Making the List

Publisher's Weekly debuted their list of the top ten bestselling comics and graphic novels this week (although the list includes only long form comic work). I believe that the titles are listed in order of units sold, but that is one of many assumptions about the list that we're forced to make because no methodology was offered. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as these sorts of general bestsellers lists that offer next to no description of how the data is compiled are prevalent from the New York Times to Booksense to Publisher's Weekly's own collection of best seller lists. And based on the credibility of the source, such a bestseller lists can have a significant impact on marketing on a local, regional or national level.

This list has been in the works for several months now and as a part of the CBIA, MacGuffin had the opportunity to volunteer our own sales data for Publisher's Weekly to use as they saw fit in compiling this list. We very nearly did so for the simple fact that, on a personal level, I'm all for making as much sales data available to as many facets of the industry as possible. We ultimately decided not to even volunteer in the initial planning stages because not only would it require some additional work on my part (not too much, but time is time) but also because our sales numbers are so miniscule as to be statistically irrelevant.

Presumably some description of the methodology was made available to those stores participating (at least on a confidential basis) but as the kinks get worked out and the list is expanded to 15 titles, hopefully some information about the data sources will be released to readers. I'm particularly curious to know if this list is based solely on a poll of general bookstores and direct market shops or if other sales data (i.e. Bookscan) was factored in as well. While a bestsellers list is nice for marketing and even water cooler purposes, it really won't be of much value to the industry without some more specific description of the methodology behind it.

Then again, the significance of this particular list is its attempt to combine data from general bookstores and direct market stores into a single unified list. Unfortunately, what we're likely to see is exactly what showed up in the first list: manga dominated, taking 8 of the top 10 spots with two titles that did well in general bookstores taking the other two spots (Halo and the 9/11 Report). In other words, the data from most direct market shops became statistically irrelevant (even as a group) when combined with data from general bookstores. In other word, no book that sells well at just direct market stores is going to crack the top 15 from general bookstores but books that sell well at both may get boosted a spot or two by doing well in direct market shops.

For comparison (and entertainment) purposes, MacGuffin's top ten bestsellers for September (although based on what I've heard, PW's list actually covers something more like a 4 week period from late August to late September) including, as PW does, only titles published in 2006:

1. Pride of Baghdad
2. Naruto vol. 11
3. Halo GN
4. 9/11 Report
5. Marvel Zombies
6. Ultimate Galactus Book 3
7. Captain America: Winter Soldier vol. 2
8. Losers Endgame
9. American Born Chinese
10. Batman: Face the Face


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