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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Those bestseller lists again

When the latest New Zealand Society of Authors newsletter arrived in my inbox (Friday, 27 June), I was delighted to see that the editor now qualifies the two lists (five fiction bestsellers and ten nonfiction bestsellers) with the caption, "The above list is compiled from locally produced publications only." In addition, books by New Zealand authors that make the local international bestseller lists are named.

I was dismayed, however, to see that none of the four works of fiction shortlisted for the Montana award appeared in the list of fiction bestsellers. Readers may remember me reporting the stoush over the failure to shortlist the usual five books of fiction. (If you don't, then scan older posts, or go to Graham Beattie's bookblog @ http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/) A comment made at the time was that being shortlisted was worth sales of one or two thousand. Is that really so? Only Nielson Bookscan could tell us.

The NZSA, I hear, is in conversation with the very affable and helpful Nielson people here about the possibility of giving authors access to sales figures for their own works. I can see that this could have benefits. Most publishers send out statements twice yearly, and many take advantage of a clause in the contract that allows them to add ninety days to that, which means that an author may have very little idea of how his or her book is doing until nine months have elapsed. However, it must be remembered that Nielson is a business, not a charity, and this service would come at a cost. Whether it is worth it is up to the author him- or herself.

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