E-book readers’ guilty pleasures revealed

1 September 2015

From The Telegraph:

It is a familiar sight on the beach or daily commute: readers brandishing a hardback copy of the latest acclaimed literary fiction.

However, the books they choose to download to the privacy of their e-readers are a different story.

A newly published list of’s biggest selling e-books of the year features psychological thrillers, misery memoirs, Mills and Boon and a book by the Tory MP Nadine Dorries, whose first work was memorably described by a Telegraph reviewer as “the worst novel I’ve read in 10 years”.

Notably, 18 of the top 20 authors were women, including thriller writers Angela Marsons, Fiona Neill and Rachel Abbott.

. . . .

However, a parallel list of physical books compiled by Waterstones to cover the same period is significantly more highbrow and features four times as many male authors.

They include Richard Flanagan, author of the Man Booker Prize-winningThe Narrow Road to the Deep North, and Anthony Doerr, with his Pulitzer Prize-winner All The Light We Cannot See. There are also books by Colm Toibin, Ian McEwan and Victoria Hislop.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Dave for the tip.

NYT Bestseller Lists

20 August 2015

In case you missed a comment from Smart Debut Author to an earlier post:

The NYT “Best Seller” Lists are a work of serial fiction, published weekly.

New York Times Changes Children’s Bestseller Lists

20 August 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Starting August 21, the New York Times will tweak its children’s bestseller lists, separating hardcover middle grade and young adult titles from paperback and e-book bestsellers. The hardcover lists will appear in print, and the paperback and e-book lists will be available online. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, told PW that the changes were meant to be more useful for readers, authors, and publishers in helping discoverability of titles.

Paul said that when she started as children’s books editor of the Book Review in 2011, middle grade and YA were reported together under the category “chapter books,” with paperbacks a separate category. “It was such a wildly mixed group,” she said, “that I thought it was very confusing to readers. If you’re a parent, and you’re looking at that list for your child, The Hunger Games is very different from Rebecca Stead. I thought it made sense to break the two categories apart,” and separate middle grade and YA lists were created.

Adding paperbacks to the newly created middle grade and YA sections allowed more titles to be included on the list. What happened, however, “was that given the relative unit sales of paperbacks, they would overtake the lists,” she said. “New authors would find it hard to break into the list, and it was difficult for readers to discover new writers from those lists. So it made sense to return to the model we use in adult.” Paul sees a slight trade-off in moving paperback and e-book figures online, as opposed to their appearing in print, but said, “Given how large our Internet readership is, I didn’t feel we were losing anything. Our Internet audience is growing enormously, and paperback and e-book sales are not trending the way we expected four years ago, and as a result the lists are not reflecting the breadth of what’s being published.”

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

The Bestseller Book That Didn’t Exist

19 August 2015

From author J. Mark Powell:

To fully appreciate this tale, you must first understand Jean Shepherd, the satirical genius who was a masterful storyteller, helped create the talk radio format, and was a gifted writer who gave the world A Christmas Story, which eventually became a movie in 1983 (narrated by Shepherd himself) and grew into an annual holiday tradition.

Shep (that’s how he identified himself) had a melodic voice that begged you to stop whatever you were doing and listen. It was only natural that he drifted into a career in radio after serving in World War II, eventually reaching that pinnacle of broadcasting, WOR Radio in New York City, in 1955.

The industry was in a transition phase just then. Television’s arrival in the early 1950s had ended the Golden Age of Radio, and the older medium was struggling to reinvent itself. Music and news filled most of its day. Shep believed an engaging host could create an audience simply by talking directly to people, not reading from a prepared script. We now know the format as Talk Radio, but it was a cutting edge programming concept then.

