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How bestsellers are made

January 5, 2009
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Ever wonder how and why some books seem to come out of nowhere to become bestsellers?

There's an interesting story you might have missed in Saturday's "Wall Street Journal." Find it here.

In it, reporter Anita Elberse discusses the increased emphasis on "hit-focused marketing"--basically, throwing marketing money behind books that the publishers have invested highly in.

She says: "Media companies' hit-focused marketing did not emerge in a vacuum. It reflects how consumers make choices. The truth is that consumers prefer blockbusters. Because they are inherently social, people find value in reading the same books and watching the same movies that others do. This is true even in today's markets where, thanks to the Internet, buyers have easy access to millions and millions of titles. Compounding this tendency is the fact that media products are what economists call "experience goods": that is, shoppers have trouble evaluating them before having consumed or experienced them. Unable to judge a book by its cover, readers look for cues as to its suitability for them, and find it very useful to hear that "Dewey" is "a 'Marley & Me' for cat lovers." In much the same way that potential publishers do, readers value resemblances to past favorites."

So are you still judging a book by its cover? Or are you judging it by what others (including marketers) have compared it to?

Your thoughts?
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