“No Irish need apply”
Well, we’ve been through that form of discrimination.
We’ve had ‘no blacks need apply’
We’ve had various other forms, especially in publishing.
The newest is no Indies or even genre need apply.
It always seems to work out SO well, that it was inevitable…
You know, it’s always a right royal pain in the butt to have to establish if your enthusiasm is being a trifle misplaced. Whether that really is Beluga Caviar at two thousand dollars an ounce or whether it is buckshot softened with fish-oil you’re being offered as a great treat. Without the label on the tin, it is possible to be confused.
Which comes down to how do you know you can trust the label? Well, here’s a clue, which I don’t just tell everyone, but as you are all willing initiates into the dark side (as writing is known among us aficionados) if you look in the small print on the side of the tin and it says (in Cyrillic script) : Prop. Dread Cthulhu and Assoc., product of the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, and it smells like that, it really is caviar. Trust me. The Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn brand is best.
Otherwise you can just as well make your own with buckshot and shark-liver oil.
Ahem. Having done my bit for the conservation of the sturgeon in Caspian and Black Sea, as well as having supported dentistry, I will now continue in a slightly more rational tone.
I said ‘slightly’ (just before any of you get pissy.). What I was talking about was the various ‘Imprimaturs’ giving official consent for people to like a book or a movie or piece of music. Before you tell me you don’ need no steekin’ imprimiwhatsit, keep in mind that a lot of people do. And yes, they are necessary (the lot of people, not the imprimatur) for authors to make a living.
Of course, there is word-of-mouth (the finest hallmark of quality) and advertising as well as marketing, by means fair, foul and financial. But you’re selling a brand – your name, and it helps if you can tie that to another brand the public know more widely than your name, and possibly trust for qualities that public is likely to enjoy.
Of course the ‘possibly trust’ is key. Imprimatur Brands like Hugo Awards are now regarded by the relatively few who know them as severely tainted, by quite a lot of the possible audience. But they still have their niche following, and if you sell into that niche, they may be useful. Any publicity is better than none, if you’re not going to lose readers by it. But brands – at all levels, from author to brand-of-brands — are rather like living things: It’s a race between growth and death. When they stop growing death starts catching up. It can take a while, because even if you’ve trashed your brand, not everyone has heard about it.
Of course the key with your brand – or brand-of-brands (Baen is an example of brand-of-brands that works as multiplier) is that it has to be in touch with its audience and their tastes. Which is great when you are, when the brand (and especially the brand-of-brand) keeps up with the changes and means you make better living. I was reading how Rotten Tomatoes has assumed a major role as a brand-of-brands in the movie world – with its aggregation of various publications and critics’ rankings.
The problem of course is a similar one to that that the New York Times bestseller list – which relies on sales from (supposedly) a secret list of booksellers. That’s a way of subsampling, and can be quite effective, so long as those booksellers are effective at targeting the entire spectrum of the US reading public. To put it broadly, if the bookshops sampled were all in one kind of area – say near liberal Arts college campuses – well, that’s going to mean books loved by… say serving military (a HUGE market. Certainly for me: A lot of being a soldier is long periods of boredom, followed by short period which made boredom really attractive. I read a lot of books in the boring bits) are under-sampled. Chances are the college kids are going to find the recommendations spot on, the Military way off. Rotten Tomatoes apparently skews heavily left in its sampling. Hollywood – which also skews the same way, respect it. Unfortunately that’s about a quarter of the US audience – Not a great ‘in touch’ recipe for a brand-of-brands. Movies like the new Ghostbusters did well on Rotten Tomatoes – and terribly at the box-office in the US. I see problems – and if ‘in country’ sales are going to remain relevant, either they’ll have to change their sampling – or the public will find another aggregator, with Rotten Tomatoes losing value.
Speaking of the NYT bestseller list and being out-of-touch – with the reading public always skewing to buying more of what is cheap – Mass Market Paperbacks, e-books… The NYT has decided to ‘improve’ its bestseller lists.
“Our major lists will remain, including: Top 15 Hardcover Fiction, Top 15 Hardcover Nonfiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Nonfiction, Top 10 Children’s Hardcover Picture Books, Top 10 Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover Chapter Books, Top 10 Children’s Young Adult Hardcover Chapter Books, and Top 10 Children’s Series. Several more including Paperback Trade Fiction, Paperback Nonfiction, Business, Sports, Science, and Advice Miscellaneous will remain online.”
Hmm. Pure genius. That’s DEFINITELY going to help their brand-of-brand value.
Traditional publishing, increasingly reliant on Hardcover sales will be pleased. I don’t think anyone else will be. Genre sales, and particularly Indies will have now never make the NYT list. No romance – but literary hardbacks…
Anyone want a bet we’re going to see the NYT Bestseller list decline as brand-of-brands?
I wonder what will replace it? That could be something of real value to help selling books, if it is actually in touch with the general readership.