Yes, I know, some publishers won’t turn your manuscript into a book if they don’t think it’s going to sell 50,000 copies or more. Gosh, 40,000 copies must be a real downer causing middle management shake-ups, angry calls to agents who promised everything, and getting the book tagged as one of the most overlooked books of the year.
While headlines such as this one on Kirkus (The 9 Most Overlooked Summer YA Novels You Should Read) give a publication a cheap and easy feature story to write, they’re an insult to mid-list and small press authors whose books really have been overlooked. Readers, especially on-line readers, probably love these lists because (a) they (the lists) don’t require much of an attention span, and (b) might include a gem that the readers didn’t notice earlier in the year.
- The first book on Kirkus’ young adult list is Solo, by by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. It looks good, by the way. However, since it’s displayed on Kirkus’ list with a Kirkus starred review, the book wasn’t overlooked. The second book on the list, Saints and Misfits, also had a starred review from Kirkus as did every other book on the list. “Overlooked” is a category for books that Kirkus won’t review.
- Solo’s current rank on Amazon is #1 in teens fiction. I’ll stipulate that its publisher would probably like to see a better overall ranking than 2,949. However, “overlooked” better describes small press books that hardly ever get into the top slots of Amazon’s genre rankings which (due to recent changes) are biased in favor of major publishers and higher priced books.
- Solo was also reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, BookPage, and others. Sure, more would be better. But “overlooked” really refers to books none of these outlets consider at all.
- So as not to unfairly single out Solo, I should mention that in addition to actual reviews, the authors of the books on this list were also interviewed. For example, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) featured a Q&A with the author of Saints and Misfits (S. K. Ali). I like the ABA’s “Indies First” program that supports independent bookstores. Unfortunately, the ABA doesn’t lend this kind of support to indie authors even when their books are distributed by outlets where the bookstores get their titles. Truly “overlooked” is being off the ABA’s radar altogether.
- Many less-well-known book review sites claim that they support indie authors and (thankfully) a lot of them make good on this claim. However, these outlets–even when they have a regional books flavor–want readers, too, so they often fill many of their review slots with mainstream bestselling books that certainly don’t need any help. “Overlooked” is being passed over by a small review site by monthly features about books by top-100 authors.
As the year goes on, we’ll see more and more lists of BEST BOOKS even though there will be more stuff published by December 31: these lists really do overlook books because everyone and their brother tries to be first out of the gate with proclamations about the best of the best of the best. And, we’ll see more lists of OVERLOOKED books, too. Suffice it to say that if a book is noticed by the organization creating the list, it hasn’t been overlooked even if higher sales for it had been expected.