Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How to Manufacture a Bestseller in Three Easy Steps!

Why was this post on the Huffington Post?

The article is about how Tim Ferris' book, The 4-Hour Work Week, got on the New York Times bestseller list, and other lists, so many he feels the need to list them out, proudly. Oh wait, I should list the subtitle, too: "Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich." As you can imagine without even clicking over, it's an inspiring tale.

My problem... well, I have quite a few. First of all, the book was published by Random House, with the paperback by Crown Business. So don't get your hopes up that this is a little-book-that-could tale. It's not. It's about how something destined to be a bestseller in a messed up, elitist publishing world that favors oversized corporate publishers BECAME a bestseller. Kind of a non-starter, really.

And the book was written to be a bestseller. I know it's a business book, not literature, so the author wouldn't claim that it is an artistic book. But an article on how to create a bestseller? Not how to get your labor of love into the hands of more readers, but how to make money. With a book. Um - you're in the wrong business if this is your goal - sorry! And I always find it so odd when people create books based on marketing ideas. What can sell? This is just my ongoing squeamishness regarding books-as-products, which is a reality and exposes me as being too delicate. But hey, I work in publishing and I edit great books - I'm allowed to be squeamish about this kind of crass thinking in publishing.

The guy is obviously an ironic hipster type, and so his tone is hard to read. Whenever someone establishes that tone, they have a built-in defense if you question them. "That? Oh, THAT was a joke." So while I'm all for only checking email twice a day - a point one amazon reader found really helpful in his work life - I cannot get behind the overall idea of a person outsourcing as much work as possible so that s/he can travel, hang out, get out of the cube, etc... He talks about joining the New Rich, but it sounds like a get-rich quick scheme based on exploitation - what's "new" about that?

Here's how he got his book published:
My basic process is this: write proposal à get another author to help you get an A-list agent à agent refines proposal and helps you sell to a editor at a top publisher ideally after an auction

Amazing! So know someone who knows someone. And make that "someone" someone important and in a position of power and don't waste your time on talent or interests or ethics. Don't research who else the agent represents, who else the publisher publishes, just think of the bottom line: $$.

Fine, I am being a tad delicate.

The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I return to my initial point: Huffington Post? wtf? Are they trying to offer a diverse collection of writers? Why are they publishing a guy who is forwarding the conservative agenda of amassing personal fortune?

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