Last week Michael Covington, Information and Education Director for ECPA, wrote me the following letter as an update to my ongoing following of what's happening with our industry's bestseller lists. My comments are in blue. As a reminder, recently ECPA--the publishers association-- and CBA--the booksellers association--tried to iron out their differences regarding sharing data in order to come up with a combined reporting system. These talks failed. So this news is what ECPA is doing on its own. CBA, meanwhile, continues its data-gathering.
Thought I would write to give you an update on PubTrack and the ECPA Bestseller lists. We will be sending out a press release in the next few days but I knew that you tracked this information so I thought I would let you know in case you didn’t see the PR. Feel free to post any/all of this if you like.
Historically, the CBA bestseller list was created using data collected by PubTrack Christian (formerly STATS). In November I received word from CBA that they were going to begin using CROSS:SCAN data exclusively for the creation of their BSL’s. Here was the note I received which includes their reason:
“This is just a courtesy notification to let you know that we're going make a permanent move to using CROSS:SCAN for BSLs very shortly for a couple of reasons. First, we find that we are using C:S with greater regularity in our consulting with retailers, and for any channel reporting and analysis, thus consistency with BSLs is warranted. And secondly, it is more efficient for us, since the data is obviously readily available and we have access to the raw data.”
What this meant for ECPA is that we then had to evaluate the new lists CBA would be creating since we also post these lists on our website and distribute them to various media contacts. After comparing the new CBA lists the data for the same time period in PubTrack we noticed some titles that indicated their lists seemed to be skewing towards particular regions and/or demographics. Additionally, because of print deadlines for their industry magazine – CBA Retailers+Resources, CBA’s uses data that is more than one month old (i.e., the April bestsellers are created using February data). This has always been a concern for publishers as the lists do not pick up on current trends.The online version of the CBA bestseller list goes up around the third week or so of the month--so February bestsellers can't be known until around the latter part of March (which is called the April list, because that's the issue it'll run in for the magazine).
These issues prompted ECPA to go back to the drawing board with regards to BSL’s. In turn, an opportunity was afforded to us to create a new BSL program that we think authors, publishers, retailers and consumers will be very pleased with. Starting this month, you will begin to notice some significant changes on the ECPA website for the Bestseller lists (we’re not entirely complete yet, but keep watching). Here is what you will find:
Top 50 Book List - A book must qualify for this list by having sales in at least 20% of reporting stores during at least one week of the reporting cycle. Additionally, we do not include bargain books, tracts/booklets, seasonal/holiday or any books not offered to bookstores by publishers at a trade discount (e.g., Beth Moore study guides).
Top 20 Bible, Kids, and Fiction Lists – Similar qualifications must be met for each of these lists (with some slight variations).
All of these lists are compiled using data inclusive of the last full week of each month going back four weeks (this means that our April lists were created using March data). The data represents a solid cross section of Christian retail chains, franchises and independents from all regions of the country comprising a group of more than 400 Christian “rooftops” each week. Once the lists are created we distribute them in a few different ways:
1. ECPA website
2. More than 200 media contacts
3. ECPA “Designated Representatives” at each of our member publishers (defined as those eligible to hold a place on the ECPA Board of Directors.)
4. Christian Retailing (currently they are writing briefs each month in the E-tailing piece and we are in talks about how we can use them in the print edition)
5. USA Radio Network News (the top five Christian books are reported on each week and distributed to more than 2500 radio stations, mostly Christian and Armed Forces, worldwide).
In addition to this, we are revamping the layout of the bestseller lists on the ECPA website. On the homepage (www.ecpa.org) we will be listing the top few titles on each list (for a sample look go to http://www.ecpa.org/index00.php#), with cover art from each #1 title. The actual lists will also now include recognition of the following awards:
- Christian Book Award Winner
- Gold Sales Achievement Award Winner
- Platinum Sales Achievement Award Winner
- Diamond Sales Achievement Award Winner
- Christy Award Winner
Finally, because the data used to create these lists comes from Christian retail, we are using every opportunity possible to use these lists to help drive traffic back to Christian retail. This means that on the radio spot, of which I have attached a sample, we have inconspicuously included a reference to the place where listeners can find the bestsellers (it is a news piece after all and not a commercial). We are also working on including links to Christian retailers who participate in contributing data to the lists who either have a national web/brick-and-mortar precence and/or can be found using CBA’s store locater device. Finally, we offer the ability to download a nicely formatted PDF for retailers to easily use in their stores if they so choose for merchandising their bestsellers.
Two more quick updates for your reference:
PubTrack Christian continues to grow as we add new ways to collect and report on industry data. While we still have a very strong group of Christian retailers who send in sales data each week. We also are in the midst of providing publishers with information about sales of their own titles through Christian Book Distributors (online and catalog), as well as store level from Berean Christian Stores, and Koorong (the largest Christian retailer/distributor in Australia). Also, we have been collecting sales data from a test group of publishers for some time now and will soon be launching a program that will allow publishers to see a rolled-up look at competitive/comparative titles across all sales channels, so that we can finally get an idea of how Christian books are selling everywhere. Now this would be cool. When I questioned Michael further about this, he confirmed it would include publisher shipments of books and returns. Note this is different from the other data gathered, which are taken at "point of sale"--the customer at a store buying the book.
The Christian Book Expo is now less than a year away. There is more here than I can even dig into, I will just point you to the new blog (http://christianbookexpo.typepad.com) and recommend that you add it to your RSS feeds. I will tell you that as of now we have exceeded more than 100% of the exhibit space we had originally planned for. We are also forming an agreement with the USA Radio Network News group to begin reporting on the event once a week, which we hope could turn into some added exposure for authors who have been scheduled to host one of our author events as we hope they will go on air with an interview at some point.
Okay – enough typing for now, I hope you and your readers find any/some/all of this helpful. Thank you for what you do.
All the best, Michael
Information & Education Director
I've printed out the ECPA's April bestseller list, showing sales for the month of March. Next month, when CBA lists it May list--showing sales in March--it'll be interesting to see the difference in the two lists. We'll take a look at a comparison then.