About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Gift That Dare Not Bare Its Name

Eighteen months ago, I didn't care so much about what the Adult Fiction Boxed Set bestseller list looked like on Nielsen Bookscan. And then last year, the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse 7-copy boxed set became a stunning phenomenon, joined this year by an 8-copy version, and then by a boxed set of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy.

So suffice to say I've suddenly become much more interested in that sub-category of the bestseller list.

The Sookie sets again did very well, #1 on the adult boxed set chart. Not as big a thing as last year when True Blood went on the air in September, vs. this year when people have been buying Sookie in large quantity for a full year, but still a very very good holiday for the boxes. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the Mistborn set, so I was very pleased to see it settle in as the #7 adult set for most of the holiday season, and then sneaking up higher in the final weeks.

It's the sales trends in those final weeks that I find really interesting.

A huge portion of the box business is generated on-line. Because you can't necessarily find a single mass market book discounted at Amazon, but the boxed sets are, so you can buy an entire Mistborn box for less than about the same price as any two of the single mass markets.

So Christmas week, you started to see a sudden lurch in the line items. It was too late to buy things on-line and have them in time, so that line on Bookscan suddenly nose-dives, while the brick-and-mortar line leaps up as people buy their last-minute gifts.

But then even more interesting, come New Year's week, is that you start to see which sets are being given as lazy gifts, which sets people are much happier buying for themselves than putting on their wish lists, and which see a nice balance.

Lazy gift-giving idea: The Lord of The Rings, which dropped like a stone after the holidays.

Don't Ask, Buy: People clearly were way happier to buy JR Ward or Laurell K. Hamilton with their gift cards than to ask for as a gift. Those boxed sets soared during the gift card season. And did a Sherlock Holmes boxed set surge up the list because of the movie, or because people are as reluctant to ask for Sherlock in their stocking as they apparently are for Anita Blake?

Nicely Balanced: And then in the middle, there are a lot of boxed sets that had smaller drops, representing things that to varying degrees had some interest both as gifts and as gift card items. The Mistborn trilogy benefits from being one of the stronger gift card items of the balanced items, dropping some from Christmas week to New Year's week, but buy a few points less than a lot of the other items.

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