Abby's Inklings: How books get rated - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Abby's Inklings: How books get rated

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The Lookout Staff Writer Abby Cowels

Abby Cowels

By Abby Cowels
Staff Writer

I go to stores with shelves of freshly printed books for sale. Skimming the titles, I see that, more often than not, the titles are crowned with “No. 1 New York Times Best Seller.”

I explored what it takes to become a Times best-selling author to better understand why that is, and the process to which a novel is deemed a “Times Best Seller.”

Being a best seller has little to do with consistent book sales based on demand from the readers. In other words, it does not take exceptional talent, originality or writing skills to make it to the top of the Times list of best sellers.

“The Fifty Shades Trilogy” by E.L. James made it to the top in 2012, and it is a lightly edited, hardly more coherent version of “Master of the Universe,” a BDSM fanfiction based on the “Twilight Series.”

That is not to say that we haven’t seen more moving titles, such as “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, gaining attention while sitting at No. 1 for 80 consecutive weeks in 2017.

The trick is selling a certain amount of a newly published book, within a particular timeframe, based on its publication date. So, selling a lot in a short period of time is what gets an author to the top.

According to the New York Times Reader Center, getting to No. 1 of that list is highly competitive, and it gives the author an advantage of recognition within the industry; to be seen by publicists.

Although, with how redundant the title of “No. 1 New York Times Best Seller,” I have a hunch that it often goes unnoticed by readers. That is unless the reader is looking to employ the author.

The data process in which the Times uses to determine who gets to the top of that list has been scrutinized for some time.

Primarily because these sales are not to readers alone; sales to larger distribution companies are also considered. So, there is a lack of impartiality when it comes to these sales.

This does not accurately measure the audience’s satisfactions and opinions, leading to a false sense of trust. This, overall, contradicts what it is supposed to represent; that the book was so well received, it sold thousands of copies in its first week of publication.



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