Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The 2010 NZ Post Book Awards

Guy Somerset’s story in the 3 July issue of the Listener on this year’s NZ Post Book Awards, what used to be the Montana Book Awards, is now online here. It’s all about me, which is great, but I wonder if the Stratford Theory of Numbers kicks in:
adult fiction accounted for only 6.1% of New Zealand-published books sold last year, compared with non-fiction’s 70.9%, according to Nielsen BookScan.
I thought that 6.1% seemed low as a proportion of “New Zealand-published books sold last year” so, ever-sceptical about numbers in print, I asked Guy for his sources. He supplied them and I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing them with you. I can’t reproduce here the table from Nielsen BookScan as it won’t copy over from the email and it would take me half an hour to build a bloggable table, but what it says in the first row is that “share of total NZ market” in “NZ-published (all categories)” books is 18.8% by volume. Well, that puts all us NZ authors in our place.

In the second row, we learn that NZ-published fiction is 6.1% “share of NZ-published” and 5% “share of total fiction market”. Well, that puts all us NZ fiction authors in our place.

In the third row we learn that NZ-published non-fiction is 70.9% “share of NZ-published” and 34.7% “share of non-fiction market”. Which is good news for us NZ non-fiction authors. But.

But these data include children’s books – not just Margaret Mahy and Lynley Dodd but readers and textbooks – so what do they say about adult books? There may be a clue in the PDF from Nielsen BookScan which Guy passed on. I can’t hack the diagrams from it – as if I would. Honestly, copyright! – but what they say, diagrammatically, is that the split of the three major subject categories in the New Zealand retail book market as a percentage of all book sales is:

Non-fiction: 36%
Children’s: 39%
Fiction: 25%

Which sounds right. Children’s the biggest, non-fiction the second biggest and fiction the smallest but not small.

Whatever. Guy’s interpretation is probably right as it stands but may be misleading as it may conflate the adults’ and children’s markets. He admits to being confused, and so do I. But the point is – or I think it is – that non-fiction is about 50% more of the market than fiction. That is, we buy twice as many adult non-fiction books as we do adult fiction, and it seems this is as true of NZ books as it is of international ones. Which may go some way to justifying the new regime in the NZ book awards of having more non-fiction than fiction titles short-listed.

I can’t get into a discussion about this until 28 August, the day after the book awards are announced and I am off the leash, but you can.

Monitor: IIML Twitter

UPDATE: I’ve done quite a bit of research on this with publishers and booksellers, even market researchers, and Guy’s figures are right. I thought they would be, because he is good (he comments below), but I was not certain how to interpret them. That 6.1% is absolutely accurate, so in my view the correct interpretation is to be very depressed about the market for New Zealand fiction.

More on this later.

1 comment:

Guy Somerset said...

Actually, I’m not sure I’m THAT confused. The full figures I had from Nielsen BookScan (but did not include in my article and did not show Stephen) were: New Zealand-published fiction represented 6.1% of NZ-published books (5% of the total fiction market); NZ-published non-fiction represented 70.9% of NZ-published books (34.7% of the total non-fiction market); and NZ-published children’s books represented 23% of NZ-published books (13.9% of the total children’s market). That is to say, there were separate figures for children’s books. And I think these are children’s books sold in high street bookstores, rather than educational books, which are a much bigger market and would surely be more than 23%.