Pub Rants

Tagged Bookscan

Bookscan Is Great—Except When It’s Not

STATUS: I’m sure I don’t have to say that yesterday was a little hectic.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SIMPLE DAY by One Eskimo

As an agency, we have a subscription to Bookscan and every Wednesday, we send out a sales reports in Excel spreadsheets to each of our clients for their published titles. (FYI–Nielsen is a subscription service that captures point-of-sales information from certain retail outlets.)

This sounds great. Real sales numbers! Except not every retailer reports to Bookscan. Some key accounts like Costco do report but other key accounts like Walmart do not.

Which means that Bookscan is not a whole picture of how a title is doing.

So over the years, I’ve created our own system of calculating how accurate it is by comparing the royalty statement sales to the Bookscan number sales and capturing the percentage difference.

For some genres, it can be off by 50 or 60%. That’s a lot. The numbers for literary fiction tend to be a bit more on target as Bookscan seems to capture about 70% of sales for this segment.

Why is this important? Well, if you are a midlist author looking to move houses, well, guess what numbers the editors are looking at in order to base a decision of whether they want to offer for you or not? You guessed it. Bookscan.

And if that number is only capturing 50% of the sales… I have to firmly argue the actual sales numbers and sometimes, that doesn’t matter. The house will often make a decision based solely on those Bookscan numbers. Hugely frustrating as you can imagine.

By the way, Bookscan does not currently capture digital point-of-sales. Yeah, that’s going to need to change as more and more sales are done digitally in the upcoming years. And yet another problem with Publishers deciding that Bookscan is a reliable reflection of sales…