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The New York Times Best Seller

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/26/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,732 times Debate No: 13475
Debate Rounds (3)
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As Con, I will be arguing against the notion that an acceptance into The New York Times Best Sellers List is prestigious and that the list helps authors to increase their sales in the United States. I feel that 1) the title of "New York Times #1 best selling author" or "New York Times best seller" for authors and books, respectively, are often misunderstood and misleading, because they are based of sales to the public, not on the books quality and merit. Thus, books with these labels printed on the cover get an unfair advantage, relative to other books of the same caliber. Also, I feel that 2) the titles are not very prestigious, as compared to other literature awards. Lastly, 3) the system that determines whether a book appears on "The New York Times best sellers list" is weak and flawed.


1. The titles of "New York Times Bestseller" and "New York Times #1 Bestselling Author" are in no way misleading. A bestseller is the book that has sold the best, plain and simple. If the New York Times was labeling books on their bestseller list as "New York Times Most Awesome Book of All Time Ever" then there might be an issue. The New York Times even has a separate title for books it considers noteworthy; these books garner the title of "New York Times Notable Book of the Year." Also, it is the choice of the publisher to label bestsellers with the title; The New York Times cannot force a book to display this designation.
As for the notion that these books get an unfair advantage, I cannot see what is unfair. It is a simple economical idea that better products sell better. No one would recommend and try to sell a book if it was terrible (except the author and publisher, of course, and even then, why would a publisher accept a terrible book?) Some books may make the bestseller list because of the author's name or because it is one book in a series. But these books don't gain any unfair advantage by appearing on the list, they would sell anyway for the reasons stated above. [1]

2. The title of "New York Times Bestseller" may not hold as much credence as a book earning the Newbery Award and a "New York Times #1 Bestselling Author" may not be remembered as long as a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. But New York Times Bestsellers certainly holds equal weight. Much of the public uses the New York Times Bestseller list as a standard for quality and a reference for which books to purchase. [1] Also, the list is formed based on quantitative data: the number of books sold to a large group of the public. The Nobel Prize and Newbery Medal (and other awards) are awarded based on the subjective opinion of a select group of people. The New York Times Bestseller list is indicative of the opinion of a greater group of the public and therefore holds equal merit to that of other literary accolades.

3. I'm not sure how my opponent knows that the system is flawed or weak because the exact qualifications for books appearing on the list are not public information; more specifically, the exact stores analyzed for books appearing on the list are not publicly known. [2] "The New York Times best-seller list is based on weekly sales reports obtained from a scientifically selected sample of bookstores throughout the United States. The sales figures represent books that have actually been sold to the public." [3]

Debate Round No. 1


1. The title of New York Times Best-Sellers (NYTBS) is vague and misleading. It is a weekly title that lesser known authors and publishers put on their books to gain quick recognition and sales. "...appearing on the Times list might increase a book's first-year sales by 13 to 14 percent, but for first-time authors sales probably would increase by an impressive 57 percent. This pattern, he says, suggests the best-seller list primarily tells consumers what may be worth reading. "It's free advertising for new authors who make it to the list," he says. With a well-known author, on the other hand, people don't need a best-seller list to help them decide whether to buy the book. Careful to isolate the best-seller list from other likely causes of higher sales, Sorensen also looked at the famous "Oprah effect," the stunning way being chosen for Oprah Winfrey's on-air book club immediately catapults a title onto the best-seller list. Though reluctant to name numbers because there were few Oprah titles in the sample, Sorensen says the Oprah effect is "many times bigger" than the best-seller effect." [1] It is also a list that the public looks to for guidance, a list that SHOULD tell them what good, quality books are being published that week. "Each week millions of readers look at the New York Times best-seller list to see what everybody else in the country is reading. And as soon as a title hits the list, booksellers typically push the book to the front of the store and slash its price by as much as 40 percent." [1] Instead, the list merely tells millions of people which books happened to sell more for that one week. This is misleading for the millions who are looking for quality books because the list is able to be manipulated, meaning that books that are of a far less quality can soar to the list if it is purchased more that week. It doesn't necessarily mean that the better books sell more. In fact, there have been studies and instances where a book was published by a big name publisher, distributed better than the other books, and sold more because it was pushed so hard by the book sellers, that it made the list undeservingly. "In 1995, the authors of a book called The Discipline of Market Leaders colluded to manipulate their book onto the best seller charts. The authors allegedly purchased over 10,000 copies of their own book in small and strategically placed orders at bookstores whose sales are reported to Bookscan. Because of the ancillary benefits of making The New York Times Best Seller list (speaking engagements, more book deals, and consulting) the authors felt that buying their own work was an investment that would pay for itself. The book climbed to #8 on the list where it sat for 15 weeks, also peaking at #1 on the BusinessWeek best seller list. Since such lists hold the power of cumulative advantage chart success often begets more chart success. Although such efforts are not illegal, they are considered highly unethical by publishers." [2]
So, to sum up what I have said so far, the NYTBS list is a temporary honor for that week, and does not deserve to be noted for more than that week because it was once popular for such a short period of time. If this kind of title deserves to stay with the author or the book for longer, than I should be named my high school's best debater, even though I was only the best debater of the school for a week. I motion to change the name of the NYTBS list to include how long it was on the list, and the position it was on the list. Let's say book A made #2 on the NYTBS list for 3 weeks in a row, then dropped of the list entirely the next week. Let's also say the Book B made it to #14 for one week. Book B would undeservingly receive the same recognition on the cover of its book, even though it accomplished much less then book A. Besides these points, there are books (such as the Twilight series) that are on the list merely because of its popularity, not its content. Books that are pushed by celebrities, big name publishes, and get onto the NYTBS based on popularity, and to the millions that read the list, are misunderstood to be quality, when it is just popularity.

