Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wellington-based maritime historian and author Joan Druett who has 18 titles published , in Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand, both fiction and non-fiction, ponders on the vexed question of best-seller lists in New Zealand.
I don't think it is generally understood that the best seller lists come from sales figures for New Zealand-published books only. Anna Hart of Nielson Bookscan says that this is because the computer programme works only with ISBNs which are generated in New Zealand. It is a reasonable method, as it would be very hard to pluck New Zealand authors from international lists, even though their books are sold here, involving all kinds of problematic decisions, such as whether the author must be resident or not, whether the work has sufficient New Zealand-relevant content or not, and so forth and so on.
However, I do think it should be made clear that they are lists of best sellers published in New Zealand by New Zealand publishing houses, and that books by New Zealand authors that are published overseas are not counted, no matter how well they might be selling here.
Bookman Beattie has always been somewhat wary of NZ best-seller lists and wonders if anyone out there would like to make a comment on Joan's remarks or on the subject generally?


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think best seller lists can be elusive for some good novels - they may be selling well over a longer period but not peaking at the right time. Last year, four or five, back-lists from VUP (excellent novels I must add) made it on to the best seller list in one week - I think they had been remaindered or some such thing - and somewhat embarrassingly came up to skew that week's results. There is such a small window really for some novels and of course, it is self-fulfilling, if you do sneak on to the best seller list, even the bottom rung - your book gathers momentum.

I have some issues with the Six Pack for the same reason (but don't begrudge the writers their success) - it's just that the price and incentive for purchasing is somewhat different.

On a more positive note, how good that we now know a lot more about Joan and how extraordinary that she has been a "best seller" offshore for so long and had so little publicity here in NZ.

Rachael King said...

Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Kia ora - bestseller lists have concerned me for quite a while. The overseas sales factor is one matter: another is that bestseller fiction lists here show 5 titles (whilst non-fiction & international fiction lists show 10...)

A related irritation is the NZ Booksellers 'platinum' etc.
awards: these are only for titles published in NZ by NZ publishers. Fair enough? Not when your publishers go extinct (as happened with 'the bone people' - both Spiral Collective5 and Hodder & Stoughton were gone by the time the awards were established (despite them selling well over 90,000 copies here by 1990 - and that doesnt include any of the paperback sales from Macmillan/Picador.

Joan has had some publicity here over the years, but not nearly as much as she deserves - her books are wholly absorbing. And I totally agree with maggie apropos the Six Pack-

Anonymous said...

O, may I add that the previous Booksellers' Best Sellers list (rather than the Neilson Bookscan) actually
provided a more accurate picture of what was selling, despite its limitations?