 02, 2012, 12:03 AM
Joni--I think Tell me a Secret was Holly's debut.  Don't Breath a Word is the one that just came out, right?

Oh, you're right. Secret is the one I meant. (Haven't read Breathe yet). Guess a hazard of related titles is telling which came first!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: annemleone on February 02, 2012, 01:49 AM
i think what WOULD be interesting is to look at novels
that were best selling that did NOT get a strong marketing push
and see what was it that made them be break outs?
tho i don't know off the top of my head which these novels
would be. i know Twilight had a strong marketing push for certain.

what about harry potter?

i honestly don't think "break outs" from midlist happens very
often at all.

Really interesting thread, and I think Cindy poses a great question. Not that I have any answers, but I think she's right about Harry Potter. Are there any others we can think of?

And honestly, I'm not trying to be all, "I agree with Cindy!" but I think Holly Black's Curse Workers series is amazing and I've been surprised it hasn't been talked about more.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: KeithM on February 02, 2012, 03:30 AM
Julia's Kitchen is a book that I definitely feel like more people should know. Brenda Ferber is from the chicago area which is how I know the book. Julia's Kitchen was her first book and the way it unfolds is really impressive and just overall the whole book is masterfully done--it's about a girl who's mother and sister die in a house fire, and boy could that be a very difficult story to write, somehow Julia's Kitchen manages it really deftly. 



Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Woods on February 02, 2012, 04:57 AM
But I thought the whole point of the thread was that we were talking about books we thought deserved more success? Not scientifically or anything but, you know, just our opinions.

That is exactly what I meant.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: CC on February 02, 2012, 06:35 AM
There's a adult novel I read a year or so ago, called, A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, by Lauren Grodstein that was probably the best book I read that year. Phenonminal. Themes of jealousy woven in. I'm pretty sure it got a ton of good reviews, but I don't know if anyone read it, and I doubt it was a bestseller. I'd never heard of it, only stumbled across it on a library shelf. Compare that to another book I read that year, Anita Shreve's, RESCUE. Flat, one-dimensional characters, cliched. It had a massive displays and table placement at bookstores -- because Shreve's a "name."

That's too bad, imo. That name wins over content. I mean, of course it does, but it's too bad.

I felt the same way about P.E. Ryan's YA, THE SAINTS OF AUGUSTINE. Really great book about two friends, one gay, one straight. It blew WILL GRAYSON out of the water on all fronts. But I doubt very many people (outside of BB) read it, while GRAYSON was a bestseller.  
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: olmue on February 02, 2012, 06:49 AM
I want ecb's books to be all over the bestseller lists. And RJ Anderson's. And Brandon Sanderson's MG Alcatraz series. Those are three series whose progress as a series I really want to see to the end!!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Linda on February 02, 2012, 07:06 AM
The Other Felix, by Keir Graff.

A wonderful younger mid-grade. I just reviewed it:

http://www.lindazinnen.com/2012/01/other-felix.html (http://www.lindazinnen.com/2012/01/other-felix.html)


Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: andracill on February 02, 2012, 07:15 AM
Very interesting thread.  I tend to read books which aren't typically bestsellers, though I love dystopic books (long before the trend), so some of my favorites followed the trend.  A couple of my personal favorites (who I rarely see mentioned anywhere) are Donna Frietas (I've loved all of her three books so far -- each a stand-alone) and Justina Chen Headley (also writes stand-alones).  Of course, both of these write contemporary, so they won't get the buzz or attention that a dystopic or urban fantasy might.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: C.K. on February 02, 2012, 07:33 AM
CC, I'm adding A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY and THE SAINTS OF AUGUSTINE to my TBR list!

Quote
That's too bad, imo. That name wins over content. I mean, of course it does, but it's too bad.


It's a shame. Seems to be the same in the music and movie industries  :(

Quote
i honestly don't think "break outs" from midlist happens very often at all

It does seem that mostly it's the books that publishers throw the most money and attention at that hit it big. I'm not sure about Harry Potter's initial marketing push but didn't it get a really tiny advance, like, 2,000 or 3,000 pounds?
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 02, 2012, 07:56 AM
HP got a tiny advance in the UK, but Arthur A. Levine Books acquired it at auction for publication on this side of the pond - just over $100k, which I believe was a record at the time. Melissa Anelli's HARRY, A HISTORY gives a pretty interesting rundown of its launch in the States - it seems like it got a BIG push, particularly from Arthur himself.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: CC on February 02, 2012, 08:04 AM
CC, I'm adding A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY and THE SAINTS OF AUGUSTINE to my TBR list!

