Friday, July 22, 2011

Well, someone is buying the stuff

For evidence to support the proposition advanced in the July issue of North & South, and fisked by me here last week, that “most New Zealand novels struggle for recognition and sales” because the book-buying public is not interested in our literary fiction, we turn to the Nielsen Weekly Bestsellers List for the week ending 16 July.

The list is absolutely bang up-to-date, the latest data available. It doesn’t tell us the number of sales but it does tell us which books are selling. Let’s have a look:
1. The Conductor by Sarah Quigley (Vintage, $39.99)
2. The Larnachs by Owen Marshall (Vintage ,$39.99)
3. Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones (Penguin, $40.00)
4. Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Poems by Hone Tuwhare (Godwit, $44.99)
5. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (Penguin, $30.00)
6. The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley (Penguin, $40.00)
7. The Trouble With Fire by Fiona Kidman (Vintage, $36.99)
8. La Rochelle’s Road by Tanya Moir (Black Swan)
9. The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi (Longacre Press, $29.99)
10. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin, $13.99)
If we can include poetry as being literary, and for our purposes I think we can, there are nine books of literary fiction and one of popular fiction in the Top Ten. Some of them have been there before.

The Nielsen bestseller list is published each week on the recently revamped website of Booksellers New Zealand, which is an excellent source of other books-related information.

A well-placed mole in the book trade tells me that in the four weeks from 19 June to 16 July Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (Allen & Unwin, $39.99), currently #3 on the Nielsen bestseller list for international fiction, sold about 1500 copies, and that in the same period Owen Marshall’s The Larnachs, currently #2 for NZ fiction, sold about 1000 copies.


Chris Bell said...

Well-Placed Mole, the short-lived UK progressive rock band?

Stephen Stratford said...

Heh. Obscure art-rock reference of teh week.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on. The difference between 300 and 1000 is mince a cheese.

Anonymous said...

I mean, mince and cheese. Sorry, hard to type when you've had as many beers as I have. And given that I might be slightly biased towards mince and cheese pies.

Stephen Stratford said...

Anonymous, there is a big difference between selling 300 copies over the course of a year or two, and selling 1000 copies in a single month.

Furthermore, for Owen Marshall to be selling in numbers not massively below those of an international megastar such as Jodi Picoult is amazing.

Keri H said...

And excellent!

May I also point out that *NZ sales of NZ books published overseas - including fiction" are NOT included in NZ sales figures? These can be quite substantial.

The man was talking out of his arse. said...

Hooray for 'The Larnachs' and for Owen and good on you for putting up these figures.

Craig Ranapia said...

May I also point out that *NZ sales of NZ books published overseas - including fiction" are NOT included in NZ sales figures? These can be quite substantial.

Indeed - and AFAIK Nielsen BookScan would not register direct sales from publishers to institutions like public libraries and schools. (Whatever I think of Witi Ihimaera following the Trowenna Sea plagiarism scandal 'The Whale Rider' sure seems to end up in a lot of kid's satchels.)

Stephen Stratford said...

Thanks Keri and Craig - I think you're both right. Maybe someone in the book trade could comment?

Some authors, like me, have zero overseas sales but some, like Keri and Paul Cleave and quite a few more - have had considerable sales overseas. Though probably not so much for literary fiction which is where the discussion started.

Keri H said...

The only way ANZers can buy a new copy in English of "tbp" is to purchase either the Penguin Putnam USA edition, or the Pan MacMillan UK edition. They certainly do keep selling here (I know a very local bookseller who sells rather more than that risible 300 figure) - but they dont show up in the Nielson bestseller lists.