The ingredients for bestsellerdom

By Carmen Comment

It’s an age-old question, how to turn a book into a bestseller (especially if there hasn’t been a massive pre-publication campaign to boost such efforts in a more-or-less artificial manner — the most recent example being Time Warner UK’s upcoming campaign for Mark Billingham’s next book, BURIED), and the Independent’s Danuta Kean thinks she has the answer. What is it? Oh, how about being nice and professional:

[Such authors] are prepared to wait until the last fan’s copy of their latest book is signed, and to visit libraries, schools and book festivals in the back of beyond to talk to tiny audiences of enthusiastic readers who will spread the word about them. The result is huge loyalty among booksellers and librarians who are willing to push their work.

And what if you’re just not able to be nice, will it hurt your career? Sure looks that way. “There are a handful of authors who are notorious and whose sales have never amounted to the promise of their first book,” says one anonymous publisher. “It isn’t a coincidence. You don’t want to push someone’s book when they are nasty.”

Of course, one can’t help but think that this is an extremely facile way to look at things. How else to explain the legions of supremely nice, professional authors who never get anywhere and the habitual bestsellers who make the lives of everyone around them — but especially those within their publishing house — an utter living hell? (Anyone else have fond memories of the Golden Dartboards handed out by the Media Escort Network to authors behaving badly on tour?) But it’s hard to argue against being professional in any discipline — and that doesn’t just apply to writers.