Times Talk (28th March 2014).

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The New York Times best-seller list is a curious beast, one whose methods of recording success have been questioned multiples times and yet illustrious title of “New York Times best-selling author” is one that both writers and publishers continue to crave. It’s instantly more eye-catching to a potential reader than any of its equivalents like the USA Today and Sunday Times list, even though the former gives arguably a more accurate gauge of sales in a wider context.

Still, the Grey Lady reigns supreme and there is still much to be gleamed from the list on a weekly basis, so let’s talk about this week on the best-seller list.

Combined E-Book & Print Fiction:

A big name sits at the top but the power of self-publishing still packs a punch, as evidenced by the presence of romance author Laurelin Page and her The Fixed trilogy. 99c for 3 books (853 pages) is an appealing prospect for any fan of the genre, as is the Amazon page’s description of the series being perfect for fans of 50 Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series. Savvy marketing and the voracious appetites of female readers in the romance genre shouldn’t be written off just yet, or ever if we’re being honest. Women buy books. Page’s trilogy sits at number 2 on the e-book fiction list, hinting at the strength of the market. I’m curious to see if Page decides to take a traditional publishing deal at some point in the future, as her fellow best-seller list cohort Colleen Hoover did. Her newest novel Maybe Someday, published by Atria, debuts at number 4 on combined and number 3 on e-book, so the question arises as to how big the ratio of paperback buyers to e-book buyers is for her work. Donna Tartt’s critically acclaimed The Goldfinch sits between Page and Hoover in its 22nd week while Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel Raising Steam debuts at number 10.

Combined E-Book & Print Non-Fiction:

I can’t decide whose presence on this list depresses me more; Bill O’Reilly or Chelsea Handler. Twelve Years a Slave, published by various publishers, keeps the top spot while Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me (a title that makes me want to vomit) is in its 3rd week in the top 3. There seems to be a limited kind of non-fiction that makes these lists: a connection to a movie helps, as does working for Fox News or talking about heaven. Or being Malcolm Gladwell, but we try to forget about him. All is not lost though. Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews, the book to accompany his brilliant BBC series, debuts at 13.

Children’s Middle Grade:

Okay, now I’m depressed. Rush Limbaugh (yes, that Rush Limbaugh) has 2 books on this list, and they’re both in the top 5. Let that one sink in for a moment. It’s a common known fact that conservative publishers and publications like Newsmax tend to buy up books by figures like Limbaugh, Coulter, Palin and numerous GOP politicians in bulk to fake good sales and get places on lists like this, so I’m comforted by the mental image of hundreds of copies of Limbaugh’s stories of ‘patriots and pilgrims’ rotting in a warehouse somewhere. In more hopeful news, the presence of a Disney novelisation on the list (of their now biggest film ever, Frozen) shows the sheer popularity of their latest movie. There seems to be more frequent changeover of authors and books on this list than the next category at least, although some favourites hang in there month after month, notably Wonder and The One and Only Ivan.

Young Adult:

Out of the top 10 on this list of young adult best-sellers, one is written by a woman. One. When we include often uncredited co-writers and extend the list to include fifteen that number grows to seven. Less than half. And four of those places in the top ten are John Green. Please tell me again that YA is dominated by women. The almost non-existent change to the YA list week after week is depressing. The most recent new woman in the top ten was Jane Fonda! The Book Thief has basically been on the best-seller list for six years, believe it or not. The newest name in the fifteen this week is The 100 by Kass Morgan, no doubt helped by the CW show.

Children’s Series:

I predict that Divergent will basically top this list for months to come. Nothing’s knocking that off. Since this list combines children’s and YA series, it does ask the question as to what the list would look like if it were divided, or indeed if the categories were divided by format in the same way the adult lists are. Perhaps that would open up the field a little more and we’d see more exposure for midlist sellers that are just pipped to the post by old favourites. Six books on the series list have film adaptations under their belts and one is called Origami Yoda, which has left me a touch bemused. Cassandra Clare’s latest spin-off of her Mortal Instruments series, The Bane Chronicles, a series of short stories centred on one of her most popular characters, sits comfortably at number 8, although it’ll be interesting to see how the stories do when they’re compiled into a single book as is the plan later in the year.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s quite sad that one or two books by women on the YA list is common, yet in the 69 weeks of the separate YA list there’s never been only two books by men. IIRC the only time it came close would have been an even 50/50 split for a week.

    In 69 weeks books by female authors have not outnumbered books by male authors. And since Veronica Roth went over to the series list, the most common number has been 2 books by women in the top 10.

    Although when you remember that now that five of the books on that list have been on it for more than a year, and two of those have never dropped off it since the split, it really seems like only five spaces are available sometimes.

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