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Do the Bestseller Lists need recalibration?

Do the Bestseller Lists need recalibration?

99 c box sets


One of the recurring themes on bestseller lists today is the appearance of 99c box sets. A large group of authors put together older works that have had languishing sales into one large file and that file is sold as a box set, usually for the price of 99c. Indie authors have led the way with discount pricing to create volume purchasing and traditional publishers have caught on often pricing books at $1.99 and propelling a heretofore okay selling author into a high volume week. This will result in creating enough sales for authors to get their “letters”.  “Letters” refers to the ability of an author to append USA Today or NYTimes Bestseller on the cover of their books and in their blurbs.

For many readers how a bestseller list is created and what methodologies are used are of little interest. For many years, the bestseller lists didn’t even include digital book sales.  Both USA Today and NYTimes were forced to include those sales once digital books became a serious percentage of overall sales.  But now you have to wonder what those lists mean anymore. Is it just a measure of “what America is buying?” If so, is that useful to readers? or have bestseller lists lost both their efficacy and importance?

As more and more 99c books appear on these lists, I have begun to wonder about both the meaning of the term “bestseller” and what, if anything, it does for readers.  At most the lists for readers serve as a curation and discovery tool but while the Times list may have in the past represented what America is reading, it really only represents what America is buying because the great majority of readers aren’t actually reading those 99c purchases. They are buying and hoarding. [1]

For readers it seems that there is very little value in either the “letters” or the list itself. After an appearance on the list, rarely do you see a book’s ranking increase which means that readers aren’t using the lists as a buying guide. For print books, an appearance usually does include an increased print run and a bonus advance. A bonus advance is when an author gets additional money (but against royalties) for hitting the lists.  The next time around, a bookstore might order more books from a bestselling author. Many stores have special prominent placement for NYTimes bestselling books.

But for digital retailers, the USA Today and NYTimes list (and the WSJ list and the PW list) get much lower placement or no placement at all. All the digital retailers are pushing their own lists. Appearance on the list at a low price doesn’t guarantee an author placement on the list a second time around or even a third time around.  With print authors and their high priced books of $7.99 and up, it often takes several books to become a bestseller because with most books it takes time to build an audience.  This is why series books are so popular. With each book you gain new readers which propel purchases of earlier works. With low priced authors you often see one book hit and then the author doesn’t appear again, regardless of whether the author is print or traditionally published. (in other words, this is not an indie only issue)  Readers often buy at the discounted price and only at the discounted price.

Discount pricing is done with a two fold goal in mind – increase the volume of sales and increase visibility and ultimately an increase in readership. Given the downward trend of digital pricing perhaps it is of no real issue that the bestseller lists often include low priced discounted books.

I see a lot of talk about lists by authors and readers.  Ultimately the question is whether we’re buying has anything to do with what we’re reading or what we’re enjoying. If the answer is not much, then the lists may just simply show how many units a .99 priced book is moving.  For readers the lists have even less value than they did before and any usefulness as a curator of good books, if it was one, has been lost. And any meaning attached to the letters is lost as well. After all how do you know if an author earned it from a reader paying essentially .09c for their story or something else?   I’m not sure if that is helpful for readers or authors.

Daily Deals: Folk stories, magical realism, friends to lovers, and voyeurism

Daily Deals: Folk stories, magical realism, friends to lovers, and voyeurism

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale HurstonDust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston’s candid, funny, bold, and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. As compelling as her acclaimed fiction, Hurston’s very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life — public and private — of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed high, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature’s most cherished voices.

The…autobiography of the late Zora Neale Hurston is “a rich and winning book by one of our few genuine, Grade A folk writers.”–New Yorker

A novelist and American folk writer.

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Thursday Nights by Lisa N. PaulThursday Nights by Lisa N. Paul. $ .99

From the Jacket Copy:

Pain can leave even the strongest of people weak and hollow. But when fate brings two weak souls together, will the love they find mend the fragments that are barely holding them together, or will the weight of their past finally cause them to crumble?
Max DeLucca has spent seven years trying to forget the betrayal of his past. He lives his life from day to day never looking forward and never looking back. The walls around his heart keep anyone from getting too close and prevent him from feeling too much…until he meets her.

Her entire life, Janie Silver searched for the kind of love that wouldn’t leave her broken and more importantly, wouldn’t leave her behind. She longs for a love that can heal the wounds of her past and give her the future she knows she deserves. She thought she was looking for something that just didn’t exist…until she meets him.

Danny’s on Main is where their story begins. A neighborhood bar where strangers become friends, friends become family and some … become lovers
… it all started on Thursday Nights

One of the reviews said this should be rated “boooo” and I added “yeah” on the end because I watch too much SportsCenter. (Stuart Scott says Booyeah all the time). A three star review says she liked the book but there were far too many editing errors ” This book had incorrect use of tenses, transposition of words, missing words, words that don’t belong, and miraculously only 1 spelling error.”

That’s too bad because I like the idea of friends to lovers which is apparently the trope behind this story. Bartender falls for a frequent customer and there is a big group of friends who will be featured in future romances.

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The Wishing Box  by Dashka SlaterThe Wishing Box by Dashka Slater. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

A sometimes funny, sometimes magical first novel, The Wishing Box explores the surprising and unintended consequences of getting what you ask for. Julia, an almost-30 single mom whose life is mostly together, lives in Oakland with her seven-year-old son. Never suspecting it will actually work, she and her sister create a wishing box and half-seriously hold a ceremony for the return of the father who abandoned them as children. Astonishingly, he comes backbut Julia’s life has already moved abruptly in a new direction, and she has taken off in much the same way her father had many years before. Julia and her unusual family are at the heart of this novel about appearances and disappearances, the desire to control the future and explain the past, and the legacies passed on from one generation to another.

This is the BN daily deal. Amazon usually price matches it. Both Kirkus and PW gave this magical realism story positive endorsements. It doesn’t take itself very seriously but still manages to be touching.

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He Watches Me : The Seen Trilogy: Part One by Cynthia SaxHe Watches Me by Cynthia Sax. $ Free.

From the Jacket Copy:

She desires to be seen. He wants to watch.Anna Sampson has a naughty secret. Every night, she slips into her neighbor’s yard and swims naked in his pool. She fantasizes that the dynamic young billionaire watches her nightly nude aquatics, his brilliant green eyes gleaming with lust.She discovers this isn’t pure fantasy. Gabriel Blaine has been watching her via his security cameras, and now that he has returned to L.A., he doesn’t plan to stop. That’s all he wants-to watch. Anna knows she shouldn’t allow him and she certainly shouldn’t want more, but she craves Blaine’s attention, needing his gaze fixed on her body.Part One of The Seen Trilogy

First in a trilogy of stories. The other two entries are 99c each. The lower starred reviews say that not much happens in this first installment and that the virgin heroine who likes to be watched was kind of a stretch. But it’s free.

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