Pixel Scroll 2/1/17 We Had Scrolls, We Had Fun, We Had Pixels In The Sun

(1) TRUE GRIT. The director of Arrival has signed on make another adaptation of Dune.

Denis Villeneuve, best known for his directorial work on Arrival, Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, is set to tackle the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated sci-fi epic, Dune.

Villeneuve was first rumored to be in the running for the role in December, but it wasn’t until yesterday the confirmation was announced. Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and a celebrated science-fiction author in his own right, made the announcement on Twitter.

(2) PETER WESTON EULOGY. This month, Ansible has an extra issue — #355-1/2 — with Tom Shippey’s funeral tribute to Peter Weston. Shippey illustrates Peter’s personality with anecdotes about his business.

What powered that success was not government assistance but reason number two, Peter’s complete lack of pretence. The success of Weston Body Hardware was not based on cunning marketing or managerial tricks, it was based on Peter’s 150-page catalogue of door locks, and unlike many managers Peter knew everything about his product. He took every picture in his catalogue himself, and in each one you could tell left-hand from right-hand.

He usually had a screwdriver in his pocket as well, for removing interesting locks from derelict vehicles, and he could tell a Hillman Minx lock from a Ford Capri blindfolded. I recall one occasion in Texas, 1988, when his attention was caught by a beautifully-refurbished sports car in a car-park. He stepped smartly over to it, looked down, shook his head and remarked (to himself, not the yuppie owner who was standing proudly by), ‘How very disappointing! An Austin-Healey 3000, and all they’ve found to put on the boot is a left-over lock from a Singer Vogue!’ It sounded absolutely apocalyptic.

(3) STICKY FINGERS. Bleeding Cool has the rundown on “The New York Comic Con Organiser Barred From Attending New York Comic Con” after he looted another dealer’s display.

Frank Patz, organiser of the neighbouring comic con, Eternalcon in Long Island, New York, attending NYCC as part of Michael Carbonaro‘s Vintage Movie Posters booth, was arrested by NYPD Special Forces on charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen goods….

It is common practice at shows for the trash at the end of the shows to be raided by some vendors to find things that other vendors have left behind. However Eaglemoss representatives told me they were still in the process of breaking down their space, and the items in question were still inside the booth, and not considered trash.

Most of the items were returned after the arrest, and the charges are pending dismissal if Patz keeps a clean record for the next six months.

…However NYCC and the Javitz Center do not seem to hold with the “innocent until proven guilty” thesis. And so while Frank Patz will have no marks on his official police record as a result of this, he and all the individuals named, have been barred from entering the Javits Center, and show organisers Reed POP have barred them for life from attending any of their events, including the New York Comic Con, C2E2, ECCC and more.

(4) NEW PRESCRIPTION. Alasdair Stuart contends “It’s Time for Doctor Who to Change Television History for the Better” at Tor.com.

A Doctor who isn’t a white man is not a destination, it’s the start of a conversation. If the character worked—and it would—that would be an unmistakable turning point in how POC and female characters are portrayed on screen. It would also empower a generation of writers and actors, crew and producers to make their own work, with their own voices—work that, in the wake of a successful Doctor Who run with a woman or a POC in the lead role, would almost certainly find itself in a far more open and welcoming production environment.

That conversation is long and complicated and years overdue. It’s one that has to include bringing more and more women and POC into the fold as scriptwriters and showrunners and directors. It’s also one that needs to be years long in order for the changes it would catalyse to take effect. Most of all, it’s simply one that needs to happen, and there is no better time than now, and no better place to start than with Doctor Who.

(5) YOUR INVITATION TO A CONSPIRACY. John Scalzi shows us the way to make lemonade after he discovers an author has fallen for Vox Day’s insinuations about his bestseller status. (I argued in 2014 that Vox’s gambit was dubious because it equally undermined Larry Correia, then his ally).

I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series”…

A little further digging revealed that this author almost certainly got this idea from one of my usual suspects (i.e., the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now), who trumpeted the strapline as evidence that Tor is planning to fake a position for me and TCE on the New York Times bestseller list. As apparently they have done with all my work, because as you know I don’t actually sell books; Tor and Tor UK and Audible and a couple dozen publishers across the planet give me lots of money strictly because I am the world’s best virtue signaller, and therefore worth propping up with byzantine schemes to fake my standing on bestseller lists, because who doesn’t like virtue.