So he was given the time slot most broadcasters loathe above all others: the dreaded graveyard shift from midnight to dawn. But Shep loved it. The long stretch of empty hours meant he could ramble to his heart’s content. And with management safely snoozing in their beds, he could say whatever he wanted, too. His satiric brand of humor was ahead of the curve (he was satire when satire wasn’t cool) and quickly developed a fiercely loyal following among what he termed the Night People … including Beat poet Jack Kerouac and comedian Lenny Bruce.

. . . .

One thing that astonished him about New Yorkers was (and still remains) their slavish obsession with Top 10 lists. “The 10 Most Beautiful People…”  “The 10 New Looks for Summer…” “The 10 Hottest Movies…” Shep felt New Yorkers blindly followed whatever appeared on those lists without thinking or questioning them. The one that got his goat most of all was The New York Times Best Seller list for books.

The Times has been printing this highly influential list since 1931. But here’s the thing: in Shep’s time, despite its name, the criteria for making the list involved more than just book sales. It included customer requests for and questions about books to book sellers. So if a retailer had a stack of a particular book that wasn’t selling, he could gin up enough queries about it to get the title included on the best seller list, which then made people go out and buy it.

Shep saw through this hypocrisy and ranted about it at length one night. In a burst of inspiration, he speculated that if enough people requested the same title of a book that didn’t actually exist, it could indeed make the coveted New York Times Best Seller List. The Night People went crazy over the idea; WOR was flooded with calls from listeners pledging their support.

Shep was like a kid in a candy store. He invited the Night People to suggest a title for their “book.” After receiving dozens of suggestions, he settled on I, Libertine. His creative juices were flowing now, and Shep quickly created a fictitious author: a retired British military officer and scholar named Frederick R. Ewing who lived with his wife Marjorie on their English country estate, where he churned out a steady stream of literature on his manual typewriter.

And so, in the spring of 1956, the I, Libertine hoax was set in motion.

Remember, this was the time before Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Books were primarily sold by mom-and-pop book retailers. Hundreds, then soon thousands, of the Night People descended on these stores, asking with a straight face if I, Libertine was in stock and (because it obviously wasn’t), if it could be ordered. One listener reported a particularly snooty clerk responded to the query with, “Frederick R. Ewing? It’s about time people began noticing his work. I’ve long felt he hasn’t received the recognition he deserves.”

Another listener described how she mentioned the book at her weekly bridge club meeting; three women said they had read it, and then proceeded to argue over which chapters they liked and those they didn’t.

One Night Person who was a college student (Shep wouldn’t name the school, but strongly hinted it was Rutgers) submitted a lengthy term paper for an English Lit class on “F.R. Ewing: Eclectic Historian.” He even included extensive footnotes quoting from Ewing’s previous novels. The professor wrote “Superb research!” on the cover page and gave it a B+. The student later told Shep: “My whole education is probably phony.”

. . . .

In perhaps the hoax’s crowning achievement, a church congregation in Massachusetts condemned I, Libertine, enabling proponents to claim with semi-accuracy that the book had been “banned in Boston.” Nothing, after all, drives sales faster than censorship.

And sure enough, it happened: by early summer 1956, the book that didn’t exist made The New York Times Best Seller List … and kept inching upward on it. One literary gossip columnist even wrote in a leading newspaper, “Had a delightful lunch the other day with Frederick R. Ewing and his charming wife, Marjorie.”

Link to the rest at J. Mark Powell and thanks to Karen for the tip.

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

Cruz book lands on NY Times bestseller list

16 July 2015

From The Hill:

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) recently-released book has landed on The New York Times’ bestseller list this week, after its initial omission saw public criticism.

The Republican presidential candidate’s “A Time for Truth” comes in at No. 7 on the Times’ latest bestseller list of nonfiction books due out Friday, newspaper spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told The Hill.

“This week’s NYT best seller list was arrived at using the same process as last week’s – and the week before that,” Murphy wrote in an email.

“That process involves a careful analysis of data, and is not influenced in any way by the content of a book, or by pressure from publishers or book sellers,” she continued.

