Bestsellers

Online top ranking: what does Amazon Charts mean for the book industry?

23 May 2017

From The Guardian:

For nine decades, the New York Times bestseller lists have been the industry gold standard when it comes to obtaining a seal of approval that will make readers sit up and pay attention. But like most things in the book industry, it’s something Amazon has in its sights.

Last week the online retailer launched Amazon Charts, which complements the site’s usual hourly updates of bestselling books. The new list combines what’s being ordered from them with data obtained from Kindle and Audible users to find out what books are actually being read and listened to.

It’s an interesting algorithm, and one that has been utilised before, but never formally by Amazon in this way. In 2014, the mathematician Jordan Ellenberg created an index of the most abandoned books, based on Kindle data. So while every man and his dog might have bought a copy of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Thomas Pinketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, not everyone actually read them.

Amazon Charts might open up a whole new set of bestsellers based on books actually read rather than books bought as coffee-table status symbols. But will this carry more weight with the publishing industry – and readers – than the venerable New York Times bestseller tag, which has been the go-to example of bragging rights since 1931?

On the face of it, Amazon Charts might democratise and re-evaluate the bestseller concept, but on the other – like Coca Cola, KFC and Big Mac special sauce – nobody really knows what actually goes into the New York Times’ bestseller list.

It certainly isn’t just a roundup of physical books bought over the counter at bricks-and-mortar stores. A request for an explanation and a breakdown of audience figures for the various NYT bestseller lists which are posted online was greeted with a firm: “We don’t share traffic data at the section level.”

. . . .

One advantage Amazon has is that it subdivides literary categories almost to an atomic level, which has both pros and cons. On the one hand, it gives a leg up to authors working in a genre that might not have its own New York Times bestseller category, and who might never trouble the upper reaches of the general fiction sales charts.

“In general, I do not think the Amazon bestseller tag will carry as much weight for literary works,” Stein says. “Though for genre books, for which a New York Times tag is not possible due to their evaluation system, it might serve the purpose in the same way – as a validation that this book stood out above the others.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG suspects the NYT’s best-seller list formula is a deep secret because disclosing it would show it’s subject to manipulation, put together with wire and chewing gum and would sink the list’s credibility.

 

Share

Amazon Takes On New York Times Bestseller List As Standard For Book Success

19 May 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Amazon has long featured bestseller lists track sales ranking by the hour, but what the e-commerce giant has lacked is a weekly list. That changed this week with the launch of Amazon Charts, a new feature that will include not only the top 20 bestsellers at the retailer in both fiction and nonfiction, but also the 20 most read books in both categories. Adult books and children’s books will be included on the lists.

The “most sold” chart will rank bestsellers based on aggregated sales (including pre-orders), as well as books borrowed. Sales will be based on activity from all of Amazon’s platforms (Amazon.com, Audible.com, and Amazon Books), and across all formats (print, digital, digital audio and books read through Amazon’s subscription services).

. . . .

The “most read” list will be based on titles read, or listened to, via Kindle devices and Audible. Naggar thinks that feature will reflect “what is going on in the zeitgeist” more than Amazon’s lists based solely on sales.

Both lists will be unconventional. There is a buy button on each bestseller, as well as an icon that lets readers view a few pages of the book (via the company’s Kindle Instant Preview technology). Other features are intended to provide fun insights into the books on the list; Amazon, for example, will tag books as that its data indicates were “unputdownable.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PW is pretty low-key — “both lists will be unconventional” — about something that PG thinks will upend tradpub bestseller metrics.

From a practical standpoint, which list will drive the most sales – NYT or Amazon’s? PG suggests the list that is seen by the most people will drive the most sales.

According to Statista, on average, 183 million users have visited Amazon’s websites per month in 2017. According to SimilarWeb, during the last six months, Amazon had 2.2 billion visits (visits, not visitors). Amazon doesn’t report the number of worldwide active customer accounts any more, but, in 2015, that number was over 300 million.

And, finally, 80% of all US Amazon customers purchase something from Amazon at least once per month.

According to CNN, the “Trump Bump” powered a big increase in New York Times subscribers during Q4 of 2016 and Q1 of 2017, bumping digital and print subscriptions past 3 million.

Fortune has a different take:

Amazon is creating its own version of the New York Times bestseller list.

The e-commerce giant debuted a new formula on Thursday for ranking books sold on its site called Amazon Charts. The new list, which will be updated weekly, will track the top 20 most sold on the site and the most read books.

