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If you look at the best-seller list, it is mostly thrillers. Very few books attempt to create an image of the life we live. I knew there were writers who wore tweed coats and lived in Connecticut and somehow made a living, and that’s what I aimed to do. I’ve tried to write as well as I can with books that say something to any reader.
I am always interested in why young people become writers, and from talking with many I have concluded that most do not want to be writers working eight and ten hours a day and accomplishing little; they want to have been writers, garnering the rewards of having completed a best-seller. They aspire to the rewards of writing but not to the travail.
Eventually, as my books became best-sellers, the nickels pile up and oneday I was offered a substantial four-book deal that was lucrative as any airliner hijacking in history. Though writing those four books was hard work, at least I didn’t have to wear Kevlar body armor, carry heavy bandoliers of spare ammunition, or work with associates named Mad Dog.
10 years ago [in 2006], nearly 90 percent of those albums sold enough in that year to reach Gold status. 10 years later, about 30 percent were eligible. With the new rules, we figure about 40 percent of the top 200 best-sellers for the year will be eligible. We were very cautious in our approach to changing how we calculate what is eligible because the integrity of the process is our foremost consideration. It’s difficult to get certified sales awards, and it’s a big deal and we didn’t want there to be a huge change in how many would be eligible.
It is possible to argue that the really influential book is not that which converts ten millions of casual readers, but rather that which converts the very few who, at any given moment, succeed in seizing power. Marx and Sorel have been influential in the modern world, not so much because they were best-sellers (Sorel in particular was not at all a widely read author), but because among their few readers were two men, called respectively Lenin and Mussolini.