“Our approach serves Times readers by authenticating broadly popular books through the confidential reporting of a wide range of retailers. In order to avoid compromising that process, we do not disclose who reports sales to us,” Murphy added.

The book’s inclusion comes after Cruz’s campaign and HarperCollins, which published the book, publicly criticized the newspaper for omitting it from its current list, citing the book’s inclusion on other prominent rankings.

Cruz acknowledged public attention had helped propel his book onto the list.

Link to the rest at The Hill and thanks to Darren for the tip.

Amazon’s best-selling books through the years

15 July 2015

From SF Gate:

Within hours of its release, “Go Set a Watchman” became’s best-selling book for 2015.

. . . .

The book bumped “StrengthsFinder 2.0,” by Tom Rath, from the top spot on Amazon’s best-selling books list. That short book helps readers identify and apply their strengths using an online StrengthsFinder assessment created by Donald Clifton, Tom Rath and scientists at Gallup. Each copy of the book comes with an access code for the assessment.

To mark Amazon’s 20th birthday on Wednesday, I took a look back at the best-selling books and electronic books over the years. Early best-sellers were dedicated to creating websites. Other nonfiction books that made it to No. 1 include “Steve Jobs,” the biography by Walter Isaacson, and “Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t.”

Five of the eight “Harry Potter” books were best-sellers on Amazon the year they came out. Other popular fiction includes “Cold Mountain,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Jeff Bezos founded as a place to buy books online. In July 1995, the Seattle company sold its first book, “Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought,” by Douglas Hofstadter. The company shipped books from Seattle to 50 states and 45 countries during its first 30 days.

Link to the rest at SF Gate and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Amazon: ‘No evidence’ of bulk sales for Ted Cruz book

13 July 2015

From Politico:

The New York Times’ refusal to put Ted Cruz’s memoir on its bestseller list is once again being called into question — this time by Amazon, the largest Internet retailer in the country.

On Sunday, an Amazon spokesperson told the On Media blog that the company’s sales data showed no evidence of unusual bulk purchase activity for the Texas senator’s memoir, casting further doubt on the Times’ claim that the book — “A Time For Truth” — had been omitted from its list because sales had been driven by “strategic bulk purchases.”

“As of yesterday, ‘A Time for Truth’ was the number 13 bestselling book, and there is no evidence of unusual bulk purchase activity in our sales data,” Sarah Gelman, Amazon’s director of press relations, said in an email.

Amazon’s findings match those of HarperCollins, the book’s publisher, which said Friday that it had “investigated the sales pattern” for Cruz’s book and found “no evidence of bulk orders or sales through any retailer or organization.” Moments after that announcement, Cruz’s campaign issued a press release accusing the Times of lying and calling on the paper to provide evidence of bulk purchasing or else formally apologize.

“The Times is presumably embarrassed by having their obvious partisan bias called out. But their response — alleging ‘strategic bulk purchases’ — is a blatant falsehood,” Cruz campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler said in a statement Friday. “The evidence is directly to the contrary. In leveling this false charge, the Times has tried to impugn the integrity of Senator Cruz and of his publisher HarperCollins.”

Link to the rest at Politico and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

While PG has no idea whether someone in the Cruz camp tried to manipulate the New York Times bestseller list (Such manipulation has been successful many times before), he will note that Cruz has received far more publicity from the NYT keeping him off the list than he would if his book had been listed.

Plus, a fight with the Times over anything is great publicity for any Republican candidate.

N.Y. Times keeps Cruz off bestseller list

10 July 2015

From Politico:

The New York Times informed HarperCollins this week that it will not include Ted Cruz’s new biography on its forthcoming bestsellers list, despite the fact that the book has sold more copies in its first week than all but two of the Times’ bestselling titles, the On Media blog has learned.

