Posts Tagged ‘Nielsen Bookscan’
The news that Starbucks plans to sell books in its 450 UK stores should be no surprise, considering the success the coffee retailer has had in the US with its two book selections to date, Mitch Albom‘s FOR ONE MORE DAY and Ishmael Beah‘s A LONG WAY GONE. The Bookseller reports that the UK stores will start selling Beah’s book – published by Fourth Estate – beginning on May 21. The chain is believed to be in discussions with Nielsen BookScan to see if the sales can be picked up for inclusion in UK bestseller charts.
“We’re thrilled that Starbucks have chosen to sell Ishmael’s book this spring,” said John Bond, m.d. of HarperCollins‘ literary division, Press Books. “We’re really excited about working closely with them to help spread the word; this will mean getting more copies of this important book into the hands of more people.” And it means that UK publishers can start pitching Starbucks in droves for its next book selection…
Pearson, the world’s largest education publisher (and parent company of Penguin Books) reported a 19 pct rise in 2006 profits, ahead of market expectations, and said it expects to grow faster than its markets in 2007. Penguin saw sales rise by 5% and operating profit by 10% in 2006, with underlying sales growing by 3% despite what its parent called a “tough consumer publishing market”. Pearson said that its book publishing subsidiary had a “record number of bestsellers for record number of weeks” over the year–Penguin UK had 59 titles in the Nielsen Bookscan‘s top ten bestseller list, up 5 from 2005, keeping them there for 361 weeks, up 42 weeks from 2005; Penguin US had 139 books on The New York Times bestseller list, 10 more than in 2005, and kept them there for 809 weeks overall, up 119 weeks from 2005.
Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino said: “This is another strong set of results. We have built market-leading businesses and invested consistently in their content, technology and international expansion. That strategy is paying off with sustained growth in sales, margins, earnings and returns, and we expect 2007 to be another good year.”
As part of its continuing coverage of the Clive Cussler/Philip Anschutz lawsuit (more on that below) the LA Times delves into one of the key points of the lawsuit – did Cussler grossly overinflate his sales figures – and fans back into the publishing industry’s general
cluelessness vagueness of exact sales figures. Finding data about book sales got easier in 2001, writes Josh Getlin, when Nielsen BookScan, a New York-based firm, began compiling information that measured about 70% of the U.S. book market. Yet there is still confusion in the marketplace. BookScan records sales from major chain stores, a sampling of independent sellers, online firms like Amazon.com, plus Costco, Kmart, Target and Starbucks. But it does not track weekly sales from Wal-Mart, religious stores, gift shops, grocers, drugstores and other outlets.
Meanwhile, publishers routinely withhold full sales figures, saying the information is proprietary. The only people legally entitled to know those numbers are authors and their agents. “The publishing business has never gone out of its way to report actual sales numbers because it has no real interest in doing so,” said Albert Greco, a Fordham University economist who analyzes business trends in the book world. “It’s hard to know what’s real. If an author on TV talk says his book has sold 1 million copies, only a few people will know if that’s true.” Especially when announced print runs are about twice the number of actual books printed, the despair of returns at full price and the small number of readers as compared to other forms of media.
“Most books don’t have anywhere near the financial success of movies, even unsuccessful movies,” said Cathy Langer, chief buyer for the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. “So if you look at sales figures, it’s not a pretty picture. And when you get so obsessed with numbers, you lose the wonder and creativity that’s basic to the book business.”
Way back in December the LA Times reported on the impending lawsuits between author Clive Cussler and film producer Philip Anschutz stemming from a $10 million dollar deal to adapt SAHARA. Cussler hated the movie and sued on the grounds that it violated terms set forth in the contract; Anschutz countersued, and things appeared to get nasty.
Now they have. Today’s report from Glenn Bunting and Josh Getlin says that attorneys for Anschutz allege that author Cussler duped the Denver industrialist into paying $10 million for film rights to the adventure novel SAHARA by flagrantly inflating his book sales to more than 100 million copies. (A review of more than 14,000 pages of royalty reports and accounting records found, according to the lawyers, that the number of Cussler novels sold was closer to 35 million.) “Cussler and his agent had gotten away with these numbers for years,” said Alan Rader, Anschutz’s lawyer. “It was a lie and it doomed the movie.” The claim is “ridiculous,” Cussler said Thursday outside a courtroom at Los Angeles County Superior Court. “They wanted the book. They solicited us.”
The lawsuit brings out one of publishing’s little secrets, that book sales can be inflated and often are. “Hyping sales figures is not productive for the book industry and in the end it hurts everyone,” said James Atlas, a writer and founder of Atlas Books. “It’s harder to get away with this kind of thing now. The information Nielsen BookScan provides may be unwelcome to some, but it’s necessary.” Which is where the disclaimer that Bookscan only tracks between 50-70% of sales comes in, of course. As for the Cussler/Anschutz lawsuit, it’s ongoing.
Fortune’s Eugenia Levenson analyzes why freely available and lengthy government reports, such as the 9/11 Commission and Iraq Study Group Reports, are selling like gangbusters. The latter book, published by Random House imprint Vintage, has spent six weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has already sold over 125,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which captures 70 percent of total book sales. That’s despite the fact that the text is freely available online and was downloaded 1.4 million times from a sponsoring Web site in the first week alone.
But it all started with the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, which certainly caught publishing by surprise with 1.5 million copies sold to date. “Everyone was surprised by the retail performance of the 9/11 report,” says Jonathan Burnham, a senior vice president and publisher at HarperCollins. “It seemed to sell to a much broader audience than ever before for that kind of material.” But the real reason for success? The cost, or lack thereof. There are no acquisition costs, since the documents are in the public domain, and are fairly cheap to produce. And because anyone can publish the materials – though the ones who get their first reap the most lucrative rewards – multiple players can be rewarded. “One company shouldn’t have the monopoly on something that’s in the public domain,” says Josh Linsk, CEO of Filiquarian who has sold over 600 copies of the paperback edition. “I just thought there should be more options.”
UPDATE: C.E. Petit points out that the government commission craze began much earlier, with the 1987 Tower Commission Report (released in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra Affair) issued in a mass market paperback edition by Bantam and earlier, in hardcover by Random House.