C.K., tell me what you think of A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY if you do read it. I found it riviting. I didn't like the ending as much as I wanted but otherwise, a stunner. Grodstein's voice is that sort of Curtis Sittenfeld, literary-ish thing, but maybe a little more accessible. I kept picturing Harrison Ford as the main character.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: 217mom on February 02, 2012, 08:29 AM
To the thread question-
Oh, so many...
And don't get me started on the books that shouldn't be best sellers, but are.

I seem to not run with the current in my reading taste.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: mrh on February 02, 2012, 09:31 AM
THE SAINTS OF AUGUSTINE.   

This strikes me as a title that could have doomed the book.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: AuntyBooks on February 02, 2012, 11:30 AM
Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton. You should all go out and buy a copy now. Buy *two* copies in fact. You will want to give one away.

 :laugh eab
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: xiaotien on February 02, 2012, 12:20 PM

And honestly, I'm not trying to be all, "I agree with Cindy!" but I think Holly Black's Curse Workers series is amazing and I've been surprised it hasn't been talked about more.

please. agree with me whenever you'd like, anne! haha!

but seriously, not enough love out there for this series.
i believe because it IS so different than what's out there
right now in YA paranormal reads. i highly recommend it.

mrh. HA! i have bad memories of reading St. Augustine myself.
too funny.

mike, interesting. so in the uk (which i suspect also gives much
smaller advances) perhaps harry potter wasn't a "lead title"?
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Mike Jung on February 02, 2012, 12:53 PM
Cindy, I don't really know anything about British publishers and their tendencies with advances or lead titles, but you know, JKR has that proverbial story of being rejected by a bunch of publishers and being told nobody would want to read a book about a boy wizard and whatnot before getting picked up by Bloomsbury UK with a £2,500 advance. So she wasn't a debut author who landed a deal with a lot of fanfare or anything, but the galleys were passed around at Bologna just before the UK publication date. The Bloomsbury UK rights person gave a galley to Arthur, he read it on the plane home (as did a few other U.S. publishers), bidding war, record advance for a kidlit writer, and BAM, unprecedented, industry-changing, galactic explosion of success.

There's a transcript of Arthur's Leaky Cauldron interview at http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2006/0117-pottercast-anelli.html
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: ChristineSarmel on February 02, 2012, 03:06 PM
There's a adult novel I read a year or so ago, called, A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, by Lauren Grodstein that was probably the best book I read that year. Phenonminal. Themes of jealousy woven in. I'm pretty sure it got a ton of good reviews, but I don't know if anyone read it, and I doubt it was a bestseller. I'd never heard of it, only stumbled across it on a library shelf.

I don't know if it was a bestseller, but FRIEND OF THE FAMILY did get at least some press. I'm pretty sure it appeared on my phone as one of Bookpages - Books of the Day.

Sometimes it's interesting to see  what publicity reaches different people. I chat a lot about middle grade with my school librarian and inevitably there are books she thinks "everyone" is talking about and I've never heard of - and vice versa.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: AnneN on February 02, 2012, 03:08 PM
I remember the birth of "Harry Potter" as a phenomenon especially well because my friend had been in England and brought me back a copy of this book she said looked interesting, called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" -- and I looked at it and thought, hm, could be good, looks a little like madcap adventure for boys, and did not read it right away.  Then suddenly there was all this news about Harry Potter in this country, and I went back to the kids' bookshelves and dug out my old Philosopher's Stone and loved it!

On the broader topic, I was just by chance reading C. S. Lewis's 1961 "An Experiment in Criticism" (it was lying on the table at my daughter's violin lesson!) and found his distinction between "literary" and "unliterary" ways of reading very, very interesting.  Enthralling, even.  You could say (grumpily) that publishers these days are pushing books that cater to "unliterary" ways of reading (reading for the Event [aka "plot"], reading as one-time speedy consumption) -- but of course Lewis was open to the possibility that books in scorned, "lowbrow" genres could turn out to be books a literary reader might also find wonderful and worth re-reading.

Anyway, the lesson ended before I had finished the book, so I'll have to wait until next week for more deep thoughts on literariness and bestsellers!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: CC on February 02, 2012, 04:18 PM
I don't know if it was a bestseller, but FRIEND OF THE FAMILY did get at least some press. I'm pretty sure it appeared on my phone as one of Bookpages - Books of the Day.

