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How Does A Book Become A Bestseller? Readers’ Mailbag April 21, 2017

In this week’s Mailbag I deal with a question about how a book written for a popular audience becomes a bestseller, specifically with regard to Misquoting Jesus, my book that has sold the best of all by far.   QUESTION: In your previous answer to me you indicated that what makes a bestseller, in the end of the day, is massive media attention.  My question now is what sparks this attention. In other words, why, out of all your books, did Misquoting Jesus receive a great attention from the media?   RESPONSE: Ha!  It’s a great question.  I’ll start by saying that if there were a sure-fire formula for how to get media attention, every author in the planet would do it and we would *all* be on the NY Times Bestseller list!  But the reality is that there are hundreds of books sold every day in English (I was told some years ago that it’s about 600 per day,  but I have no way of knowing if that is right or not; maybe someone [...]

My Interview on Fresh Air

As I have said before, every author who has done reasonably well selling trade books for a general audience knows that what drives sales is not the outstanding quality of a book -- lots of terrific books go nowhere in sales, and others that are truly lousy end up being bestsellers -- or in advertising. It's all about media attention. When it comes to radio, one of the very best, top-flight programs to land is Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I don't know this for a fact, but someone has told me that the show has 4.5 million listeners. That's a lot. I have been on Terry Gross six times now, and have enjoyed it immensely each time. She is absolutely fantastic as an interviewer. She's smart, insightful, and curious. She knows how to ask the right questions. She knows how to direct a conversation. She lets her guest talk. She makes her guest feel comfortable and free to discuss openly the important aspects of the book s/he has authored. It is a great experience. [...]

2017-12-14T23:23:06-05:00April 22nd, 2014|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Video Media|

Fresh Air with Terry Gross and the Dish Book Club with Andrew Sullivan

I mentioned in an earlier post that the only way a trade book begins to sell well is if it gets media attention.   It is really, really hard to get media attention, and there’s very little that an author can personally do about it.  Authors have publicists (at the publisher) who try to get attention in print, radio, and TV; that’s what they do for a living, they do it all the time, they have the necessary contacts, and the know-how, and the experience, and so on.   But at the end of the day, it is always a matter of whether a journal, newspaper, radio program, TV show etc. is interested, and wants to do a piece on the book.   Every author wants a part of the action, and there’s only so much action to go around.   And sometimes, from the author’s point of view, it seems like a very frustrating crapshoot indeed. With that said, I’m happy to announce that I have recorded an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, which will be [...]

2017-12-14T23:26:57-05:00April 6th, 2014|Book Discussions, Public Forum|
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