Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review May 29, 2002 / 18 Iyar, 5762

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

I'm breaking a rule in this column that I won't likely ever do again | Why one book sells and another does not is a mystery that publishers and bookstores have not solved. When a good book by a well-known author comes out, they can usually depend on strong sales. There are also thousands of books by little-known authors and every once in a while one of them catches on and sells a million copies. That's what keeps writers writing and publishers publishing.

No one knows how to write a winner. Sylvia Ann Hewlett has written a book called Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children.. The publisher gave her a big advance. She has appeared on everything, been interviewed and reviewed by everyone and the book is a bomb. It's simply not selling and the people who think of themselves as experts in this area can't figure out why.

I wish writers were not pressed into service as salesmen. As a writer of books myself, I've been embarrassed dozens of times to find myself being interviewed on some radio or television show for the sole purpose of getting a book of mine mentioned so people will buy it. It's demeaning.

Publishers will do anything to sell a book. Because of my weekly appearance on television, I am sent a hundred books a year by publishers suggesting this or that book might make a good subject for my commentary on "60 Minutes." The fact that I've never done this and am unlikely to ever do it in the future does not deter them. Neither, until now, have I ever used this column to plug a book.

One of the things that makes me uncomfortable about my job is that people come to me for help that I am incapable of giving. Over the years, I've probably received a hundred book manuscripts written by veterans of World War II. Some are quite good and it makes me feel bad that I can't help the authors get published.

Almost everyone, it seems, plans to write a book. They wouldn't think of attempting brain surgery, but everyone thinks they can write a book. They ask me about agents and publishers. They want to know what percentage they'll get, or which agent or editor they should go to. This is all before they've written the book. Actually writing it is one small detail in their new career as author.

Good old friends who write books make me feel the worst because I can't help them, either. I'm asked dozens of times a year to write a preface or jacket blurb for one of their books. It's embarrassing to say no, but it would be even more embarrassing to have meaningless blurbs on the dust jackets of books by all the friends who ask.

I'm looking at five books here on my desk sent to me by publishers. They were all written by friends who write for a living. I implore all of you to go out and buy these books:

If these five books by friends of mine zoom to the top of the best-seller list, I'll know I was wrong when I said plugs don't help.

Comment on JWR contributor Andy Rooney's column by clicking here.

05/24/02: The "Days" of our years
05/22/02: The history of history
05/14/02: Cars I have known
03/27/02: A victim of theft
03/22/02: We're wasting away
03/13/02: Down with the semicolon!
03/11/02: War on a full stomach
03/06/02: Uninformed and misinformed
03/01/02: Some thoughts on aging
02/27/02: Saving is a cheap hobby

© 2002, TMS