Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book shenanigans!

Well well. It seems that a company decided they wanted to be Number One!!! on the New York Times bestseller list.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A novel called "Handbook for Mortals" had a very brief reign at the top of a New York Times best-seller list.
The paper confirmed Friday that it had pulled Lani Sarem's book from its young adult hardcover list for Sept. 3 because of "inconsistencies" in the reporting of sales. The announcement came after online complaints that "Handbook for Mortals" had benefitted from so-called "bulk sales," when hundreds or thousands of copies are ordered by a single buyer. On Twitter, young adult author Phil Stamper and others had questioned how a book they knew little about could reach No. 1 on the Times list.
"After investigating the inconsistencies in the most recent reporting cycle, we decided that the sales for 'Handbook for Mortals' did not meet our criteria for inclusion," the Times said in a statement issued through communications director Jordan Cohen. "We've issued an updated 'Young Adult Hardcover' list for September 3, 2017, which does not include that title.

Of note in this story are two things. First, that getting on the NY Times best seller list -can- be finagled like this. The books have not even shipped, all that has happened is that electronic orders have gone through. Check out this very last part waaaaay down at the bottom:

Placement on a Times best-seller list is highly valued by authors and publishers, and efforts to manipulate sales through "bulk" purchases have occurred over the years. An "About the Bestsellers" note on the paper's web site reads that "Institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases, if and when they are included, are at the discretion of The New York Times Best-Seller List Desk editors."

This little get-out-of-jail-free clause is so that people like Hillary and Barack can write a coffee table book that NO ONE BUYS, and still be on the best seller list. Incidentally you can tell that no one bought it when it shows up at Barnes and Noble on a pallet in the middle of the store for five bucks. That's called "remainder" where they blow out the whole print run below cost so they don't have to store it.

The difference between some US Senator's book and this "Handbook for Mortals" is that author Lani Sarem doesn't have a "friend" on the New York Times Best-Seller List Desk. The Goodreads review page is on fire with one-star reviews.

Second is how few copies a book has to sell to get on the best seller list. This is pretty interesting for aspiring authors. It seems 5000 sales will get you on the list. I'd take that number with a large grain of salt, because the Pajiba site its on has a "Resist/Persist" t-shirt for sale, we're talking the Full SJW here. But, it does put the on-going bunfight over Science Fiction awards in a certain perspective. These are very small numbers of sales. People really are not reading this stuff.

The Phantom

Update!: According to the Mad Geniuses, and verified by the International Lord of Hate, Larry Correia, the measurement is 5000 sales, in a week, from the special super-secret stores that send their sales data to the New York Times.

Canadians will be chagrined to learn the true size of our market,  according to Super Fabulous Canadian Author via private e-mail, 5000 sales in Canada makes you a Best Seller. Holy crap.

So, if you write a fairly decent book and release it into the Canadian market, you can reasonably expect -dozens- of sales. Yay.


WiFi Lunchbox Guy said...

5000 books for a bestseller was the number Robertson Davies quoted back in the early 80's in one of his article collections.

Apropos of nothing, there was a meme floating around of the NYT Bestseller version of Scalzi's Emperoxific epic...which was redacted at shipment time.

The Phantom said...

Little Johny S, scamming the system? Say it ain't so, wifi!

WiFi Lunchbox Guy said...

Well, more like T*r not doubling down on a collapsed empire.

The Phantom said...

But but but... three million dollar advance! Surely they gotta do something to protect their investment?

Jonathan H said...

I've read discussions elsewhere that sales considered 'good' now would have gotten authors dropped for selling badly in the late 1970's/ early 1980's. The book market is so much smaller now than it used to be due to competition from other media (and other issues...).

Shenanigans like this easily stick out in a market so small; if 5,000 copies gets you on the list, a semi-concealed bulk buy of 1,000 easily sticks out.