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p. 323. Fields and listslocked

  • John Sutherland

Abstract

‘Fields and lists’ outlines the difficulties in classifying bestsellers. The bestseller list exists to generate sales as much as to record them. An early subdivision was fiction/non-fiction — although the term ‘bestseller’ automatically evokes a certain kind of novel; other categories are hardcover and paperback, children's books, ‘how to’ manuals. Agatha Christie is indisputably a bestseller, although her books, individually, have hardly ever been bestsellers by the strict definition of placement on the lists. In general, what used to be a bestseller would, in terms of sales, not qualify nowadays. By the 1990s, first print runs of one million were routine for novelists such as Stephen King and John Grisham.

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