How To Get Noticed In A Downpour

It’s raining books. Yes, it is. Some three million books were published last year. Nightstands and shelves are stacked with books, digital and otherwise. A plethora of books is good news for book lovers. Choice is always a good thing. It also means a bevy of authors are busy vying for the attention of the book buying public. Most of us are struggling to stand out from the crowd, trying in vain to garner reviews which will influence all those lovely bibliophiles out there to part with their money. It’s a cut throat book-selling world to be sure. But how far is too far to go in reaching for elusive bestseller status?

Debunking The Bestseller: This post came to my attention through one of my yahoo groups. Soran Kaplan defends his decision to use a company called ResultSource to help him hit the bestseller lists with his book Leapfrogging from day one. He addresses the nebulous distinction of gaming the system versus working the system. I don’t even know what to make of this…I had no idea you could purchase these kind of services.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Novels: Susan Mallory answers questions about marketing and her decision to develop a Review Squad. Free books to two hundred of her lucky readers in exchange for an honest review. On Amazon the more reviews you have the easier it is to find you. Fair enough but, um, isn’t this a little like asking your friends or ‘a sure thing’ for a review? And aren’t these the kind of reviews we’re supposed to ignore?

Is it wrong or sketchy to influence public opinion? Or in this case lists and algorithms? It happens all the time in every aspect of life. Perhaps the real question should be do we buy books based on popularity? Of course, we do. That’s why there are lists. And Goodreads. Do we see a title on a bestseller list and figure it must be worth a little investigation because, well, it’s on a bestseller list? Do we wonder how they got there? Are positive reviews by readers just another way to pass on good news? Kind of like online word-of-mouth, only not really?

What say you?

* What follows is more preachy business about Freed to Read Week and one of my favorite authors.

The river flowed both ways.

Above is the first line of The Diviners written by Margaret Laurence. I should come clean and confess to loving Margaret Laurence to whom I was first introduced to in high school English class by way of her novel, The Stone Angel. I went on to discover A Jest of God, and The Fire-Dwellers. But it was her book The Diviners which grabbed my heart and never let go. Morag Gunn is a protagonist like no other.

Blurb:

The culmination and completion of Margaret Laurence’s celebrated Manawaka cycle, The Diviners is an epic novel.

This is the powerful story of an independent woman who refuses to abandon her search for love. For Morag Gunn, growing up in a small Canadian prairie town is a toughening process – putting distance between herself and a world that wanted no part of her. But in time, the aloneness that had once been forced upon her becomes a precious right – relinquished only in her overwhelming need for love. Again and again, Morag is forced to test her strength against the world – and finally achieves the life she had determined would be hers.

The Diviners has been acclaimed by many critics as the outstanding achievement of Margaret Laurence’s writing career. In Morag Gunn, Laurence has created a figure whose experience emerges as that of all dispossessed people in search of their birthright, and one who survives as an inspirational symbol of courage and endurance.

The Diviners earned Margaret Laurence her second Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1974. It also drew great criticism from religious and conservative groups. They lobbied to have it banned from schools and libraries.

Writer Timothy Findley observed: “no other writer in Canadian history suffered more at the hands of these professional naysayers, book-banners and censors than Laurence.”

They hoped to ban The Diviners “in defence of decency”. I am eternally grateful they didn’t succeed.

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