Link to the rest at Fortune

Deadline Hollywood is even more enthusiastic:

Amazon Takes On New York Times Bestseller List As Standard For Book Success

Amazon continues to disrupt the publishing industry. After changing the way books are consumed — and pushing out brick-and-mortar booksellers in the process — the online goliath is now taking on The New York Times Bestseller List, forever been the standard of success for authors and publishers.

. . . .

Things have never been cordial between Amazon and The New York Times Bestseller List. The latter uses its own algorithm that insiders say excludes books that Amazon publishes on its own imprint because they are not sold in bookstores. Amazon has the ability not only to know how many books are sold online, but how many are actually read.

Link to the rest at Deadline Hollywood

PG suspects the NYT bestseller lists will continue to be authoritative in Manhattan while Amazon Charts will be the go-to lists for the rest of the world.

Share

That Day I Decided to Stop Chasing the Bestseller Lists

19 March 2017

From author Marie Force:

I’ll admit it. I’d become a bit of a whore for it, and I’m not proud of that. After the first time it happens, it becomes a little addicting, the high of realizing you’re one of the top-selling authors in the country in a given week. Wowza. I vividly remember the day I first made the USA Today list in November of 2012. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I hit no. 99 with Fatal Deception, the fifth book in my Fatal Series. I was overwhelmed and thrilled and incredulous at how I’d gone from being one of the most rejected authors I knew to a bestseller in only a couple of years.

Then it got better.

Waiting for Love, book 8 in my Gansett Island Series, hit no. 6 on the New York Times’ ebook list in February 2013.

What a thrill, especially when you consider that book 1 in the Gansett Island Series was rejected EVERYWHERE. So not only was it thrilling to have an indie-published book in a series that no one wanted, except my readers of course, be the first to hit the New York Times list—and in the top 10, no less, it was also extremely vindicating.

. . . .

I went on a bit of a tear with the bestseller lists after Waiting for Love hit. Over the next three years, there were another 26 NYT bestsellers and more than 30 USA Today bestsellers along with many Wall Street Journal bestsellers that I haven’t been as good about keeping track of. In short, I was on a roll, and it felt good. It was validating and vindicating and exciting—and incredibly stressful.

EVERYTHING was timed toward making the lists—release days and release week contests and promotion and advertising. It became a mini form of MADNESS that overtook my life every time a new book was released, and then came the breathless wait on Wednesdays for the lists to be released to validate what I already knew based on the sales—my book was a bestseller. I won’t deny that it was fun to celebrate the lists, and add to the collection of covers on my wall that my agent started as a tradition for each new listing, but I’ve known for more than a year now that this whole thing was starting to get a little out of control.

And that became VERY clear to me last summer. I was on vacation with family and friends in Block Island, my no. 1 happy place in the world, where I spent an entire Wednesday afternoon at the beach stressing out about how my new Fatal book would do on the bestseller lists.

. . . .

Earlier this year, in a move no one saw coming, The New York Times eliminated its ebook list, among many other lists that were cut. I want to say, for the record, that I totally disagree with this move, and it infuriates me that the NYT has basically given the shaft to authors who are KILLING IT on the digital side, which we all know is the future of the book business. They also eliminated the mass-market paperback list and made some other questionable moves that left a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering why. Now we’re hearing that USA Today is considering eliminating its bestseller list, too.

I feel for the scores of authors who had the NYT list as a “someday” goal. I hate that it has become almost impossible for authors who are nearly 100 percent digitally published to make the NYT list, even if they sell 25,000 books in a week. I always thought USA Today is a much bigger deal because it highlights ALL the books sold in the country in ALL formats on one list. Because it takes a lower number of sales to score a spot on the back end of the list, USA Today has been viewed by some as somewhat of a stepchild to the vaunted NYT. But I think most authors would agree that hitting the top 50 on USA Today is a pretty big deal when you look at who else is with you on that list on any given week.

If you are an author who is yet to hit a list and that is your goal, I want you to know that I fully support your goals and aspirations, and I understand them completely. I understand the need for that feather in your cap because I once had the same need for the feather. I am rooting for ALL of you to get there someday if that is what you want, and I will always celebrate my author friends and colleagues who make the lists.

Link to the rest at Marie Force Blog

Here’s a link to Marie Force’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Share

Behind the Scam: What Does It Take to Be a ‘Best-Selling Author’? $3 and 5 Minutes.

5 February 2017

From Medium:

I would like to tell you about the biggest lie in book publishing. It appears in the biographies and social media profiles of almost every working “author” today. It’s the word “best seller.”

