Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Bestseller Lists, Take 2--Part 2
So here’s a quick review on data-gathering within Christian publishing. The bestseller lists have been based on STATS—a database compiled and sold by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). STATS uses ISBN codes to track actual sales to customers at participating bookstores. The number of bookstores reporting to STATS is now down to only about 650. Some stores, including the entire chain of Family Christian—around 350 stores—pulled out of reporting to STATS when the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) came up with their own data-gathering mechanism, called CROSS:SCAN.
Then ECPA, in response to CROSS:SCAN, decided they’d come up with a new mechanism of their own. Last May, ECPA was supposed to scrap its old STATS program for the “newest generation of channel-wide sales collection and interpretation” called Pubtrack. According to ECPA, Pubtrack “is specifically designed to improve data collection and analysis for both publishers and retailers while simultaneously protecting data integrity and confidentiality.”
The hope was that booksellers who had pulled out of STATS might come back to report to Pubtrack. In this way, gathered data on book sales would be more complete. Bestseller lists would benefit, too, as they would better represent sales.
Only problem—apparently Pubtrack never happened.
If you check bestseller lists now at www.cbaonline.org, you’ll see that every list still states it’s compiled from data gathered through STATS. Which means we’ve still only got those 650 or so stores reporting, including none of Family Christian. As a result, data aren’t always as complete as they should be, and lists can be skewed. I see this with my own books, and I’m sure other authors out there have their own stories. Some times I might benefit; other times I may get knocked.
For example, Violet Dawn showed up in the last position on the current list despite the fact that during September (when data were gathered for the November list) it was heavily promoted in the largest Christian chain. However, that chain was Family—which doesn’t report. Violet Dawn’s Lifeway promotion didn’t start until October. Lifeway does report to STATS, but October sales will be reflected on next month’s (December) list.
At the same time the mass market paperback version of Eyes of Elisha—a one-time 30,000 promotional printing—showed up around #2 in STATS data at the end of the month. (The book was priced el cheapo at ninety-nine cents, and could be bought for that price along with the purchase of any other fiction title.) However, this book is not on the list at all. No doubt someone made an executive decision that a promo at a price this low did not warrant making the list, even though sales numbers would put it there. So, yeah, I lost in that the mass market paperback version of Eyes of Elisha wasn’t included on the list—and it would have been way up there. At that level, it would have been pretty high on the Top 50 list, too. On the other hand, if they had included Eyes of Elisha on the fiction list, it would have knocked Violet Dawn off entirely.
Ya win some, ya lose some.
Read Part 3