Sunday, April 08, 2007

Catching Up

Still not back to anything even remotely resembling a normal schedule. However, a sizable number of interesting items have accumulated in the blogfodder bucket and they're not getting any fresher, so it's time to get posting.

First up: if you have access to the Wall Street Journal Online, I'd like to direct your attention to a fascinating article by Carl Bialik, "The Numbers Guy," that ran on Friday, 3/23/07, and is all about how to game the sales ranking system. It turns out it's a whole lot easier than you might imagine. For example, since Amazon computes sales ranking hourly and lumps new and used book sales together, and since very few books sell multiple copies in any given hour, if you really want to give your book an (admittedly temporary) boost, you could put a plethora of copies out there at a selling price of 1-cent apiece and then arrange for your few dozen best friends to all buy their copies at roughly the same time. The resulting sales ranking will be purely a statistical fluke, of course — but hey, the important thing here is to be able to advertise that your book is The #1 Bestseller!

At the moment, the original article is in the WSJ's free content area at this link. I can't guarantee how long this link will stay valid, though, so you might also want to check out Mr. Bialik's fascinating blog, The Numbers Guy, and especially his blog commentary on his own article, which contains a wealth of links to other articles on the subject.

By the way, if you don't think that folks in the publishing business are constantly trying to figure out ways to game the other major bestseller lists, and often succeeding...

Next up, another Wall Street Journal article, this one from the Thursday, March 22 issue and titled, "Borders Business Plan Gets a Rewrite." Unfortunately I can't find an online link for this article, so here's the meat of it:
Today, Borders plans to announce its intention to reopen its own branded e-commerce Web site in early 2008, ending an alliance with that had been the core of its online strategy. At the same time, it will announce it is giving up on a decade-long effort to expand its own book-superstore concept internationally and will sell or franchise most of its 73 overseas Borders stores. The company also plans to close nearly half the Waldenbooks outlets it owns throughout the U.S.
And then in the next paragraph, the news that still has me shuddering:
Additionally, in a move mirroring a similar venture by its larger rival, Barnes & Noble Inc., Borders plans to build a much bigger proprietary publishing operation by striking deals with [...] the heads of various Hollywood talent agencies.
That's right. Borders is looking to expand their line of proprietary hardcover titles. But they aren't interested in books by actual writers, no; what they're going to do is produce even more ghost-written celebrity-driven piles of steaming @*#&^ @#*&$^#$^ @#$6 $#*&^^!!!!

[Bruce temporarily collapses into a fit of incoherent frothing.]

An interesting factoid in the WSJ journal article, by the way: the general breakout for book sales numbers in 2006 were 38% traditional retail bookstores, 24% schools and libraries, 5% book clubs, 18% nonbookstore retailers (i.e., CostCo and WalMart), and 13% online. The only growing categories are nonbookstore retailers and online sales.

Finally, for all of you who were kind enough back in February to help Czja with her question:
Question: [in my story], my men are about to rescue a woman being held captive as a sex slave. The place is rural Wisconsin [...] What kind of guns and supplies should they be carrying?
From yesterday's St. Paul Pioneer Press comes yet another story that proves that reality is always far sicker and uglier than any sane writer can reasonably imagine. Read it... And then make sure your kids are still talking with you.