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Thursday, October 02, 2008

The sound of silence

Did an interview with Clive James and Pete Atkin yesterday for Word's Backstage series of podcasts. Clive's got a new book out and therefore he was going straight home to have a look at how it was doing on Amazon. He's not the first author to succumb to the irresistible lure of looking at his Amazon ranking. It must be the least scientific way of keeping track of sales success since the last one.

For years magazine people have been fishing for good news by going into WH Smith and trying to work out if the stack of their latest issue was diminishing at the required speed. I don't know why they do it but they do, everyone from editorial assistants to CEOs. It's a professional disease and professionals should know just how unreliable it is. You don't know how many they've got in the back. You don't know how long they've been out there. You don't know how representative that particular outlet is.

If you want to know how well anything's doing - a record, a book, a magazine - my advice is just stay indoors and see if anyone gets in touch. The most reliable indicator of success in any endeavour is that people can't wait to tell each other anything that could ever be interpreted as good news. Silence usually means they haven't got any.