This isn’t about how The New York Times list is biased (though it is). This isn’t about how authors buy their way onto various national best-seller lists by buying their own books in bulk (though they do). No, this is about the far more insidious title of “Amazon Bestseller” — and how it’s complete and utter nonsense.

Here’s what happened in the book industry over the last few years: As Amazon has become the big dog in the book world, the “Amazon Bestseller” status has come to be synonymous with being an actual bestseller. This is not true, and I can prove it.

. . . .

 A while ago, I put up a fake book on Amazon. I took a photo of my foot, uploaded to Amazon, and in a matter of hours, had achieved “№1 Best Seller” status, complete with the orange banner and everything.

. . . .

How many copies did I need to sell to be able to call up my mother and celebrate my newfound authorial achievements? Three. Yes, a total of three copies to become a best-selling author. And I bought two of those copies myself!

The reason people aspire to call themselves “bestselling author” is because it dramatically increases your credibility and “personal brand.” It can establish you as a thought leader. You’re able to show that you not only wrote a book, but that the market has judged it to be better than other books out there. It’s a status symbol, one of that cashes in on the prestige of one of man’s oldest past-times. At last, I had acquired this coveted title for myself.

. . . .

 It used to be a real mark of distinction to hit the best-seller lists–because there were fewer lists and fewer authors (and before ebooks, pricing across books was pretty universal as well). The New York Times list has been the most prestigious, published in one form or another since 1931. By 1942, a national list made its debut, compiled according to “reports from leading booksellers in 22 cities.” By the mid-2000s, over 4,000 bookstores were polled each week to determine who deserved to be on the list. The Wall Street Journal list, which has been around since 2009, is based on Nielsen Bookscan and tends to focus on a smaller number of categories. The USA Today list is also a prestigious but more of a catch-all list.

Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Share

New York Times Cuts a Range of Bestseller Lists

27 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

The New York Times has eliminated a number of bestsellers lists, although the exact number could not be confirmed Thursday morning. Cutting the various lists is part of an overall plan by the paper to revamp its coverage of publishing.

A note sent on Wednesday to subscribers to the advance bestsellers lists said, “Beginning with the Advance BSL edition that will be delivered today for Feb. 5, 2017, there will be revisions to multiple categories in the publication. These changes will span weekly and monthly lists.”

. . . .

“Beginning February 5, the New York Times will eliminate a number of print but mostly online-only bestseller lists.

In recent years, we introduced a number of new lists as an experiment, many of which are being discontinued. We will continue to cover all of these genres of books in our news coverage (in print and online). The change allows us to devote more space and resources to our coverage beyond the bestseller lists.

Our major lists will remain, including: Top 15 Hardcover Fiction, Top 15 Hardcover Nonfiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Nonfiction, Top 10 Children’s Hardcover Picture Books, Top 10 Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover Chapter Books, Top 10 Children’s Young Adult Hardcover Chapter Books, and Top 10 Children’s Series. Several more including Paperback Trade Fiction, Paperback Nonfiction, Business, Sports, Science, and Advice Miscellaneous will remain online. Readers will be notified that individual lists will no longer be compiled and updated by the New York Times on the relevant article pages.”

Among the lists that appear to have disappeared are the graphic novel/manga and the mass market paperback lists as well as the middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Cassandra for the tip.

Share

Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know

3 January 2017

From Jane Friedman:

The market for adult fiction is primarily a digital one

It’s commonly said that in the United States, overall trade book sales are divided about 70-30 print-digital, and that ebook sales at traditional publishing houses are flat to declining. (You’ve probably heard the celebratory and misleading claims that “print is back!”)

But the latest analysis from Author Earnings shows that when you factor in “nontraditional” publishing sales, the digital share of overall US consumer book purchases changes significantly:

  • 45% of all books purchased in the US in 2016 were digital
  • In adult fiction, sales in the US are roughly 70% digital
  • 30% of all US adult fiction purchases are books by self-published authors

“Nontraditional” sales include self-published work, Amazon’s own imprints, and other sources outside of big trade publishing.

. . . .

Amazon’s market share is growing—across all formats

Industry consultants such as Mike Shatzkin observe that Amazon now has at least 50% of the overall book retail market across print and digital formats. When you study industry reports of print’s buoyancy, and look closely at where the sales are happening, it’s fairly clear that Amazon is stealing away print market share from bricks-and-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble. And of course Amazon continues to dominate ebook retail, especially as Nook ebook sales continue their decline.

