I was rather looking forward to writing an essay today about the history of the American Bestseller. However, my work was fairly dependent upon a certain book being here at the Chapters bookstore (my personal research center). Now I am here... have my coffee in front of me. I am set. But the book is not in stock!
Now I am just staring into space.....
The book is called Making The List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999 and it is written by Michael Korda. It is an excellent resource. I am familiar with the book because a few years ago, I wrote the very essay I wanted to re-write today. And when I wrote it I made great use of Korda’s data. I submitted my essay to a website which no longer posts that particular section, and not having saved it in my personaI files, I’ve ended up losing the original work. It was just a sort of survey of the way bestsellers have grouped themselves over the past twenty to thirty years or so.
The amazing thing is observing how certain authors have really dominated the bestseller lists in our modern times. I am thinking primarily of authors like Danielle Steele and Stephen King.
The reason why I wanted to rewrite, and re-examine the data is because female authors are really muscling out the men on bestseller lists as of late, and I find this interesting, in a noteworthy sense of the word.
One need not even mention the phenomenon of J.K. Rowling’s stories [reportedly, she made $44 million in the first 24 hours of the new Potter book being on sale] but Danielle Steele continues to sell books like crazy also.
A recent study, which examined 50 years of the New York Times bestseller list has found female authors rising to take half of the top spots in the past 20 years. One newspaper (The Telegraph) claims the jump in popularity for woman authors has been due to the proliferation of book clubs which tend to consist mostly of women.
A gallery of Oprah’s favorite books from her website, which has long been a popular resource for book clubs, lists ten female authors to seven male.
There was a time when women had to assume fictitious male names in order for a publisher to consider their work! There are so many examples, but I guess I think most readily of “George” Eliot or “George” Sand or the Bronte sisters, who assumed male names. Of course, back then there was nothing hilarious about that, but today?
YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY!
The reverse scenario is about to emerge!
My prediction is that if current trends continue, male authors will soon be forced to assume feminine identities in order to boost sales.
Our store shelves will then be filled with stuff by...
Louise de Bernieres
....I think you get the idea.
The amazing thing is that the phenomenon of the bestseller has always fascinated me in an almost inverse proportion to how much I read them.
Because I don’t. I really don’t read too many bestsellers, but I do think about them a lot, and I always wonder WHY people are reading them.
One day I will re-write my essay, and present it here.