I ask the question because as a non-American I’m trying to get my head around the furore over the recent decision by the New York Times to eliminate a number of categories, including mass-market paperbacks and e-books, from its bestseller lists. Click here for Publishers’ Weekly’s report on the changes. As far as I can tell, going forward only one list (Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction) will include novels in e-book format.
Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Sisters In Crime and Novelists, Inc. have released a joint statement condemning the decision and describing it as a “tremendous mistake.” Click here to read the full statement.
I have to say it seems rather counter-intuitive.
As you might expect, I follow all sorts of industry blogs and updates, and the big topic of discussion last month was a presentation on the state of the publishing market in 2016, given at the Digital Book World conference by an analyst known only as Data Guy. There’s a wealth of fascinating material in his presentation—click here to see the whole thing—but here’s one snippet:
Last year, seventy per cent of US sales of adult fiction were digital (67% ebooks and 3% audio).
Am I missing something? To focus on bestseller lists that ignore 70% of all fiction sales feels to me like swimming upstream. Does this not mean the accolade of New York Times Bestselling Author will become devalued or at least significantly changed?
Here’s another gem from the authorearnings report: romance is a huge subgenre.
In 2016 romantic fiction accounted for online sales of 156 million books, of which 98% were digital (96% e-books, 2% audio).
So I guess we’re going to be seeing a fewer romance names on the new-style lists? Just the few big hitters from the top houses who are published in hardback?
I’m assuming this change is a qualitative/editorial/intellectual choice, but then surely “best-seller” becomes a misnomer? Why not call them “curated lists of popular books we think appropriate to our readership?”
As a reader I never pay any attention to bestselling author tags anyway, so it’s going to make zero difference to my purchasing decisions, but I guess it’s important to some authors and maybe to some people making purchasing decisions, like librarians. If the readership of a library enjoys romantic novels, then I doubt librarians are going to stop buying them. I guess they’ll have to find another way to seek out recommendations.
Do you think the change is important? Does it make a difference to you, as a reader or a writer?