Monday, March 19, 2012

Just a little trip to Barnes & Noble

To write a book that sells, take a look at what people are buying.

Or so I've been told.  Research the sales trends and develop your "brand."  Yes, your "brand."  My objections to that tactic number in the thousands and could take up multiple blog posts on their own but today I thought I would try something novel...pardon the pun.  I thought I'd actually try out that axiom and take a look at what people are buying.

I did this while in Barnes & Noble today.  Granted, I was there on an off time and the survey results of one store on one day are by no means indicative of overall text sales but this all just done in the name of selfish science, right?  So I meandered.  I wandered through absolutely barren aisles and finally found a few that were at least a bit populated.  I also took note of what the people sitting in the cafe were reading...I mean, those who weren't just messing around on their iPhones.  So what are people reading these days?  If my one store visit is any indication, the big breadwinners are:

1. Personal finance and investment
2. Self-help, pop psychology
3. Weight loss
4. "Christian Inspiration"
5. Fashion magazines
6. TV tie-ins
7. John Grisham novels

You've got to be fucking kidding me.  What a sorry state of affairs. 
I remember reading a interview with Norman Mailer back in graduate school when we were studying his Armies of the NightMailer predicted that novel reading would one day become extinct.  After all, how many people read poetry these days?  And Mailer did his part to axe the "Great American Novel" with his own brand of "literary non-ficiton."  Don't get me wrong, I loved the man and his writing, I just wish he hadn't gotten this one right.  When people are left to their own devices, this list above is really best that they can come up with?  Really?  I'm dying to find the time to get to many books in my stack.  Yet these people choose to spend their own reading time on such's enough to make me want to blow my top.

I know, I know.  I shouldn't carp, I shouldn't moan, I shouldn't spit sour grapes when instead I should feel fortunate that anyone in this society reads anything.  After all, who am I to be the judge?  I read comic books.  I have no right to demonize Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart or any other corporate entity that homogenizes the written word.  They're trying to survive, respond to market forces, and just generally give the people what they want.  More than this, I need to review that first sentence of the post.  This is all about finding out what sells.

So if I can't beat them, I should join them, right?  That logic not withstanding, can you really imagine me writing anything that would fit into say, "Christian Inspiration?"  Hmmm...
"Still Back There: a Jon Nichols Joint."  Because Left Behind was taken.
Now that might actually be an idea.  My own spin on Left Behind...which are basically Tom Clancy books spun as fundy morality plays.  That could work.  I could even do them as a parody without coming off that way to my intended targets.  Something to think about...

In the meantime, I'll keep carrying on my little fantasy of a 21st Century monastery.  Keeping safe my copies of books by Franz Kafka, Philip K. Dick, and Don Delilo.  Arranging them on my shelves while blasting NPR.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, LisaL said: "Keep writing your own good words! We librarians buy books differently than bookstores, we decide what comes off the shelf differently too!"

    Thanks, Lisa! Thank you, Lisa! You're right. I could never write for anyone really but myself. And a big thank you to all you librarians! As Neil Gaiman says, "Google will bring you 1,000 answers. A librarian will bring you the correct one."


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