Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

The view is great, but there’s a long line…

Certainly I wouldn’t say it’s everyone’s goal to have their book be #1 on Amazon or the New York Times, but most writers wouldn’t mind that, if only for the doors it would open for future projects. For some people, that might be a goal, but with more and more books out there, it’s an increasingly fleeting goal these days. Now, there are still exceptions, like Harry Potter, but those tend to prove the rule.

Is that just because there are so many more books out there? One would think that even with a bigger selection, the ones that capture enough interest to be #1 bestsellers would do so over a long period of time. I have a feeling that this relates to a larger matter that we’ve discussed in the context of cable TV: if you can pick and choose channels specifically related to your interests, then the end result will be that there won’t be any one channel broad enough to capture everyone’s interest. The #1 channel will be something that edges out the others because 51% of the public like it, not because it’s of better quality than the rest, and when the margin of #1 is that slim, you’ll get a lot of change as the margin of error swings back and forth.

I think books are going in that direction. Not that there aren’t books that could appeal to everyone, but that there are so many with a more specific narrow appeal that people gravitate to those first. The Da Vinci Code has more legs than I would’ve thought possible; of course, it’s getting a bump now from the movie buzz. I can’t think of another book aside from Harry Potter that I’ve really seen everyone reading in the past five years.

Which, y’know, is reasonably good news for those of us who pander to specific narrow interests…if we can just broaden them a little bit, we could be #1, if only for a day.

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