2) To add to that, the title is not very prestigious compared to other titles, because it is handed out to so many authors. The NTYBS list started on April 9, 1942. [3] The list has been out for 68 years, that's 3,536 weeks. If we take the average number of books on the list, 12, and multiply that by how many weeks there have been since the list started, we come up with roughly 42,400 NYTBS. 42,000 winners in 68 years? That doesn't seem like a very prestigious award to win... Not to mention the NYT has given out more best seller titles than the current population in Jeanu, Alaska. [4] I agree with my opponent that the title NYTBS does not hold the same merit as earning a Newbery Award or a Nobel Prize in literature, but still, millions or people look at the list weekly to determine what books they should read. This is a very serious and influential position to hold, and it should be taken seriously and should change its methodology to actually give people good books to read, not just the popular ones.

3) The NYTBS list is compiled by the editors of the "News Surveys" department, and oddly enough, not by the publishers of the "New York Times Book Review." [5] The people that do create this list don't even pick which books make it onto the list, but rather search the sales records of bookstores around the country, and proceed to organize the list based on what is most popular. So, what sells the most, gets on the list. I will touch on the topic later about how the name is misleading, because on the surface, it seems "best-seller" means "sells the best."
Now, for a book to make it onto the NYTBS list, it must out-sell the other books in those particular bookstores. Which bookstores do the people look at when they get their information? - No one knows, because it is a "trade secret" that the public cannot know about. We can only guess why there are secrets about a simple thing like taking sales statistics, but then again, maybe their process isn't so simple. It seems kind of odd that THEY get to choose what book companies to pull their data from, and then keep those stores secret from anyone knowing what is going on. John Kremer also notes that "The New York Times bestseller list is essentially a work of fiction." says John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. "As a result, it can be — and is — manipulated by those who know how the list is compiled. Publishers do it all the time. Now, even an unknown author can use the same techniques to propel his or her book to the top of the bestseller list. I've hosted two teleseminars on how to create a New York Times bestseller. The system I describe in these teleseminars is a proven system for taking your book from nowhere all the way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. You'll learn a step-by-step method for getting your book on the list — and by extension — onto the front shelves of every bookstore in America. Front and center, discounted, prime placement — all yours for the asking. This program is a combination of the Bestseller Strategy (but on steroids) aligned with an intensive plan to ensure the widest possible distribution of books into bookstores. Since the New York Times bestseller list measures the sales of books via bookstores, this plan is aimed at selling books through bookstores — lots of books." [5]

[2] "DID DIRTY TRICKS CREATE A BEST-SELLER?". Stern, Willy. August 1995. Retrieved 2008-02-28.


heroes867 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I suppose I should further summarize what I said last round and hope that my opponent hasn't actually forfeited the round.

The New York Times best seller list is made by a group other than the New York Times book review, through secret methods, by collecting sales data from an unknown amount of unknown bookstores across the country. There have been roughly 40,000 books/authors to win the title in 68 years, which means if there are this many titles being handed out, it is not very prestigious. If you look at bookshelves today for popular books, the title is riddled on most of the covers. The titles on these books are misleading because they are so vague. The titles are "New York Times #1 Bestseller" but really means, "In the secret list of bookstores that the New York Times picked, this book sold more copies than the other books for only one week (even though they keep the title on the book for more than a week)" and the title "New York Times Best-Selling Author" doesn't necessarily apply to the book that the title is printed on. A previous book the author wrote was a New York Times best seller (which isn't even a prestigious title anyway) and this just happens to be what he wrote after that book. Now, I agree that there are some great authors out there, who write great books, that deserve credit for their work, and legitimately should be honored with making it onto a best-sellers list. The New York Times list is not a list that should be recognizing great authors and books. It is a manipulatable, secretive system, and the rankings can be bought out by big publishers and bumped by celebrity endorsements. It is not a list that ranks quality of books, it is a buyable popularity contest.


heroes867 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Itsallovernow 7 years ago
I totally agree with you, and I would have taken this debate. I had good arguements for your 1st and 2nd point, but not the third. Still, I totally agree.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF