Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Lists

It’s impossible to know how someone is going to read a post.  There are no nuances in either posts or emails so it’s all in how the reader takes what you’ve written.

Last night I stumbled on Working Title and found a post about what I’d written on Friday.

She’s very kind and says she likes my blog but hasn’t read any of my books.  That’s okay.  It’s the misunderstanding of what I wrote that bothered me.  Stacy Jacobs, the author of Working Title, thought I was saying my books were mediocre when I called myself a C-list author.

I meant where I stood in the scheme of published writers.  The A-list would be those writers who get on the Bestseller lists.  The B-list authors are those who don’t make it onto the Bestseller lists but are well-known anyway.  C-list authors, like me, publish consistantly and have their share of fans, but are never well-known and never make it onto any list.

A, B and C have nothing to do with whether the books are good or not.  Or whether the writing is excellent or the stories engaging.  For example, in my humble opinion some of the A-list authors can’t write a decent sentence and my mind boggles that some of the C-list authors keep getting published.

Do C-list authors ever become A-list authors?  I think so.  And ocassionally B-list authors claw their way up to A.  But it doesn’t happen too often.

Right now a particular B-list author is being pushed to become an A-list author.  I can’t imagine that writer jumping from B to A based on the new book.  On the other hand, as I said, quality has nothing to do with it, so the publisher might be absolutely right about that author.  I thought the book was awful, but then I don’t make or break an author.

Who does?  Nobody knows.  If the publishers knew we’d have exactly who they want on the A-list all the time.  Sometimes all the publicity and push in the world does nothing.  And sometimes there’s a strange phenomenen and a book gets to the top of the Bestseller list without any help from the publisher.  How does that happen?  Nobody knows.

So, in case anyone thought (like Stacy Jacobs) that I was saying that my books are mediocre, I wasn’t.  Some are better than others, but most of them are good.


Stacy Jacobs said...

Looks like I chose well ... I've started This Dame For Hire, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. How appropriate -- the story starts out Faye falling on her kiester. I am guilty of having skimmed through your post-reading post too quickly and, worse, tossing up a sloppy summary that was neither accurate nor articulate. That was foolish, and I apologize.

I didn't imagine you thought your work was mediocre, nor did I for a moment consider it might be; rather, I wondered if it would be (in the abstract) satisfying to never make the "a-list." My only point of reference has been as a reader -- I am as likely to read Patricia Cornwell as J.A. Redmann, James Patterson as George Saunders. I buy a frightening number of books a year and am hardly constrained by the lists as I make my choices.

My basic assumption has been that some books land on the c-list because they’re mediocre. Others because they’re terrific but unlucky. Others because their subject matter is of limited interest, others because they’re sold by agents with mediocre contacts or to c-list publishers … I have no experience from the author’s side, just a curiosity about expectations versus the process. If I write a great book that fares poorly, will I be satisfied? If I write a terrible book that (ahem) exceeds expectations, will I be satisfied then? There is a qualifying event – if X happens, I’ll consider myself successful. Solve for x. Does x = “I finished a really good manuscript?” Maybe x is “I wrote a really good manuscript and contracted with a reputable agent who agreed to try and sell it.” Or maybe success requires showing up in the Publisher’s Lunch: “… in a very nice deal …” etc etc. … I am sure it’s different for every author and that the benchmark for success changes from time to time.

In any event, I'm sorry to have been offended you; it was never my intention. It was a small relief that I managed to convey "wildly successful." 19 for 19 is indeed an enviable record.

Debra Young said...

Hello, Sandra, I've been lurking for a while, and enjoying your posts. Do you know Writing Thoughts is given excellent notice in the current (Sept. issue) Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine?

I enjoy mysteries, but have not read one of your books...will have to remedy that. d:)

Sandra Scoppettone said...

You never offended me. No apology necessary. I hope you know that I made up the A to C list idea.

Why don't you have an email address on your site?

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Yes, I know about the blog review in EQ. Thanks.

Stacy Jacobs said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stacy Jacobs said...

Who knew ... can't edit comments.

I didn't include an email address because it never occurred to me. Perhaps I'll remedy that.

Too Darn Hot arrived this morning, so looking forward to it.

stacy (

Martha O'Connor said...

When I worked in academic publishing, our titles were tagged A, B, C titles. So something like "Introduction to Statistics" might be an "A" title, but "Statistical Methods for Analyzing Cluster Data" might be a "C" title. It just had to do with how many students would use the book, ie how many copies would sell. Intro texts always sold a ton more than advanced texts. Anyway, "A" book, "B" book, "C" book... they are real terms.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Hi Martha,
I'm sure there are lots of A,B,C, things but I wasn't talking about specific books. I was talking about lists or groups. I meant that I made up the idea of book or author lists. I have no doubt that this isn't original.

So glad you're writing even if it's in bits and pieces.

And I so agree with you about reading re writing. The good ones make me want to write because I'm inspired and the bad ones do the same thing because I know how much better I am than they.