Yesterday, I wrote about the track record on Joel Osteen‘s new book, suggesting to an anonymous correspondent that it might be premature to write off Become a Better You as a dud when it’s sold 362,000 copies in less than two months. Free Press, Osteen’s publisher, would naturally like to concur, and brought up an important point. Those sales I just mentioned are the ones reported by Nielsen Bookscan, and though it’s true that you can usually just treat that as roughly 70 percent of what a book is selling, that’s not the case here.
“The outlets that [Bookscan] does not report—Walmart/Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and the very important CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) have been huge players in the book’s success,” says Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg. “By our estimate, sales in those outlets account for nearly 60 percent of our total sales. Put another way, sales in non-Bookscan outlets are more than 130 percent of what we’ve sold through Bookscan. And we’re projecting that we’ll hit the million copy mark by the end of the month.” (I didn’t get exact figures, but I did the math on 130 percent of 362,000 copies, and the total from all outlets is in the neihgborhood of 832,600.)
Rothberg adds that sales of Become a Better You are still rising—up 15 percent last week from the week before—and the promotion cycle is accelerating, with a huge story in People this week, a re-airing of Osteen’s 60 Minutes segment just before Christmas, and a two-part 700 Club appearance in January. Not to mention Osteen’s traveling ministry, which is booked solid in arena-sized venues through the end of 2008. “So, given the fact that we are just hitting two months on sale this week,” Rothberg concludes, “I think you’ll understand why we’re more than happy with how Pastor Osteen’s book has performed to date, and very bullish on its prospects for continuing strong sales.” Point taken.