Thursday, February 3, 2011

NYT Bestseller Lists Finally Catch Up to Digital Market

With the popularity of e-books is on the rise it only makes sense for the New York Times to catch on.

Starting February 11th (online) and February 13th (in print), the creators of the famed bestseller list will carve out a place for the "e-book category," according to Publishers Lunch Deluxe:
The NYT's first-ever e-book bestseller lists will appear in print on February 13 and online on February 11 (reflecting rankings for the week ending January 30), as the paper previewed for publishing people at an event this morning. Not only will the paper publish a separate e-book list, but there will also be a hybrid print and e-book bestseller list. A spokesperson said the paper "wanted to provide more comprehensive lists of which books are selling."

Unlike USA Today's approach, the hybrid lists give no indication of whether e-books outsell print editions; a note on their methodology says only that "until the industry is more settled, sales of e-book titles will not be weighted." (This week, 16 of USA Today's top 50 titles sold more units electronically than in print.)

The new NYT lists also skew predominantly to the biggest publishers. Again, the fine print explains why. Print and e format sales are "reported by venues offering a wide range of general interest titles" but specifically exclude "self-published books including single-vendor self-published titles" as well as these genres: "perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, comics, crossword puzzles."

In other words, the standard rules for the NYT's magic bestselling formula apply, and then some. The self-publishing exclusion currently seems to incorporate Amazon's own titles (their Crossing imprint's translation of The Hangman's Daughter was No. 2 for the week ending 1/31 on the etailer's own list) as well as electronically self-published titles--or else, if you are a suspicious person, the NYT has determined that those titles are disproportionately boosted on Amazon's own list, or cannot be "verified" as the paper says it does with publisher data. (By comparison, the mock bestseller list created by Publishing Trends earlier this week includes many strong-selling self-e-published titles, with three by Amanda Hocking alone. Hocking does not appear anywhere on the NYT's lists.)

The paper does note the lists are a work in progress, stating that, in contrast to a "well-established" reporting of print book sales, "The universe of e-book publishers and vendors is rapidly emerging, and The Times is keeping pace, looking for new ways to account for growing parts of the industry, including tracking exclusively digital self-published titles." The NYT also says sales of advice and how-to e-books and children's e-book titles "will be tracked and ranked at a future date."

As you might expect, James Patterson's TICK TOCK tops both the print and e-book fiction bestseller lists, and thus, also the hybrid bestseller lists. The top seven fiction sellers on the e-book and hybrid lists are identical, with the only significant difference Susan Wiggs' MARRYING DAISY BELLAMY, which makes #8 on the hybrid list, but just #18 on the e-book-only list. There's a bit more variance on the non-fiction side, with the top 4 sellers the same on both lists, while Justin Halpern's SH*T MY DAD SAYS ranking higher (#5) on e-book only than the hybrid list (#8.)

For some further analysis, we reproduced what Amazon's top 20 fiction titles would look like for nearly the same week (in their case ending 1/31 instead of 1/30) if you followed the NYT's parameters and omitted Amazon's publishing program, other self-published books, children's titles, etc.

Going by that comparison, it appears as if the NYT is also throwing out books boosted by heavy price promotions that have them selling for under a dollar. (Amazon's top title by Lisa Gardner, along with Katriena Knight's deep-discounted ebook do not make the NYT list at all.) Six of the top 20 NYT ebestsellers are discounted by Amazon, at under $6:

Amazon/NYT Comparison list
1. Alone, Lisa Gardner (#1 Amzn; -- NYT) (promo price)
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson (#5 Amzn; #2 NYT) $5
3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson (#6 Amzn; #4 NYT)
4. The Girl Who Played with Fireo, Stieg Larsson (#7 Amzn; #4 NYT) $5
5. Tick Tock, James Patterson (#8 Amzn; #1 NYT)
6. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (#9 Amzn; #5 NYT) $5
7. Summer at Willow Lake, Susan Wiggs (#10 Amzn; -- NYT) $5
8. The Confession, John Grisham (#14 Amzn; #6 NYT)
9. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese (#16 Amzn; #7 NYT) $5
10. Towers of Midnight, Robert Jordan (#24 Amzn; -- NYT; pubbed 1/31)
11. Where There's a Will, Katriena Knights (#25 Amzn; -- NYT) (promo)
12. Room, Emma Donoghue (#26 Amzn; #9 NYT)
13. The Help, Kathryn Stockett (#27 Amzn; #8 NYT)
14. Cross Fire, James Patterson (#28 Amzn; #10 NYT)
15. Secrets to the Grave, Tami Hoag (#31 Amzn; #14 NYT)
16. Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy (#32 Amzn; #13 NYT)
17. Hell's Corner, David Baldacci (#33 Amzn; #17 NYT)
18. Marrying Daisy Bellamy, Susan Wiggs (#35 Amzn; #18 NYT) $5.49
19. Strategic Moves, Stuart Woods (#38 Amzn; #12 NYT)
20. What the Night Knows, Dean Koontz (#39 Amzn; #11 NYT)

The NYT's combined print and ebook list is more similar to USA Today's approach--except that they still parse fiction and nonfiction, and observe the NYT's other exclusionary rules (adult titles only, etc.) Bearing in mind those broad differences, here are the few titles that stand out as ranking appreciably higher on USA Today's combined print and ebook list than the NYT's. All three are romance novels, which generally rank higher on USA Today's list, which may incorporate Wal-Mart data alongside other common sources:

4. Marrying Daisy Bellamy, by Susan Wiggs (No. 8 NYT)
7. Wild Man Creek, by Robin Carr (No. 12 NYT)
13. Here to Stay, by Catherine Anderson (No. 23 NYT)

See the original post HERE

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