Friday, September 09, 2005

Perched At the Top

In recent weeks, I’ve written about the slow nature of the publishing business in August. Typically it’s not a time for blockbuster bestsellers.  I’m constantly monitoring the bestseller lists in various categories (hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, etc.). As I’ve pointed out in other posts, there are many different types of bestseller lists—general market, Christian market, New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, etc.  In general, these lists have the same books in the top positions. For the last couple of weeks, a different book has been perched at the top of the general market hardcover nonfiction list (Publisher’s Weekly): Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About by Kevin Trudeau.

In some ways, I’m not surprised since health books are continual bestsellers. This self-published book (Alliance Publishing) is loaded with controversy yet one of the year’s biggest bestsellers.  Maybe you (like me) have been channel flipping and seen the 30–minute infomercials with Kevin Trudeau talking about his book—and according to a Publisher’s Weekly article by Charlotte Abbott, Trudeau’s company spends $500,000 to $2 million a week to air these infomercials. The book is ranked #12 on Amazon (as of this writing) but only listed with two stars — despite the 954 reviews (that’s a remarkable number of reviews).

If you want to know more about the controversy with the contents of this book, follow this MSNBC link to learn more detail.

As a subscriber to Publisher’s Weekly, I was fascinated with this little bit of background about this book in the September 5th issue. Sara Nelson, the Editor-in-Chief wrote in her editorial called Snake Oil Crisis, “Whoever said August is a slow news time for the book business has apparently not been paying attention to the stories about Miracle Cures and its author, Kevin Trudeau. In article after article doctors have been quoted debunking the bestselling author and infomercial pitchman’s expertise and assertions, and both Trudeau and the publishing company he co-owns, Alliance Publishing, have been called to defend themselves...Like many who’ve spent their careers at magazines, I was initially surprised to learn that while articles are almost always fact-checked line by line, the same is not true of books. You would not, as a writer at even the flimsiest of periodicals, get away with saying, as Trudeau did in his book, that “a hospital in Mexico has virtually a 100% success rate in eliminating cancer” with some crazy concoction; the research police would be all over you: What hospital?, they'd ask. Can we see the study? But book publishing has no such researchers, and while virtually every house employs a legal department, one longtime publishing attorney explained to me that lawyers are not checking for errors of fact; they're looking for “anything libelous.” If a house has fact-checkers, they're usually doubling as copy editors.”

I’ve seen this book in my local bookstores and flipped through it but I’ll not be purchasing a copy. Several aspects of this book are fascinating to me. First the lack of careful research and fact-checking in the book—something that is apparently the case in other books as well.  

Also look carefully at the topic of this book. It’s the promised benefit in the title that draws the reader but points out the desperate need of the reader.  People are eager to find answers to their health needs and will purchase anything they believe will cure their difficulties.  This need is the reason for this book to be perched at the top of the bestseller list.

2 Comment:

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Darlene Schacht Left a note...

I read a book once that promised to fulfill a need which was how to write humor. The entire book pretty much said that there's no way to tell you how to write it. I was dissapointed that they didn't just tell me that in the first place so I could have saved the money and bought one of your books.Argh!

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Wandering Writer Left a note...

The scariest thing about these kinds of books is that they promote anyone as an expert. Write a book...people perceive you as an expert.


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