I’m privileged to be one of the few consultants who has helped clients create three different types of New York Times bestsellers, including frontlist fiction, frontlist non-fiction, and backlist non-fiction. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to make these lists. Typically, a book needs to sell at least 5,000 – 10,000 copies in one week just to qualify. Only a lucky few are able to achieve such a rare feat.
However, many people don’t know that the New York Times just made it much harder to make the bestseller lists – and they’re not telling anyone why. Back on August 21st, they decided to tweak their children’s bestseller lists, separating the hardcover middle grade and young adult titles from the paperback and e-book bestsellers. They made a big announcement about this change with a lot of fanfare.
But, the New York Times didn’t announce a much more significant change. They quietly reduced the length of numerous bestseller lists by 25 – 30%! And, the change applies to both their weekly and monthly segments. For example, I counted over 10 different types of lists that had their total amount slashed by 5 slots or more. In other words, the previous lists displayed 15 or 20 total slots. Now, those same lists only display 10 or 15 slots. Even stranger, the new children’s e-book bestseller lists only have 5 slots. 5 total slots? Heck, what’s the point of even compiling a list that short?
When you add up all of the reductions, over 50 slots were cut from the various bestsellers lists. An already difficult achievement just got even harder, indeed.
I’m sure people can make arguments for both sides of this decision. But, I think it was an unwise move by the New York Times staff. In their best interests, there are now 50 fewer titles that can become bestsellers. That means 50 fewer authors and publishers happily telling the world that they’re bestsellers and giving the NYT 50 extra shots of free publicity. Worse, that’s also 50 fewer titles that won’t be discovered by the public at large, because those books won’t get to appear on any of the lists. That’s 50 reasons why the New York Times was dumb to reduce the length of their lists.
C’mon, it’s not like the lists were getting too long. The previous lists were capped at only 20 slots. I can understand the need to reduce if the list had 25, 50, or 100 slots. But, dropping from 20 to 15 or 15 to 10 seems short-sighted.
As always, though, the New York Times does whatever they want, because they know they’re the most important bestseller list in the world. That’s why they can be so sneaky and make big decisions without notifying anyone. But, I just gave you 50 reasons why you should know.