…(P.S.: If you would actually like to see me get on the New York Times bestseller list with The Collapsing Empire — or in the UK, the Times bestseller list (that’s the Times in the UK, that is, these newspapers with the same names are confusing) — then be part of the vast conspiracy of people who pre-order the book, either from your local bookseller, or via your favorite online retailer. Sadly, my publishers don’t actually prop me up. I really do have to sell books for a living. Again: Sooooooooo unfair!)

(6) BALANCING THE BOOKS. Tolkien once was a customer of a shop now closed and auctioning off its business archives: “These boots were made for Tolkien: Ledgers from iconic Oxford shoe shop Duckers go under the hammer”.

Famous names feature in the ledgers of shoemakers Ducker & Son which are about to be offered for sale by Oxford auction house Mallams, writes Richard Lofthouse…

They range from little-known Oxford academics and wealthy undergraduates with a taste in bespoke footwear to local luminaries such Tolkien, Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh and publisher Sir Basil Blackwell (who insisted his shoes were always rubber-soled).

First World War flying ace Baron von Richthofen, European aristocratic families and several maharajahs also shopped at Duckers. More recent patrons have included Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, comedian Rowan Atkinson, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan.

Tolkien’s first order at the start of Michaelmas term 1913 is for a pair of black rugby boots for 14s 6d, a pair of porpoise laces for 8d, and a pair of ordinary laces for 2d. He was then an undergraduate at Exeter College, just up the street from Duckers’. The year had been a landmark one for Tolkien: he had changed his course from the Classics to English literature and, on the turn of his 21st birthday, had proposed to his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt. Standing (above) in his pale jersey in the middle of the beefy athletes of Exeter College’s Rugby and Boat Clubs in 1914, Tolkien looks rather small; but he said that what he lacked in weight, he made up by extra ferocity.

A later page shows two orders by Tolkien in the 1950s, when he was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and shoe prices had risen considerably: he bought three pairs for around £6 apiece. Fortunately his professorial income was supplemented by royalties from The Hobbit and, by the time of the last order, The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954–5.

(7) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES! I am told February 1 is Serpent Day. Not sure why that precedes Groundhog Day, but there you have it.

Serpents deserve a day dedicated to them; its presence is somehow necessary, what with all of the fables and stories abound with snake-inspired situations and wise or evil serpents, that have filled our culture for as long as any of our ancestors could remember.

(8) WHO FATIGUE. Are you tired of watching Doctor Who? I’m not, but if you are, CheatSheet offers four reasons that might explain why. (More likely, you’re tired of clickbait articles like this that drag you through multiple ad-saturated screens to see the complete post.)

  1. The Doctor got meaner

Fans familiar with the progression of the Doctor are familiar with the defining personality traits of each modern doctor. Christopher Eccelston was a stripped-down version of a previously flamboyant character, beginning a walk down a decidedly grimmer path for the Doctor’s personality. David Tennant after him was kind yet stern, with sharp features to match. He always carried with him a certain guilt over the burden of being the last of the Time Lords, leading into the reactively younger and more carefree Matt Smith iteration.

Finally, we were left with Peter Capaldi, the more mature and notably older version of the Doctor. It was more than a little jarring to go from the warm, goofy demeanor of Smith to the crotchety and sometimes mean-spirited Capaldi version. This in turn made it hard to adjust for fans, leading many to jump ship mere episodes in to the latest season.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Nerds of a Feather rounds out its Hugo recommendations with two more posts:

Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Editor – Short Form, Editor – Long Form, Professional Artist, Fan Artist, Fan Writer.

(10) FURTHER THOUGHTS. Rich Horton ranges widely in his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts: Long Fiction (and some notes on Dramatic Presentation)”. And he compliments one of JJ’s posts, too.

Best Series

Considering this brand new category reminds me of one novel that I have just read, Impersonations, by Walter Jon Williams, a new pendant to his Praxis (or Dread Empire’s Fall) series. It’s a fun story, and I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s Hugo-worthy by itself. I am strongly considering nominating the entire series for a Hugo, however.

And, indeed, that hints at one of my misgivings about the Hugo for Best Series. The most recent entry in a series may not be particularly representative of the series as a whole, nor as good as the rest of the series. The same comment, obviously, applies to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, represented in 2016 by the rather pedestrian Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I would say personally that both Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Williams’ Praxis book are worthy, over all, of a Best Series Hugo, but that the best time to award them that Hugo has passed. (Which, to be sure, is primarily a function of this being a brand new award.)

