Is Bestseller Status Being Bought?

Here's my new plan for literary world domination: Strip the tape off of my change jar, which now reads "Starbucks $" and replace it with one that says "New York Times bestseller $." And set up a Paypal account for contributions, while I'm at it.

While I'm not so sure this would do the trick (not on my budget, anyway) Seth Godin's blog post, Payola, indicates that highly-esteemed -- and often financially rewarding -- New York Times bestseller status can easily be bought.

I've heard of this happening, and I've also heard that many books (romances in particular) which sell more copies than the listmakers are routinely ignored by the New York Times. As a member of the reading public, how do you feel about this? And how much are you influenced as you select your books by the bestseller status of the author?


Edana said…
Wow, I had no idea that happened. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it--when I go out to buy a new book, I'm not looking for a "NYT Bestseller" across the top. I buy my books based on reviews I've read, recommendations from friends or family, and authors that I know I enjoy reading. So, while I'm not buying a book based on that status, it's perfectly possible that the people making the recommendations are. Though I'm rarely disappointed, I don't like the idea that people can pay for such status in the literary world. At the same time, I think I understand the NYT's desire to ignore those books that are more popular (like you said, especially romances)--they want to cater to a more elite crowd, for lack of a better word, and many of that elite crowd may be turned off by a glowing review of what they might consider trashy romance, and therefore no longer listen to what they New York Times has to say. I suppose it's slightly comforting to know that they have some sort of standards and they'll recommend real literature instead of whatever's popular--I remember high school far too well to forget that "popular" does not mean intellectual, stimulating, or enjoyable.
I'm not sure that any list whose number one bestseller is a book called Sh*t My Dad Says (which I loved, so I'm not slamming it) can claim it's elevating the public's taste with its placements. Also, if they were planning to do this, then maybe they shouldn't call it the NYT Bestseller list but the List of Books the NYT Thinks People Should Be Reading. To most folks "bestselling" means those which sold the most copies, which is why a lot of people in the industry prefer to look at the USA Today list.

As for me, I would be honored to appear on either one, and the Times list is a goal I've dreamed of (along with most other authors) since I began writing. As long as I don't have to personally buy my way onto it. :)
Mylène said…
It's funny, but I have never dreamed of being on the NYT bestseller list. It just seems so unlikely, given the quiet kinds of books I write. I consider buying books on the list, but don't buy them just because they're there. I consult my own tastes, and like Edana, rely on reviews and recommendations. I also read the sample chapter(s) on my Kindle. (It's amazing how many bestsellers I end up NOT buying after sampling them on Kindle.)

The books I love the most (like anything by William Trevor) simply don't show up on the list, and never will.

BookSense picks make more sense to me. They have nothing to do with payola, or who your agent is. The list is made up by booksellers, people who read and love books of all kinds. Some picks are bestsellers, some are not. My work has appeared on that list. And that, my friends, was a dream come true.
jeanna Thornton said…
I, too, never consult the NYT Bestseller simply because my taste are not general; I would probably only like 5-10% so why bother. What I do consistently is: read reviews from blogs and check out the book on my own, usually by googling the author. I have a stack from BTO! Btw, all excellent choices!

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