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.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Here vs There

If you click along to here you can find a very nice photographic voyage into the Sunday Times of London for 4 April 2010, wherein we find Peter V. Brett's The Desert Spear nicely perched on the hardcover fiction bestseller list. This list is derived from the Nielsen Bookscan UK data, and those numbers at the end of the listing line for each book are the quantity UK Bookscan reports sold during the week and then the total to date.

This is a good way to explore the size difference in the US and UK markets. You will notice that the top book on the Sunday Times list sold 17,690. That number of copies would have been good for #3 on the US Bookscan list for the same week. And at 10,425, the UK/Sunday Times of London #2 would have been the US #7. Those numbers are not totally without correlation. But -- and with Charlaine Harris and Peter V. Brett over the past year giving me my first UK bestsellers I've been looking at this lots to see how Charlaine's doing and predict with Peter kif we had a chance at making -- the tail-off is where you start to see the difference in the two markets.

We'd generally felt that 1400 to 1500 copies in a given week was the sweet spot for getting on to the Sunday Times of London bestseller list. So in the UK, we make #9 with 1473 copies with some room to spare. Because the NY Times list in the US isn't based on actual Bookscan sales data, there is rarely an exact correlation, but what the NY Times has as their #10 book is Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, and that sold 5600ish copies for #13 on US Bookscan. SHATTERED by Karen Robards was #9 on the Times list, #7 on Nielsen Bookscan, with sales of 10,800ish copies. This can vary mightily from week to week, but let's just say as a rule that you might want to sell four times as many copies to have a decent chance of being a US top 10 as a UK.

I might also mention that the UK has kind of two tiers of bestsellers, the Sunday Times top 10 and then the top 50 chart on Bookscan. In the US, we have at least three. The NY Times top 10, because many papers that reprint the NY Times list reprint just the top 10. The full top 15 that appear in the printed NY Times. And then the extended Times list, which is what appears on the NY Times web site. That list goes to #35. That doesn't mean so much to the general public but means lots and lots within the industry because an author making it to the extended list for the first time may get more marketing attention as the publishers try hard to push higher and ultimately get the author on to the printed list. Generally, you need to sell at least 2000 copies to have a chance at making that extended list in the US, sometimes less if you're lucky or are doing well in the channels the NY Times looks at most closely. There's also a top 50 Bookscan list in the US, but this doesn't have a lot of street cred. But for what it's worth, that'll take sales of around 1500 copies.

So now that Peter made the Sunday Times of London list, we start to think "can he do it here..."

Because the UK market is smaller, Peter's first novel, which was called THE PAINTED MAN in the UK and THE WARDED MAN in the US, was able to make a bigger splash in the UK, and thus to become better positioned more quickly to move high up the charts. In fact, the first hardcover printing in the UK was something like one-sixth the size of the first US printing, but in relation to the overall size of the market seemed bigger. And at the same time, because the US market is larger, we have an excellent chance to sell more copies first week in the US than we did in the UK.

Those numbers will be revealed on/about April 21, and between now and then there's a lot of regular checking on Amazon as a barometer of just how the buzz is building. Which clearly it is. But now it's so exhilerating and so nerve-racking. Before I'd crunched numbers on the WARDED MAN hardcover. I've been using Bookscan long enough to know that for a really popular author you can have x% of the total lifetime sales of the hardcover of one book in a series that end up selling the first week for the next book. I've had this aspiration that maybe we could make the extended list in the US with THE DESERT SPEAR, but now that the chance is becoming more real, the next two weeks of waiting become more nail-biting.

There are differing schools of thought in the US on whether you launch your new paperback simultaneous with the new hardcover or a month before. What we're seeing with Peter V. Brett is a good example of why I think the month before is the better approach for building an author. If you get that good response like what we're having for Peter in the US now, you can build a bigger head of steam for the new hardcover. That's why I pushed Penguin three years ago to move from their same month philosophy for Charlaine Harris, since I thought it would help a little to push her hardcovers higher up the bestseller list, this being back in a pre-True Blood era for Charlaine and Sookie Stackhouse. Now that Charlaine is established as a top-selling author in the US, we may not need that head of steam and there might be an argument for the bigger same-day splash you get by having the hardcover and paperback come out at the same time.

1 comment:

David said...

What a fascinating analysis! Thank you -