In the UK, it’s easy.Â There’s one list, and it’s based on hard numbers compiled byÂ Nielson Bookscan, a computerized tracking system that records the majority of actual sales.Â There’s no fudging of numbers, no weighing of literary vs. non-literary.Â Numbers rule.
Here in the U.S., bestseller lists areÂ mysterious things, compiledÂ using a combination of real numbers and voodoo magic.Â Some lists include young adult fiction, and others restrict it to only adult fiction.Â Finally, there’s the USA Today list, which includes all books, in every format.Â So not only do the lists compile their numbers differently, they also may includeÂ differentÂ combinations of books.
The first week’s position of THE BONE GARDEN on various lists is a good illustration of how variable these lists can be.Â Here’s the rundown for the book’s first five days on sale:
Bookscan: #4 (adult fiction hardcover.Â Method is equivalent to UK’s Bookscan; covers about 65% of actual sales.)
Publishers Weekly: #4 (adult fiction hardcover)
USA Today: #40.Â (#5 adult fiction hardcover)
Wall Street Journal: #13 (list includes young adult fiction)
New York Times: #10 (adult fiction hardcover)
As you can see, the numbers are all over the place.Â The one list everyone really cares about is the New York Times — and yet, I suspect it’s the least accurate in termsÂ of raw numbers actually sold since it gives extra weight to literary books sold in independent stores.Â
ThisÂ second week, my book goesÂ onto Co-op in Barnes and Noble, so it will be interesting to see the effect of co-op on sales there.Â In the past, it’s been my observation that co-op increasesÂ sales by at least a third, but IÂ based that estimate on the drop in sales after my books went off co-op.Â This year,Â I’ll be able toÂ see the effectÂ the other way around.Â