At any rate, I was wondering what the possible candidates for Best Series, eligible in 2016, might be, and I was delighted to find that JJ, over at File 770, had done the heavy lifting, producing this page with a good long list of potential eligible series: http://file770.com/?p=30940.

(11) TRUE LOVE. With Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month, Seattle’s MoPOP Museum has sent those on its email list a set of Fictional Flames: A Lovesick List of #MoPOPCULTURE Power Couples.

In honor of cupid’s return, here are our picks for the fictional couples who remind us why we love to fall in love.

Uhura + Spock : Star Trek – This futuristic couple showed the world how to love long and prosper.

Clark Kent + Lois Lane: Superman – The most unique story of journalistic love. Ever.

Hermione + Ron: Harry Potter – These longtime friends fell hard with no love potion required.

Buttercup + Westley: The Princess Bride – True love has never been more adventurous.

Elizabeth + Mr. Darcy: Pride and Prejudice – This enduring duo have been charming readers and viewers since 1813!

Kermit + Miss Piggy: The Muppets –  The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational muppet couple.

Gomez + Morticia: The Addams Family – “Till death do us part” takes on a whole new meaning.

Mitch + CamModern Family – These loving family men are the perfect suburban couple.

Rick + Ilsa: Casablanca – This bittersweet, war-torn romance will have you reaching for the tissues.

Willow + Tara: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The couple that slays together stays together.

Han + Leia: Star Wars – She loves him. He knows. (He loves her too.)

(12) TRIBBLES AT THE UNIVERSITY. “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek will be screened at UCLA in the Billy Wilder Theater on February 5 as part of the “Family Flicks Film Series.” Details about price and schedule are at the link,

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of a classic television episode from a landmark series! Watch as Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) deal with an infestation of cute, fuzzy tribbles aboard the Enterprise. Soothing to the crew and annoying to the Klingons, the furry nuisances nonetheless hold the key to a mystery on board. Trekkie suits and transporters optional!

(13) BRAND ‘EM. Rawle Nyanzi, in “Fear of a Pulp Planet”, calls it a “Pulp Revolution” —

Bloggers Jeffro Johnson — whose Appendix N book I spotlighted here — and Jon Mollison, both of whom I’m acquainted with online, have made much of the “Pulp Revolution,” a nascent literary movement intended to turn modern sci-fi and fantasy away from a perceived focus on deconstruction and embrace its heritage as a literature of the heroic and wondrous. It also seeks to bring the works of long ignored pulp authors back into the limelight.

I find “Pulp Revolution” a more appealing label than Sad Puppies, if anyone wants to know. (Like that’s going to happen….)

(14) RINGS. I still haven’t forgotten the first film in the series. This is the third.

First you watch it. Then you die. Rings hits theatres Friday!

A new chapter in the beloved RING horror franchise. A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

The film is being promoted by a pranks like this —

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/17 You Are A Scroll Of The Pixelverse/You Have No Right To Be Here

(1) DYSTOPIAS SELL LIKE INFERNAL HOTCAKES. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles notes that sales of dystopian novels, including Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale, are soaring under a Trump presidency.  He interviews Orwell biographer Gordon Bowker about what 1984 (Amazon’s #1 bestseller) tells us about a Trump administration.

President Trump may not be a big reader, but he’s been a boon for sales of dystopian literature. Amid our thirst for adult coloring books and stories about missing girls and reincarnated puppies, some grim old classics are speaking to us with new urgency. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451 ,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World ” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale ” have all risen up the latest paperback bestseller list.

But by far the greatest beneficiary of our newly piqued national anxiety is George Orwell’s “1984.”

Soon after senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday that the administration was issuing “alternative facts,” Orwell’s classic novel spiked to No. 1 on Amazon.

And if you prefer an autographed leatherbound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, eBay has one on sale this week.

(2) MIND MELD. Ken Liu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Helen Lowe, T. Frohock, Mur Lafferty, and Margo-Lea Hurwicz participate in “Mind Meld: Alternate Histories We Love” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog

Alternate history can be a thrilling, but daunting, subgenre of science fiction, fantasy, and horror to dive into; there are seemingly endless possible “what-if,” timeline, and story combinations for readers to try. This month, Mind Meld asks writers:

What is your favorite alt-history novel?