Sometimes it's interesting to see  what publicity reaches different people. I chat a lot about middle grade with my school librarian and inevitably there are books she thinks "everyone" is talking about and I've never heard of - and vice versa.

Agreed. It may be one of those things that I just loved it so much that I wanted the entire world to read it and was perturbed that I'd only found it on a dusty library shelf -- you know, nothing surrounding it to say, This Rocks!!   :eh2

This strikes me as a title that could have doomed the book.

Also probably true!  :slaphead:
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Amaris Glass on February 02, 2012, 04:29 PM
Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton. You should all go out and buy a copy now. Buy *two* copies in fact. You will want to give one away.

 :laugh eab

I second all of this. I actually have given copies away. It has become one of my go-to books when people ask for recs. SO GOOD!!!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Joni on February 02, 2012, 06:11 PM
On the broader topic, I was just by chance reading C. S. Lewis's 1961 "An Experiment in Criticism" (it was lying on the table at my daughter's violin lesson!) and found his distinction between "literary" and "unliterary" ways of reading very, very interesting.  Enthralling, even.  ...

Anyway, the lesson ended before I had finished the book, so I'll have to wait until next week for more deep thoughts on literariness and bestsellers!

Please do, Anne - that DOES sound fascinating!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: m_stiefvater on February 02, 2012, 06:25 PM
I'm weighing in not because I'm mentioned in the thread (although thank you for that, guys!) but because this issue is one that I find really hard to get out of my head when I'm reading. If I read a book that isn't a bestseller and I think SHOULD be, it will drive me crazy until I can figure out what went awry. MOST of the time, I can figure it out. For instance, I adored KETURAH AND LORD DEATH, but it's not going to be a book everyone will adore. I would not give it to my mom and my dad and my sister and my vet. Not because I didn't love it enough, but because I'm sure they won't have as passionate a response as I would. Likewise, I loved SHIP BREAKER, and I did try to give it to everyone . . . and was incredibly disappointed when some of them found it too dark, some of them found it too slow, some of them found it too heavy on the world-building, whatever. I also adored The Monstrumologist, but it was too gory for a lot of people. I love lots of books, but only some of them are bestsellers. The rest are just too specific to my particular tastes for them to be loved by enough people to hit the bestseller list.

A bestseller is not the world's best book. It's not even the world's favorite books. It's merely a book that most everyone can find something to like, just a little. It's a book that has enough universal appeal that you can give it to your mom or your therapy group or your cat walker and be pretty sure they won't be offended, bored, or too distressed by it (generally). That's why there's no "bestseller formula." Because that's the only common denominator -- that a lot of people found it worth buying. Not worth loving.

Personally, I'm okay with this. There are so many other versions of success that don't involve the bestseller list — it's such an arbitrary thing, anyway, changing numbers from week to week, so a bestseller in January is a much weaker seller, for instance, than a bestseller in October. And it's not even truly a bestseller list. If you want to have a good time, have a friend with Bookscan show you the top 100 selling childrens' books for the week. Bookscan tracks actual books sold, and you can see how the list is not even real — we're all being outsold by titles that have "grandfathered" off the bestseller list because they've been on there for so long . . . like A Wrinkle in Time.

For me, the thing that gets my panties in a twist is when books aren't doing well at a much more basic level because of some sort of mishandling — bad cover, no ARCs at BEA, bad timing, crummy placement. There are those sorts of injustices going on all the time in the business, but that's a bit less flashy looking than "WHY IS THIS BOOK on the bestseller list?"

(and by the way, THE SCORPIO RACES has not hit the bestseller list, unlike my other books — I knew when I wrote it it was for a narrower niche than my Shiver books, and I was totally okay with that, I wrote it for me. I'm pleasantly surprised by how well it IS doing, and if I told you the numbers on it versus my bestseller list books, you'd laugh and shake your head . . . because they're nearly the same. Really, truly, the list is not a measure of a book's commercial success).
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Karen K on February 02, 2012, 06:38 PM
A bestseller is not the world's best book. It's not even the world's favorite books. It's merely a book that most everyone can find something to like, just a little. It's a book that has enough universal appeal that you can give it to your mom or your therapy group or your cat walker and be pretty sure they won't be offended, bored, or too distressed by it (generally). That's why there's no "bestseller formula." Because that's the only common denominator -- that a lot of people found it worth buying. Not worth loving.

But what about the bestsellers that a lot of people *do* love passionately, like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games or Twilight? Even if many bestsellers appeal to the lowest common denominator, there are still book phenomenons out there that seem to defy explanation...