Cruz’s “A Time For Truth,” published on June 30, sold 11,854 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Bookscan’s hardcover sale numbers. That’s more than 18 of the 20 titles that will appear on the bestseller list for the week ending July 4. Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance,” which is #2 on the list, sold fewer than 10,000 copies. Ann Coulter’s “Adios America,” at #11, sold just over half as many copies.

“A Time For Truth” has also sold more copies in a single week than Rand Paul’s “Taking a Stand,” which has been out for more than a month, and more than Marco Rubio’s “American Dreams,” which has been out for six months. It is currently #4 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover list, #4 on the Publisher’s Weekly hardcover list, #4 on the Bookscan hardcover list, and #1 on the Conservative Book Club list.

. . . .

“We have uniform standards that we apply to our best seller list, which includes an analysis of book sales that goes beyond simply the number of books sold,” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy explained when asked about the omission. “This book didn’t meet that standard this week.”

Asked to specify those standards, Murphy replied: “Our goal is that the list reflect authentic best sellers, so we look at and analyze not just numbers, but patterns of sales for every book.”

Link to the rest at Politico and thanks to Richard for the tip.

Best Sellers List Exposed

3 June 2015

Thanks to Abel for the tip.

King of the Golden Hill: An Analysis of 50 Years of Bestsellers.

8 May 2015

From author Martin Hill Ortiz:

I looked at fifty years of the books that dominated the New York Times Adult Fiction Bestseller List, starting in 1960 and continuing through 2009. My goal was to see what kind of book got on top and stayed there, and how this has changed over time.

To narrow down the massive number of titles, I focused on those which stayed on top for at least four weeks.

. . . .

The New York Times first began determining best-selling novels and non-fiction works on a national basis in 1942. Over the years, these lists have splintered to include competing lists. Among the categories they were divided into were paperbacks versus hardcover, print versus e-book, and children’s versus adult. Sublists have been added to distinguish trade from mass-market.

For these analyses, I examined the Adult Fiction Bestsellers.

. . . .

During the year 1960, only two novels held the number one spot: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury, carrying over from 1959 and Hawaii by James Michener which stayed on top for 49 weeks, spilling into 1961. They slugged it out, the top entry spot changing eleven times. Long stays on top of the list were common for the 1960s. Over the course of the decade, 31 novels took the number one spot for an average stay of 16.1 weeks.

During the year 2009, 37 different novels occupied the number one position, 31 of these for only one week. The average stay was 1.4 weeks. Over a remarkable period, one-week wonders climbed to the top spot for each of twenty consecutive weeks. Novels with four or more weeks at the number one position filled 47.7% of the weeks during the decade of the 2000s. If you exclude The Da Vinci Code, theGangnam Style of novels, this number drops to 36.4%.

What happened in between was a great splintering in the length of stay on the list. The value of being number one was quantified and incentives were written into book contracts for its achievement. The number one bestselling authors could demand higher speaker fees. The competition for the number one spot became fierce. The company ResultSource guarantees a number one position for a fee of $200,000. Their webpage has a disturbing minimalism. (This may be thought of as being the steroid period of American popular literature.)

. . . .

James Patterson Has Page Count Envy. 

James Patterson is a machine for writing bestsellers. I don’t fault him for that: he knows how to give people what they want. He writes short novels which are printed out to appear to be long books. From 2005 to 2008 he had these six entries which stayed at least four weeks in the number one position on the bestsellers list*.

Year, Title, Page count, Word count
2005 Honeymoon, 393 pages, 65572 words
2005 4th of July, 392 pages, 68000 words
2005 Lifeguard, 394 pages, 71634 words
2005-06 Mary, Mary, 392 pages, 72436 words
2006 Judge and Jury, 421 pages, 74288 words
2008 Double Cross, 2008, 389 pages, 70753 words
*He had 16 total number one books during this period.

These average out to be 397 pages and 70447 words, or 177.4 words per page.

Link to the rest at Martin Hill Ortiz and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Here’s a link to Martin Hill Ortiz’s books

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