What about the author’s treatment to the particular time period and story made you fall in love? What about the alt-history subgenre draws you in, as an author or a reader?

(3) STARS AND STRIPES. Jack Clemons tells the story of the late “Gene Cernan And The Last Flag On The Moon” at Amazing Stories.

Before Cernan and his fellow moonwalker Harrison Schmitt finished their final moonwalk, as a salute to the Apollo Program and a reminder to others of where we came from and how far we could go, Cernan positioned his camera so that Schmitt and the American Flag were framed in the black sky with the flag pointing to the distant blue Earth. Cernan’s own reflection can be seen in the visor of Schmitt’s helmet.

(4) WEREWOLF, THERE CASTLE. Here’s fan love for you – someone made Larry Correia a 50-pound “Bronze Statue of Earl Harbinger from MHI”. See photo at the link.

Pretty cool, huh?

That’s Earl Harbinger, mid transformation into werewolf (spoiler alert).

Devon Dorrity is a fantastic sculptor, He likes to listen to Audible while working, and had gone through the MHI series a couple of times. Alpha inspired him to create this.

(5) OVERFEASANCE. While we’re still flailing to catch up with last year’s award-worthy fiction, Jason has already evaluated this month’s new stories from semiprozines and other free sites in “Summation of Online Fiction: January 2017” at Featured Futures.

I tried forty-three stories of 176,695 words from thirteen January 2017 pro-rate webzines (Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Diabolical Plots, the final issue of the now-defunct Fantastic, Flash Fiction Online, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny)….

(6) PRINCE OBIT. Sarah Prince, a longtime fan who started receiving File 770 in 1978, passed away at the beginning of the week. Exact details are not immediately available – she was found when a friend asked someone to check on her.

Prince was a talented artist and potter. She was a resident of Columbus, OH when I first had contact with her in the Seventies, but has lived for many years in New York state. Prince ran for TAFF in 1999. Her website is here.

Sarah Prince in 2015

Sarah Prince in 2015

(7) CLOVEN COSPLAY. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn gets to the bottom of a new round of complaints in “Angry Goat Productions’s Cosplay Unplugged Los Angeles Is Setting Off Red Flags For Sailor Moon Fans”.

Are people getting scammed by Angry Goat Productions, or is this simply a case of Angry Goat Productions being really bad at this….

We can confirm that the photos posted to the event’s page are stolen. The examples come from an event held in Japan last year, and that in itself is a pretty big red flag. Taking an image from someone else’s business and misrepresenting it as your own is a big no no pretty much everywhere, but it’s considered an especially egregious sin in the cosplay and convention world.

I know quite a few people who would boycott an event just for that.

The warning also links to a Who Scammed You? page, which claims that organizer Ray Jelley isn’t a real person. Now, I’ve had some experience dealing with people pretending to be other people online, and while Mr. Jelley does occasionally use an Errol Flynn photo on social media, I can honestly say that he appears to be a real human being.

A real human being with an interesting history….

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends this installment of Brevity, with a Star Wars twist.

(9) UNLISTED NUMBERS. ComicsBeat learned that graphic novels will no longer be part of the New York Times Bestseller list.

According to an email subscription version of February 5th’s NY Times Best Sellers List, “Beginning with the advance BSL edition that will be delivered today for February 5, 2017 there will be revisions to multiple categories in the publication. These changes will span weekly and monthly lists.” One of these changes appears to be the deletion of the hardcover graphic novels, softcover graphic novels, and manga Best Seller lists, as none of these sections are included in the document that we have reviewed.

ComicsBeat had further comment here and here, in which an unnamed spokesperson for the Times cites that “the discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers.”

(10) MARCHING INTO PREHISTORY. If you’ve got six minutes, you can see how a vast number of dinosaur species compared in size to modern humans.

(11) REPEAL. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America reports –

Assembly Bill 228 has been introduced by California State Assembly Members Gloria and Chiu. If passed, this bill will provide significant relief from the most troubling and onerous provisions of AB 1570, California’s new autograph law.

The full language of AB 228 is found HERE.

…The legislative process is long and complicated.  Bills pass through policy committees in each house of the legislature and the process takes many months.  What AB 228 needs to help ensure that it becomes law is your support.  Right now, the best help you can provide is to:

Write a letter of support for AB 228 addressed to the bill’s primary author:

Assemblymember Todd Gloria

P.O. Box 942849

Sacramento, CA 94249-0078

Make sure you have added your name and comments to the change.org petition.

