Tag Archives: snake oil

The Difference Between The Best Seller List and The Best

Last week I posted about Fifty Shades of Grey being art…then, a few days later, posted about Cause and Effect and how it figured into my next novel.

For some reason I began thinking about the two posts and how they could be tied into a single question…


Do people buy a book because it is popular—or—Does a book become popular because people buy it?


Sticking with the Fifty Shades example…

The series passed the 100-million copies sold mark in February 2014, and I would assume that the popularity of the movie caused another spike in sales.

Now let’s look a little bit of historical info.

50SoG was originally written as fan-fiction based on the Twilight series (another series that could have served as an example for this question). Twilight has also eclipsed the 100-million mark in sales – a very impressive number.

But is it impressive simply because of the sheer volume? Or is it a true barometer of the level of quality inherent in the work?

Let’s face another fact…America is The Land of the Fad.

Don’t believe me?

Then explain to me if you will…

  • The Pet Rock
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Oxygen Bars
  • Racquetball

pet rock

Yes, here in The Land of the Free…we will stand in line for days to purchase the latest hot-ticket item and even throw a few punches to get the last one off the shelf. We’ll pay top dollar for something we could get for next-to-nothing (water) and we’ll replace a perfectly good product with the latest version (iPhones) for no other reason than it’s this year’s model.

So is it a stretch to think that we will buy a book based solely on the fact that “everybody is reading it”?

I think the numbers speak for themselves.

While I still stand by my post about 50SoG being art…I also believe that you can’t judge a book by its sales numbers – especially a number like 100-million.

That’s a mind boggling number.

To put it into perspective let’s look at Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck Finn

Arguably one of the best books ever written (in this country), it was published in 1885 and sells about 200,000 copies per year. That means it will sell 1 million copies every five years. So how many years will it take to sell 100-million?





According to my math – that’s 500 years.

Let that sink in for a minute…

It would take 500 years for one of the best pieces of American literature to match the sales numbers Fifty Shades has hit in less than 5 years.

Surely this doesn’t mean that 50SoG is a better book than Huck Finn? Not just better…better by a factor of 100?

I refuse to even entertain that thought.

I think the only thing we can accurately discern from this is that Fifty Shades is benefitting from being the most current fad, and like all fads it will fade into the annals of pop culture history before the next President is elected. It will be nothing more than a question in Trivial Pursuit (talk about fads) where the answer is perpetually on the tips of people’s tongues.


You might say that it won’t be long before we turn the page on it and move on to the next chapter.

Naturally this topic deserves a much deeper conversation than I am offering here, but I think it is safe to say that, when it comes to the book buying public in America, we can invoke a thought from one of my other recent blog posts…If you build it, they will come.

Face it America…if Madison Avenue says you want it, you’ll sell your sister into slavery to get it.


As always – thank you for reading


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Step Right Up – I’ll Make You Rich

“Now I’ve been travelin’ all around, I heard trouble’s come to your town, I’ve got a little somethin’, guaranteed to ease your mind…It’s called Snake Oil y’all, it’s been around for a long, long time” ~Steve Earle

I began writing my first novel in April, 2007 and by January, 2008 I had a completed manuscript, but no idea what to do with it.

Naturally, I googled publishing and found a plethora of information about the publishing world, and after more than a year’s worth of research my novel, Living the Dream, was released in August, 2009. Living the Dream

All’s well that ends well, right?

For me – yes, but only because of my innate lack of trust in sales-people…for among all of the information which helped me take my dream to the next level, there was also a…what’s bigger than a plethora?…a glut of web sites and blogs offering…no – promising…to give me what I needed to become a successful author.

It was overwhelming.

Depending on how much money I was willing to part with, I could have access to secrets, tips and techniques that would have me on the couch with Oprah, hanging in the Hamptons with Nelson DeMille and playing poker with James Patterson before I could dot an i.

At first I was tempted, and, I admit, I did click through on some of the free ones. There were some that offered legitimate writing tips about story structure, editing, formatting and such which I bookmarked and still visit.

However…there were many (and I do mean MANY) that made some pretty big promises, such as;

For the bargain basement price of $179 dollars I could learn what it takes to become a best-selling author.

For only $349 I could hire a marketing consultant that would promote my novel to tens-of-thousands of potential readers.

salesman (2)And, one of my favorites, for only $799 I could attend a seminar in South Carolina and get first-hand advice from several industry experts about how to turn my novel into a screenplay.

These are only a few of the hundreds of sites I encountered and I’m sure there are thousands more. Fortunately I was skeptical enough to avoid them.

Why did I avoid them, you ask?

Well, as I said, at first it was tempting, but then I remembered something my mother has been drilling into me since I was old enough to listen…If it seems too good to be true, it is.

It’s perfectly natural for first-time authors to believe that they will not be able to spend their royalty money fast enough, and I hope every one of you, regardless of how many books you’ve written, enjoys such success, but remember one thing…in the words of Ringo Starr…It Don’t Come Easy.

Unless you hit the cosmic lottery, you will more than likely make little more than gas money for several years, most of which will be reinvested in your next book. Many of you will lose money; this is a cold, hard fact.

Surely, if it were that easy to become the next Stephen King, there would be dozens of Kings, and probably some Queens, out there already.

So don’t add to the misery (see what I did there?) by wasting money on snake oil.snake oil

Allow me to give you a nickel’s worth of free advice…when you see those google ads promising to make you an instant success…ignore them. There are plenty of free blogs and websites for authors that will offer legitimate advice on everything from punctuation to promotion. If you want to spend money, buy a reputable book or look into classes at a bona-fide educational facility.

If this hasn’t convinced you to save your money…I’ll be glad to sell you a copy of the Blindogg Method for Overnight Sensations for only $249. Guaranteed to make you rich and famous, cure irregularity and get your teeth whiter than the driven snow.

Call now…operators are standing by.


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