Yesterday the publicist for my book, a charming young woman named Katie, phoned me and with much excitement let slip the news that The Colony
is now a national bestseller. Technically, such info would come from my editor, but Katie is relatively new to the company, and has been an enthusiastic booster of the book, and we'd been talking about other matters, and suddenly she just blurted it out. So there you have it. Ta-da.
Of course, there are bestsellers and there are bestsellers. If ever you were curious about the infinite parsing and clever numerology of book bestsellerdom, I direct you to this handy primer on the matter, which ran in Slate several years ago. As you see, there are all manner of "bestsellers." In my case, the book has landed on the requisite number of regional bestsellers lists, as audited by various book associations, thus enabling my publisher to officially tag it a "National Bestseller." If you are curious ? and really, why wouldn't you be? ? my book is doing very well in the Northeast, Southern California, Hawaii (natch), and the Pacific Northwest (thank you, Powell's). It's still a bit too early to know if it will claw its way onto the ne plus ultra of lists, otherwise known as the New York Times Bestseller list, but here's hoping. No offense to the other folks, but that's the imprimatur authors crave.
(Let me interrupt this extended bit of solipsism and correct an oversight from yesterday's post. My officemate and collaborator, a six-year-old former seeing-eye dog named Kali, was upset that I failed to include a picture of her along with the account of her life. A fair point. Thus this image of her experiencing her first Manhattan snowfall:
Now, where were we? Ah yes, bookselling. Each year, about 195,000 new titles are published. (Worldwide, a book is published every thirty seconds.) Of late, there has been a slight decline in history titles (The Colony, of course, is tagged as history), and a slight uptick in biographies and memoirs ? let's blame Walter Isaacson and James Frey. Out of this woodpulp tsunami, the Times Book Review selects about 600 titles on which to weigh in critically. So, in one respect, being reviewed by the Times is an achievement unto itself, landing on their list notwithstanding. In fact, the morning several Sundays ago when I opened my paper to find their full page assessment of my book was, thus far, probably the highpoint of this whole long book slog. What had seemed, from the outside, a rather mysterious and impossible undertaking suddenly became absurdly straightforward. Want to be an author? Here's how:
1. Think of idea for book.
2. Do some reporting.
3. Write the book.
If the reporting and writing is solid, someone will want to publish it. And if the reporting and writing is engaging, someone will buy it. And if enough someones buy it, you'll probably make a list, somewhere, sometime, somehow.