(12) DON’T DRINK AND CRUNCH. All that and a bag of chips – they may have too much sodium, but otherwise a bag of Tostitos keeps you out of trouble.

Frito-Lay unveiled “Party Safe” Tostitos bag for the Super Bowl that detects whether its holder has been drinking and can even order an Uber.

The limited-edition “Party Safe” Tostitos bag, designed by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, contains a sensor connected to a microcontroller that detects trace amounts of alcohol on a person’s breath, turning the front of the bag red and showing an image of a steering wheel and the message, “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

The bag also flashes an Uber code and contains technology that allows the holder to tap their phone against it to order an Uber for $10 off during and after the Super Bowl Feb. 5.

“We’re proud to introduce to the world the first bag of chips that gets you home safe,” Roger Baran, a Goodby Silverstein & Partners creative director, told Adweek

(13) ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. Observing the 50th anniversary of the Apollo pad fire on January 22, 1967: “The fire that may have saved the Apollo programme”.

Fifty years ago, a fire broke out during a test of the rocket that would take men to the Moon. Three astronauts died on the launch pad – but their deaths were not in vain.

As countdown resumed, the air in the capsule was replaced with pure oxygen. The oxygen was maintained at higher pressure inside the capsule than outside. This simulated the increased pressure of the spacecraft in orbit and allowed the astronauts to breathe comfortably.

Both the single-man Mercury and two-man Gemini capsules had followed the same procedure without incident. It was so routine that the safety manual for testing the spacecraft made no reference to the hazards of strapping a crew into an experimental space capsule in a pressurised oxygen environment.

17:40, Apollo 1 spacecraft

There had been problems all day with communications between the ground and spacecraft, which was only a few hundred metres away from the control centre on the launch pad. As the countdown continued and more systems were switched across to Apollo 1, at times it was impossible to make out what the astronauts were saying. “I remember Gus Grissom got very exasperated,” recalls Griffin. “He was really mad.”

“Jesus Christ,” Grissom exclaimed. “How are we going to get to the Moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?”…

(14) PEAKE PERFORMANCE. Soyuz capsule ridden by Tim Peake’s goes on exhibit in London’s Science Museum.

The museum says the Russian capsule is an important part of UK space history and hopes it will inspire the public.

The Soyuz TMA-19M has been refurbished, but is still slightly singed from re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Business Secretary Greg Clark has confirmed that Major Peake will make a second mission to the space station.

The timing will be decided by the European Space Agency (Esa).

(15) TECH HOT AIR. Hideo Kojima says games and films will merge together.

“In life people are very busy doing lots of things,” he explains through a translator.

“The time you have to choose what media or entertainment you experience is dwindling.

“More and more people are looking at types of media that combine elements together.”

“If we just make a game people are less likely to choose that as something to do.

“They would rather engage in something that combines different forms of entertainment together.

“That’s where we need to focus our efforts, on this convergence.”

(16) BOOKS BEYOND NUMBER. Hampus Eckerman calls it, “The roots of Mount Tsundoku.” The Guardian calls it “Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying”.

In the 19th century, book collecting became common among gentlemen, mostly in Britain, and grew into an obsession that one of its participants called “bibliomania”. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, an English cleric and bibliographer, wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, which was a gentle satire of those he saw as afflicted with this “neurosis”. Dibdin medicalised the condition, going so far as to provide a list of symptoms manifested in the particular types of books that they obsessively sought: “First editions, true editions, black letter-printed books, large paper copies; uncut books with edges that are not sheared by binder’s tools; illustrated copies; unique copies with morocco binding or silk lining; and copies printed on vellum.”

(17) NO ALIEN SEQUEL. Alien Theory analyzes the fate of the series – “Alien 5 Cancelled: Where Does This Leave the Series? And Ripley?”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jason for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

The Bestseller Illusion

When I was a student at USC (yes, during the Middle Ordovician period) one of my English professors told the class that Erich Siegel’s contract with Paramount called for the studio to buy enough copies of his novel Love Story to make it a bestseller. Is that true? I have no idea. Love Story spent 41 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list — how much help did it need? But he told the story and I repeat it here to show you people have speculated about ways to game the bestseller lists for a long time.

Actual proof that a book’s ranking was a result of manipulation is hard to come by. That’s what makes Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s Wall Street Journal article about ResultSource, a firm that orchestrates bestseller status for clients, unusual – he got an author to go on record.

