Re: Build Your Own Best-Seller [was work (markets)]

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 3 Oct 1996 08:53:43 +0900

>Speaking of markets and circulation, I wonder if we can't get some titles
>and figures together. Can we get a list of the top ten best-selling
>anthropology books? Anita Cohen-Williams has for some time been advising us
>of new releases. Anita, can you help us on this one?

If librarians have this kind of information another person who might be
able to help is Greg Finnegan, who's at the Tozzer Library at Harvard.
Greg? Are you following this.

If the librarians don't have the figures, I suspect that there is an
association of publishers who track this sort of thing. There may, in fact,
be several, one for university presses, say; another for big trade

Another possible step would be to put together questionnaires:

(1) Directed to publishers: What are your top-10 bestsellers in
anthropology? Why do you think they do so well? (Might as well get the
"sophisticated folk" model. :-)

(2) Directed to anthropologists: What are your favorite books in
anthropology? Why? Which books do you assign to introductory-level classes?
Why? That sort of thing.

We need to bounce this around a bit? Both to work on questionnaires and to
sharpen up what we're trying to do? You seem focused on bestselling
anthropology. My instinct tells me that we should also be looking at
bestsellers across the board, to see what the reading public is going for?
But there are, of course, practical considerations....Let's talk some more
about this.

>The lit-crit part of the exploration is pretty much terra incognita to me.
> But I'm willing to give it a shot. This might be an important area.

I'm no expert myself. But I do know that literary types have been talking
about structure, plot, characterization, imagery, dialogue, etc., for next
to forever.

Come to think of it, there are the correspondence courses and writers'
workshops (Iowa, Middlebury..there've got to be lots more).

One very pragmatic place to begin might be _The Writer's Handbook_. I have
the 1993 edition (It may be an annual) that offers "110 chapters on how to
write" and "3000 manuscript markets." All of the contributors are published
authors, some reasonably famous.

>More later. I've got to head out.

Me, too. Busy day today.

>Mike Cahill

Yours truly,

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo