Today’s Wednesday.Â Those of you who are in the publishing biz probably know the significance of Wednesdays.Â It’s the day when the New York Times releases its bestseller lists.Â This afternoon, around six p.m., I got the call from my literary agent: VANISH will debut on the September 17 fiction paperback list at #8. Â I’m delighted, of course.
Mostly what I am is relieved.Â Crazy, isn’t it?Â Instead of letting out a celebratory whoop, I just sort of collapsed on the couch with a sigh of “thank god I’m not an abject failure after all.”Â Â
I also got some numbers reported to me,Â along with the list, and I’m struck by a fewÂ interesting things.Â First, the utter invincibility of Nora Roberts!Â She hasÂ two new novels on the bestseller list this week!Â And the numbers she sells are staggering.Â Her #1 bestsellingÂ title, MORRIGAN’S CROSS, sold almost four times as many copies this week as did VANISH.Â Her sales far outstripped the #2 bestseller, THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER.Â Another thing I’m struck by is how smallÂ aÂ percentage of paperback sales is captured by the Bookscan numbers.Â Bookscan, in case you’re not familiar with it, tracks book sales in a number of retail outlets.Â But the numbers reported don’tÂ include Sam’s Club, Walmart, or mass merchandisers such as Anderson, Hudson, Safeway, etc.
When I look at theÂ breakdown for which companies ordered my paperbacks, nearly 3/4 of the books were shipped to mass merchandisers.Â Not bookstores.Â Which makes me think that over 3/4 of paperback sales may not be showing up on Bookscan.
What’s also interesting is that titles by Debbie Macomber (#4 on the list)Â and Vince Flynn (#5 on the list), which showed stellar sales this week, had debuted last week in the bottom third of the Times list.Â I’m seeing this happening more and more often, that authors who I know are selling well aren’t popping onto the list, or veryÂ high on the list, until twoÂ weeks into their sales cycle.Â What’s happening here?Â Is it a distribution problem?Â Instead of a good crisp laydown, are merchants slow in putting the books on display, thus screwing up their first week’s sales?
Finally, I’m struck once again by the domination of female authors on this list.Â Of the bestselling 15 titles, 10 of them were written by women.Â And most of the titles are what I’d call “women’s fiction.”
Which convinces me that I made a good choice in requesting a re-design of the VANISH package in paperback, changing it to a sexier, more seductive image that would appeal to women.Â You just never know when your instincts are right, or when an idea will bomb in the marketplace.Â I think this time, my instincts were right.