Also, I subscribe to the Nelson Literary Agency newsletter, and I found this line from their latest "What's Hot" section by Sara Megibow pertinent:

Quote
Bestsellers (duh, I know, but it was a huge topic and worth mentioning); books with huge hooks - something that will sell oodles and oodles of copies and be formative to literature like TWILIGHT, HUNGER GAMES, etc.

Are hooks all there is to it? I mean, how the heck do you tell?

Karen
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: m_stiefvater on February 02, 2012, 06:41 PM
But what about the bestsellers that a lot of people *do* love passionately, like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games or Twilight? Even if many bestsellers appeal to the lowest common denominator, there are still book phenomenons out there that seem to defy explanation...

Karen

Oh, I didn't mean to say that universal love wasn't possible! I think that the very best bestsellers work on multiple levels. There is the very straight-forward story, the bare minimum easy-to-get plot (which is often "hooky", but is at least easy to identify and sympathize with) and then there are deeper levels that satisfy the more demanding readers (think Oprah book club choices here, books that can withstand critique and discussion, etc.). The quieter stuff and the more genre stuff and the more complicated, difficult, specific stuff often gets away by being a level beneath a greater, simpler arc.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: writerjenn on February 03, 2012, 06:57 PM
Some books that I love, and wish got more* love from the world:

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner
The Day Before, by Lisa Schroeder
Hate List, by Jennifer Brown
Three Rivers Rising, by Jame Richards
But I Love Him, by Amanda Grace
Secrets of Truth & Beauty, by Megan Frazer
Struts & Frets, by Jon Skovron
Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta
Liar, by Justine Larbalestier
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr

*or even more, for those that have done fairly well in the marketplace. I don't think any of these have been bestsellers, though I don't really keep up with the lists--so if any of them did make the lists, hurrah!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Karen de Foy on February 03, 2012, 07:53 PM
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.

I love, love, love this book.
It's one of the few children's books I've read in the past few years that I think deserves to become a classic. I don't know how it's selling, but I'm curious to see whether it's a book that will slowly become more and more popular, just because it's so good.

Really. Please read it!

Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: AuntyBooks on February 03, 2012, 07:59 PM
Thanks, Amaris! :tongue2
 eab
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: MysteryRobin on February 03, 2012, 08:06 PM
Thanks for the post, Maggie! It's so interesting to know that "bestseller" doesn't necessarily correlate to a book's commercial success... :)
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: m_stiefvater on February 04, 2012, 06:43 AM
Some books that I love, and wish got more* love from the world:

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta


I need to reread these two - they both have places of love on my shelf, and it's been so long.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Jayca on February 04, 2012, 10:24 AM
The quieter stuff and the more genre stuff and the more complicated, difficult, specific stuff often gets away by being a level beneath a greater, simpler arc.

Yes, love this observation. Books that have that overall, "simpler" hook and story arc but also a lot of great stuff that's more subtle and not picked up on by every reader...these books capitalize on the best of both worlds and attract a broad readership...and, one would think, are the most likely to achieve Best Seller status.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Barbara Etlin on February 04, 2012, 10:05 PM
I can't answer this because I have no idea how well most books are selling. I could list books I love but I don't know whether or not they're doing well; and, frankly, it's none of my business. I just wish the authors well and write nice reviews on my blog if I have time.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Leah on March 03, 2012, 05:47 PM
If I had to pick just one: SPLIT by Swati Avasthi. After I finished reading it, my first thought was, "This reminds me of SPEAK." Then I was speaking to Swati and found out that reading SPEAK was what made her go into YA fiction, and my head just exploded. In a good way.

Also The Demon's Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. As I understand it, this book was actually intended to hit the bestseller list, but the publisher gave it an awful cover first time around and it didn't happen. They rejacketed the paperbacks, but I guess by then it was too late.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: MysteryRobin on March 03, 2012, 06:43 PM
gosh.

anything by francisco stork ...
Just finished Marcello in the Real World and am reading The Last Summer of the Death Warriors - I totally second this. I might even like Death Warriors more which I didn't think was possible. :)
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: AnneB on March 03, 2012, 06:49 PM
Ashes, by Ilsa Bick.
The Scorpio Races, by, um, can't think of the author's name, Magg Something...
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Kell on March 03, 2012, 07:42 PM
I've been talking up Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis. I would have been in love with this book as a kid and I'm in love with it now.

