Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And you may ask yourself, well, how did it get there?

Via Roger Williams at the Publish or Perish Literary Agency, here's an article that I found very interesting: The secrets of the Amazon bestseller list. If you wonder how an author's online presence affects book sales (or not), and how important is the Kindle to the bestseller list (or not), check this out.

The article opens:

It's almost a philosophical riddle: Do sales drive the best-seller list, or do best-sellers get all the sales because buyers see them on the list?

As much as we'd like to believe that the crowd picks the best books, a strong presence in retail locations -- front-of-store positioning and tempting discounts -- still counts a great deal in determining how well a title sells.

One of the hardest things for me to reconcile lately is switching my brain from libraryland to retail in terms of how books get into the hands of readers, and seeing that bestsellers are often made, not born. Libraries are unique in that their collections rely heavily on peer reviews of books. I keep forgetting, after my years of library work, that not everyone in the world reads Kirkus, PW, or Booklist to make their buying decisions. This isn't a bad thing; it's just the nature of the beast. Librarians buy books for libraries in much different ways than retail consumers buy books for their personal collections. The question of bestsellers is very chicken-and-egg, and it's one that I think librarians can benefit from understanding. Amazon itself is also a different entity with different buying rules than brick-and-mortar chains. Anyway, read it. It's full of answers to (some of) the questions that keep me up at night.


Maggie Stiefvater said...

Well, and even for us non-librarians, it's hard to remember that most people are not reading YA blogs or even checking out Goodreads for reading suggestions. I remember browsing at a bookstore with my brother and he turned to me and said "if you don't read YA book blogs all the time, how are you supposed to find a good book to read next?" Because he was not a book blog reader. I just sort of opened my mouth and closed it.

Also, I just saw the top 100 Bookscan books as opposed to the NYT bestsellers. It was amazing to see the books that had been legacied off or whatever it's called -- all the Dr. Seuss's, etc. I think bestsellers are definitely made (I'm allowed to say that now that I am one) but I think you have to have good word of mouth to stay there for any length of time (I'll get back to you on that one after a few weeks. ;p)

Carlie Webber said...

Maggie, your first sentence is a thousand times YES! I feel incredibly overwhelmed sometimes at bookstores, not to mention the library, and I've not had great experiences getting advice on what to read from employees at large chain bookstores. (To be fair, though, is that even their job?)

Bookscan fascinates me. I mean, I know it's not 100 percent accurate because it doesn't index some mass retailers and whatnot, but it really speaks as to what lasts.

Also, I hope your book hits #1...on the bestseller list of your choice :)

Maggie Stiefvater said...

*grin* Thanks.

Right now, #5 feels pretty darn fine anyway. ;)

And I don't know, am I alone in feeling like departmental brains in even chain bookstores would sell more books than the hands off Walmart approach they have now?