He said ResultSource told him it could arrange the purchase of a quantity of books in such a way that they were counted toward national best-seller lists.

While Mr. Kaplan wrote the initial check for the books, he got reimbursed through preorders from his clients, he says.

“They use that check to buy the books,” he says. “I had a big network of clients that I’d been consulting for, and I was able to presell enough books to them to get the funding to have ResultSource buy the books.”

Mr. Kaplan purchased about 2,500 books through ResultSource, paying about $22 a book, including shipping, for a total of about $55,000.

Mr. Kaplan says he also paid ResultSource a fee in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.

How exactly ResultSource stages its purchases to get them tallied by statkeepers isn’t revealed – bulk sales and quantities purchased by the authors are ordinarily excluded by services like Nielsen BookScan.

In the days of Love Story it would have taken the bankroll of a movie studio to buy enough books to create a bestseller. Now the market has shriveled to a point that individual authors can engage in this strategy. The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing tells how few copies most books sell —

4.  Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast.
Combine the explosion of books published with the declining total sales and you get shrinking sales of each new title.  According to BookScan – which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books (including Amazon.com) – only 263 million books were sold in 2011 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined (Publishers Weekly, January 2, 2012).  The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.  And very few titles are big sellers.  Only 62 of 1,000 business books released in 2009 sold more than 5,000 copies, according to an analysis by the Codex Group (New York Times, March 31, 2010).

In that environment, a book that sells 2,500 pre-ordered copies must stand out like a searchlight on a desert night. All the more so if the copies seem to have been ordered by 2,500 different people.

Not that the $85,000 spent in the WSJ example is trivial. Why would anyone spend that much? The appeal on ResultSource’s website suggests its customers are authors who treat paying for bestseller status as an investment in a career speaking about corporate leadership as much as in future book sales.

Imagine: Your Book, a Bestseller
What would a Bestseller do for your brand? Your business? Your future? Publishing a book builds credibility, but having a Bestseller initiates incredible growth—exponentially increasing the demand for your thought leadership, skyrocketing your speaking itinerary and value, giving you a national (even global) spotlight, and solidifying your author brand as the foremost leader in your niche.

Since being quoted in the WSJ article Soren Kaplan has written two posts for his blog about life as the poster boy for this practice, “Debunking the Bestseller” (Part 1 and Part 2). He thinks a very a large number of business book authors are gaming the bestseller lists:

Given what I’ve learned from working with ResultSource, the marketing company who’s literally written the book on bestseller campaigns, I estimate that a minimum of 20-30 percent of all business books on the bestseller list in a given week are “SpikeSellers” – books that achieve enough of a short-term sales boost through orchestrated pre-orders to hit the bestseller list, only to fade away into obscurity.  And my estimate is conservative.  A few years ago, Todd Sattersten of the BizBookLab conducted an analysis of the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list and found that “60% of the titles that appeared on the list one week were gone the next.”

Since Nielsen BookScan compiles its data based on weekly sales numbers, SpikeSellers stack the deck in favor of those authors and marketers who are able to cram significant sales into a single week, usually the first week after the book’s publication date.  While not “illegal” in the sense of the law, they usurp the assumptions held by the general public – that the books on bestseller lists are quality reads that represent what’s trending in society.

Why is this issue so gut-wrenching for so many?  Easy answer:  one more trusted institution in our society has been debunked.

“Trusted institution” may be a bit dramatic. I have about the same amount of faith in the credibility of bestseller lists as I have in toothpaste commercials: it’s not a very high pedestal they’re falling from. He is right, however, that I will never again look at an authors’ one-week-and-done appearance on the NY Times list without wondering how it was accomplished. Unfortunately, that will make it harder to cheer for the writers who do it.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

PKD Selling Like Hotcakes

The science fiction and fantasy genres are somewhat notorious for their best-selling dead authors. Philip K. Dick, at least, can be said to have written nearly all of his hot properties while he was alive.

Media Bistro reports that the Philip K. Dick omnibus, Four Novels of the 1960s, is Library of America‘s fastest-selling title ever: 23,750 copies have shipped.

Next on the launching paid is the Library’s second Dick collection, Five Novels from the 1960s and 1970s. Already more than 10,000 advance orders have been placed.

Right now would be a good time for the missing Philip K. Dick android to turn himself in and give the marketing department a hand.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the Galley Cat link.]