Furthermore, Amazon owns Audible/ACX—the No. 1 audiobook retailer in the US—and has been putting more investment behind the marketing of audiobooks and original audio programming. Over the last couple years, audiobooks have been the top growing format for trade publishers, with about 20-30% growth year on year. Amazon is primed to take advantage of this growth, whether the content comes from traditional publishers or self-publishers.

Finally, there’s Amazon Publishing. Amazon now has 13 active imprints and is the largest publisher of works in translation. In 2016 alone, it’s believed Amazon Publishing will release more than 2,000 titles. (Remember: This isn’t their self-publishing operation—it’s their traditional publishing operation.)

A data point that is unlikely to surprise anyone with knowledge of Amazon: eight of the top 20 Kindle sellers in 2016 were from Amazon’s own publishing imprints.

. . . .

There wasn’t a new blockbuster for publishing in 2016

If you look at the overall bestsellers from last year, many of them weren’t even published in 2016, such as The Girl on the Train. The dry spell was noticed as far back in July, by Publishers Weekly, who pointed out that no new novel had cracked the top twenty print bestsellers in the first half of 2016. Industry observers speculate that current events (the election cycle, terrorist attacks) may have squeezed out book coverage, but also that the division of sales between print and digital formats may be a factor.

But what about the new Harry Potter book, you might ask?

The release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lifted sales for its US publisher, Scholastic, as expected. While the power of Potter is real enough and undeniably impressive, what makes this less than boffo news for publishing is that, as Michael Cader writes, “the Potter gain was more of a movement of inventory dollars from new adult books rather than any kind of overall boost to the trade.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

Share

In 2017, publishing really needs a blockbuster

30 December 2016

From The Los Angeles Times:

This year, publishing needs a hit.

Not that 2016 was bad; it was fine. Books sales basically held steady — down a little here, up some there — for the most recent period for which we have numbers, from January to July. Although the Assn. of American Publishers wants to crow about the fact that books for children and teens were up quite a bit, overall, trade books sales were down 0.4% in 2016 from the same period in 2015.

Which isn’t terrible. But it isn’t good, or at least, not good enough.

What publishing needs is one book, one big book, that comes out of nowhere and takes America by storm. You know what I mean: You hear people talking about it in line at the grocery store. Your grandmother asks if you’ve read it and the same day your college roommate does. It’s the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once.

. . . .

In 2015, that book was “The Girl on the Train.” In 2012, it was “Gone Girl.” Before that came “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” (2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively).

Girls, girls, girls!

. . . .

The piling on once a book gets mega-successful may be dismaying from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective it makes sense: The big hits are impossible to predict.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times

Share

Amazon Mark-downs on NYT Bestsellers

26 December 2016

Amazon is marking down Kindle versions of a variety of New York Times Bestsellers and lots of other books as well. Supposedly, the sale ends today.

Here’s the link. You’ll see the Holiday Deals below the Shop by Category listings.

Share

Stephen King on Childhood

13 December 2016

Share

The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

13 October 2016

From The New Yorker:

In the late nineteen-thirties, in a tall house in Berkeley, California, a girl climbs out the attic window onto the roof in search of solitude. If she scrambles far enough up the redwood shingles, she can reach her own Mt. Olympus, the roof’s peak. From here, she can gaze out over the rough blue of the bay to the city of San Francisco, row upon row of white houses climbing the hills above the water. The city is strange to her—she rarely ventures so far from home—but the view is hers, and splendid. Beyond it she knows there are islands with a magical name: the Farallons. She imagines them as “the loneliest place, the farthest west you could go.”

Meanwhile, inside the house, the girl’s father is at work, thinking about myths, magic, songs, cultural patterns—the proper territory of a professor of anthropology. From him she will take a model for creative work in the midst of a rich family life, as well as the belief that the real room of one’s own is in the writer’s mind. Years later, she tells a friend that if she ended up writing about wizards “perhaps it’s because I grew up with one.”

Ursula Kroeber was born in Berkeley, in 1929, into a family busy with the reading, recording, telling, and inventing of stories. She grew up listening to her aunt Betsy’s memories of a pioneer childhood and to California Indian legends retold by her father. One legend of the Yurok people says that, far out in the Pacific Ocean but not farther than a canoe can paddle, the rim of the sky makes waves by beating on the surface of the water. On every twelfth upswing, the sky moves a little more slowly, so that a skilled navigator has enough time to slip beneath its rim, reach the outer ocean, and dance all night on the shore of another world.

