After researching how bestseller lists are compiled, I’ve come away with a new cynicism about how the book world operates. It does seem that if the publisher is willing to pay, some venues will promote chosen books as bestsellers or, in the case of Waterstone, include a book on its “best of the year” list.
Waterstone, the leading bookstore in the UK (comparable to Barnes and Noble/Borders), expects publishers to pay a hefty price for promotions. If you don’t pay, you can expect to be penalized. Anthony Cheetham, the chairman of a small indie publisher, Quercus, said that if you are offered one of these expensive, but coveted slots, and opt out, the order for the book can go from 1,000 copies to 20.
The most expensive package, available for only six books and designed to “maximise the potential of the biggest titles for Christmas”, costs 45,000 pounds ($88,942.50) per title. The next category down offers prominent display spots at the front of each branch to about 45 new books for 25,000 pounds ($49412.50). Inclusion on the Paperbacks of the Year list costs up to 7,000 pounds for each book ($13,835.50), while an entry in Waterstone’s Gift Guide, with a book review, is a relative snip at 500 pounds ($988.25). Similar packages are available at other bookshop and supermarket chains, too.
I hardly believe that Waterstone is the only bookstore who is doing this. Right now, it is the only one we know about. It’s no surprise that readers tend to look to other readers for recommendations. It seems like they are the only ones impervious to being bought.