Love Where the Mountain Meets the Moon! I smiled throughout that book.
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Amaris Glass on March 03, 2012, 10:14 PM

Also The Demon's Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. As I understand it, this book was actually intended to hit the bestseller list, but the publisher gave it an awful cover first time around and it didn't happen. They rejacketed the paperbacks, but I guess by then it was too late.

This puzzles and intrigues me...are you saying that publishers intend for some of their books to be bestsellers, as opposed to all of them? Is that something they can control or influence in any way, or is it just a matter of how much marketing they put behind it? I overheard an author once talking about how the editor she didn't go with was asking her if she'd listed and when she said no, the editor was like, "You'd be listing if you'd gone with us." Like it was something she could just...make happen. Is that a thing that can be (and is) done? *is fascinated*

(and speaking of SRB's books, I think the British covers are amazing)
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Amaris Glass on March 03, 2012, 10:17 PM
Thanks, Amaris! :tongue2
 eab

I only speak the truth.   :yup
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: macdibble on March 03, 2012, 10:32 PM
The Ranger in Danger Series (http://"http://www.fivemile.com.au/diablos-doom.html"). Which is based on actual experiences of the Park Rangers who put their lives on the line every day to protect endangered species.

It is a children's choose your own adventure series and some of the proceeds of the sale of these books goes to support widows and families of rangers killed in the line of duty.

Has there ever been a series of books written for a more worthy cause? 
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Karen K on March 03, 2012, 11:15 PM
This puzzles and intrigues me...are you saying that publishers intend for some of their books to be bestsellers, as opposed to all of them? Is that something they can control or influence in any way, or is it just a matter of how much marketing they put behind it? I overheard an author once talking about how the editor she didn't go with was asking her if she'd listed and when she said no, the editor was like, "You'd be listing if you'd gone with us." Like it was something she could just...make happen. Is that a thing that can be (and is) done? *is fascinated*

Yes, publishers do buy certain books they believe will very likely hit the bestseller lists, and try hard to make this happen. These are the books which receive huge advances and corresponding marketing budgets. Publishers can't promote all books equally, and so there are always a few lead titles they hope will be substantial commercial successes. This isn't to say this strategy always works, of course, since I've heard of several authors whose books were expected to be bestsellers and weren't, which means they lost their publisher a lot of money and were considered a "failure" through little fault of their own.

And on the flip side, there are those books with more modest advances that rise into the sales stratosphere one way or another, even though they weren't originally identified as blockbusters just waiting to happen. Usually that sort of thing starts with word of mouth, followed by publishers realizing they should promote this book more. And of course I've seen BOTH things happen at one publisher, where their marketing team jumped ship from a "sure thing" book to a "smaller" book that was getting tons more buzz. I feel for the author who had the "sure thing" book that wasn't...

Karen
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: CC on March 04, 2012, 05:36 AM
Also The Demon's Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. As I understand it, this book was actually intended to hit the bestseller list, but the publisher gave it an awful cover first time around and it didn't happen. They rejacketed the paperbacks, but I guess by then it was too late.

I haven't read them, but I assumed they were bestsellers -- because I heard them being talked about all the time. But your post made me rethink that. I did hear about them about all the time, but now I realize it was all from the Nelson Lit blog I used to follow, cuz that was her agent!!
Title: Re: Books that, in your opinion, should be best-sellers but aren't.
Post by: Leah on March 04, 2012, 10:10 AM
Quote
This puzzles and intrigues me...are you saying that publishers intend for some of their books to be bestsellers, as opposed to all of them?

Everything Karen said about marketing is exactly right, as far as I know. Not just that, but the NYT, for example, doesn't even track the sales of all books; only those it has been notified are potential bestsellers. (Yes, this blew my mind too the first time I heard it.) And it requires a minimum first printing, as well as, in most cases, prominent bookstore placement (which publishers pay for) for a book to have even a chance of hitting the bestseller list.

I'm not sure, but I think this is why you sometimes see bestselling books getting cover changes. Because once the publisher has spent that much money on promotion, even a bestselling book can be thought to be underselling.

Quote
I haven't read them, but I assumed they were bestsellers -- because I heard them being talked about all the time.

I think they did get talked about a lot on the book blogosphere (another promotional tool to get a book on the bestseller list is a very large ARC distribution). But even though the book blogs loom so large in our minds as authors, as far as I can tell, they don't necessarily translate to bookstore sales. I read somewhere that about 50% of book sales are impulse buys, which is probably why book placement in stores is so crucial.