Day: August 15, 2009

Publishing success in Ireland, Part One

Eoin Purcell

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The votes are in and the numbers have been crunched
You have to love Polldaddy for that. It might have been nice to poll a few more votes given the rather huge traffic the post got but then, you never expect everyone who actually arrives to take action. Based on a sample of 91 in an incredibly unscientific study here is what I know readers of this blog think about success in the Irish book market:

1) A remarkable 82% believe that sales have to be 4,000 or above before they would be considered a success
2) A paltry 12% think 1,000 is a good marker
3) Most amazingly a full 21% voted for over 10,000 units as a measure of success.

The results from the Polldaddy poll

The results from the Polldaddy poll

And where do I stand?
Well the Irish Consumer Market (ICM) has some great data sources, the most important being Nielsen Bookscan. I base my thoughts on success around the yearly Top 1000 titles. Did a book in year of release make it into that select group. And in case you think that it is not a select group consider these stats from 2008:

1) Value of the entire ICM in 2008 €165,357,704.81, value of the Top 1000 in 2008 €53,351,537.91 or 32.26% of the market

2) Volume sold in the entire ICM in 2008 13,952,693, volume of the Top 1000 wold in 2008 4,691,181 or 33.6%

3) Top 1000 ISBNS as a percentage of the recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008: 0.36% (ie there were 278,782 recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008)

So even though they accounted for only .36% of the books available to buy, the Top 1000 represented 33.6% of the Volume and 32.2% of the value. That is pretty select.

Some more context
Before I go into details, I’ll unpack that a bit. The Irish consumer market panel includes the large chains (easons, Hughes etc), most of the medium and small chains (Waterstones, Book Centres, Dubray) a flurry of independents and some of the Supermarkets. That has some peculiar effects. For one thing depending on the type of book you selling it can either grossly understate your sales (this is especially true for a very local title or for a title with an extremely heavy independent and local bookshop bias to its sales pattern. Equally, if a title is VERY commercial and likely to suffer heavy price promotion and discounts, the results tend to look better versus the rest of the market because unlike the majority of books, these titles tend to be bought almost exclusively from outlets that report to the Nielsen panel.

So with that in mind a general rule of thumb is to add another 30% to the sales of titles that fall into the local/independent bias to think in terms of REAL sales for those titles. I’m not going to do that here, but it is a useful piece of information (at least until more indies join the panel and begin to send data to Nielsen).

And the numbers per book?
Based on 2008 a book made it into the Top 1000 with 1,879 units of sales. The 1000 book in 2008 was Poetry Now: Ordinary Level. The top title sold 51,777 units and somewhat unsurprisingly was This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.

Admittedly that is quiet a range: 1,879-51,777. Anywhere within that is a very creditable performance. For instance:

The 900th Best-selling book, The Last Lecture By Randy Pausch sold 2,005
The 800th Best-selling book, New Europe By Michael Palin sold 2,194
The 700th Best-selling book, World War II: Behind Closed Doors By Laurence Ress sold 2,434
The 600th Best-selling book, The Irish Discovery Map of Wicklow, Dublin, Kildare sold 2,662
The 500th Best-selling book, Filthy Rich by Wendy Holden, sold 2,994
The 400th Best-selling book, The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford, sold 3,430
The 300th Best-selling book, Better Than Sex: My Autobiography by Mick Fitzgerald, sold 4,321
The 200th Best-selling book, A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern, sold 5,612
The 100th Best-selling book, The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, sold 8,287

What can we take from this?
In short, the quantities, even in the top 1000 remain fairly small. In fact, you only get into double figures at the 75th best-selling book. You don’t see anything over 15,000 until the 43rd best-selling book. There are no titles selling over 20,000 until the 27th best-selling book and over 30,000 doesn’t happen until the 9th best-selling book.

Is there more?
But just looking at the raw numbers means very little. What genres lead the way in the Top 1000? Are their secrets hidden in the numbers? Which publisher has the best strategy? Is there an Irish publisher who dominates the list? What publisher operates outside the list? Well the next post in this series will look at some of those patterns and try and drill down into the best strategies ti adopt to achieve healthy sales and how to break through the noise and into the Top 1000.

This is fun is it not?
Eoin