Ursula absorbed these stories, together with the books she read: children’s classics, Norse myths, Irish folktales, the Iliad. In her father’s library, she discovered Romantic poetry and Eastern philosophy, especially the Tao Te Ching. She and her brother Karl supplemented these with science-fiction magazines. With Karl, the closest to her in age of her three brothers, she played King Arthur’s knights, in armor made of cardboard boxes. The two also made up tales of political intrigue and exploration set in a stuffed-toy world called the Animal Kingdom. This storytelling later gave her a feeling of kinship with the Brontës, whose Gondal and Angria, she says, were “the ‘genius version’ of what Karl and I did.”

Her father was Alfred L. Kroeber, one of the most influential cultural anthropologists of the past century. A New Yorker from a prosperous German immigrant family, he went west in 1900, when he was twenty-four, and did field work among the Indians of Northern California. Throughout his career, he learned about cultures that were rapidly being transformed or destroyed from men and women who were among the last survivors of their people. At a time when the dominant story of America was one of European conquest, Ursula was aware, through her father and his Indian friends who came to the house, that there were other stories to tell and other judgments that might be made.

Ursula’s mother was Theodora Kracaw Kroeber, born in Denver in 1897 and raised in the mining town of Telluride. A friend of Le Guin’s recalls seeing her, at the house in Berkeley, “coming down the long staircase, a majestic-looking woman with a long gown and a great big Indian silver and turquoise necklace. She was very stately.” Theodora took to writing in her late fifties, and produced “Ishi in Two Worlds,” a nonfiction account of the last survivor of the Yahi people. Le Guin loved her mother and admired her psychological gifts. But she says that their relationship also contained “something darker and stranger” that she has never quite understood. “We were very lucky, because we never had to act that out. But if I see daughters and mothers act it out toward each other it doesn’t shock me or surprise me. It’s there.”

. . . .

If it was difficult to be the youngest and most precocious of the Kroeber children, leaving the house to enter the world made Ursula feel like “an exile in a Siberia of adolescent social mores.” In the fall of 1944, at fourteen, small for her age, disguised in the sweater, skirt, and loafers of a “bobby-soxer” (a term that still makes her shudder), she began her first year at Berkeley High School, a huge, impersonal institution where popularity mattered more than learning, and fitting in was the ideal. When Le Guin speaks of her teen-age years, she speaks of loneliness, confusion, and the pain of being among people who have no use for one’s gifts. “You’re just dropped into this dreadful place, and there are no explanations why and no directions what to do.”

She found a refuge in the public library, reading Austen and the Brontës, Turgenev and Shelley. In fiction, she could satisfy her deep romantic streak: she fell in love with Prince Andrei in “War and Peace” and once, at thirteen, defaced a library book by cutting out a still of Laurence Olivier’s Mr. Darcy and taking it home to look at in private, guilty rapture. From Thomas Hardy she learned to handle strong feelings in fiction by pouring them into landscapes, letting the settings carry part of the emotional charge. “There’s a patronizing word for that: the ‘pathetic fallacy,’ ” she says. “It’s not a fallacy; it’s art.”

As a child, she was painfully shy, and she still alludes to anxieties that she keeps hidden from the world. I caught a glimpse of that when she asked me, cautiously, “Wouldn’t you say that anybody who thought as much about balance as I do in my work probably felt some threat to their balance?” After a long pause, she added, “Of course all adolescents are out of balance, and very aware of it. To become adult can certainly feel like walking a high wire, can’t it? If my foot slips, I’m gone. I’m dead.”

Equilibrium is a central metaphor in Le Guin’s great works about adolescence, the six-volume Earthsea series, which began in 1968 with “A Wizard of Earthsea.” That book follows Ged, a lonely teen-ager with a gift for magic, who at wizards’ school learns a painful lesson in achieving balance rather than forcing change. There’s little resemblance between the school on Roke Island, with its Taoist magic (a mage is taught to “do by not doing”), and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. There is some resemblance between Ged, the provincial boy with a chip on his shoulder, and Ursula Kroeber, the Californian in jeans arriving at Radcliffe College in 1947, all books and opinions, never before out of her home state, eager to prove herself as a poet. Her Radcliffe friend Jean Taylor Kroeber, who became her sister-in-law, recalls that, before she and Ursula bonded over Russian literature, jokes, and music, she found her “a little frightening. It’s not that she meant to be, but that’s the way it came across . . . that there was a good chance that she was ahead of you, in wherever the conversation was going. And one rather brief acute remark could set you back on your heels.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Share
Next Page »
Share