Monday, January 22, 2007
Best-seller Lists From Another Perspective
All right. One more post on this topic, and we’ll leave it alone for a long time—unless news hits that some changes have been made. (Advance is meeting this week in Indianapolis—and a hint has been made that we may hear something.)
In the recent issue of Aspiring Retail, editor Carrie Erickson wrote an article regarding the lists—“Discover What’s Behind the Lists.” This article, appearing in a magazine for booksellers, shows us how the lists are viewed from the retailers’ side, and how these booksellers tend to use the list.
Erickson notes that in 2003, CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) changed their book categories for the lists, based on the Christian product category—CPC—codes. It also add the Top 50 list, which combines all categories for an overall picture.
The article explains that the data are taken from STATS, which reflects actual sales in a store. But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that and a whole lot more. (For recent posts on the lists, go to December’s three-parter (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) and the January post.)
The article quotes Dean Edwards, CBA information technology director, as saying “We know retailers use these lists because we get inquiries about them when they’re posted online.” Edwards cautions stores against going overboard in using the lists for decisions on stocking books, noting that regional sales are critical to a store, and what sells in one region may not sell as well elsewhere. However, he does suggst posting the list in one’s store, to “show customers what’s hot.” And perhaps putting a book that’s consistently been high on the list on an end cap. (End caps, for those of you new to this term, are extremely important. They are found on the end of an aisle, hence the browser’s eye are more likely to fall upon these books.)
Edwards also suggests cross-promoting a bestseller with any other books that go with it, such as study guides, etc.
These suggestions are hardly rocket science, and many of you familiar with bookselling with know this already. Still, this article illustrates the point—bestsellers often beget bestsellers. If a book hits the list, esp. the top ten, booksellers pay attention. You’ve probably been in numerous stores that post the lists and pull out certain bestsellers for special placement in the store. These special placements introduce new readers to the books. Which leads to more sales. Which leads, perhaps, to another month on the list. If you follow the lists every month, you see this phenomenon. A few names tend to appear on the list over and over, with numerous books each time. These authors have reached the tipping point—and the lists have certainly helped keep the momentum going.
All this is all the more reason that our industry needs an accurate list. Because bookstores are acting as if it is accurate.