Monday, November 12, 2007

A Dangerous New Toy

I’ve just discovered that Amazon.com has what they call their Historical Mysteries Bestseller List. I’m not sure how long it’s existed, but I wish I still didn’t know about it. It’s updated hourly, and it allows neurotic authors to track how well their latest release is selling compared to other historical mystery releases. Did I mention it’s updated hourly?

So now, in addition to agonizing over our Amazon.com sales ranking, we can also agonize over how we’re stacking up against the competition. Hourly.

For the last ten days, the Number One spot has been firmly locked down by THE JANISSARY TREE, the recent Edgar winner about a eunuch in Turkey. WHY MERMAIDS SING has occasionally flitted with the Number Two spot, more often hovered around Number Three or Four, bur sometimes slipped down to Number Six or even lower. Thanks to this list, I can see that the paperback release of WHEN GODS DIE is not doing well. In fact, the paperback of WHAT ANGELS FEAR is selling better, I guess to people who liked MERMAIDS and have now gone back looking for the first in the series. Hopefully they’ll then go on to buy GODS (although I still think the cover killed that book).

Obviously, MERMAIDS is a long ways from making the NYT bestseller list, but the sales so far have been encouraging. The first ten days traditionally see the biggest volume of sales—they will fall off rapidly from here.

Sales are always such a curious thing to tease out. What’s selling this book? The great cover, obviously, helps. But people going to Amazon for the book aren’t like buyers lured by an evocative cover from across a bookstore. Good reviews? Some, perhaps; except WHEN GODS DIE received those three starred reviews, which I’m told was quite phenomenal; MERMAIDS has received good reviews (ignoring the idiot who posted on Amazon—a pox on her), but only the Library Journal gave it a starred review. Word of mouth? Always good, but that can’t have kicked in yet.

So what is causing MERMAIDS to sell so much better than the two previous books in the series (at least on Amazon; I don’t know what it’s doing in the bookstores)? I suspect it’s the Entertainment Weekly mention. It’s the only thing I can think of that’s different. Now if we could just get someone like Angelina Jolie to be photographed carrying the book….

8 comments:

Steve Malley said...

Start a rumour that Peter Jackson is interested in optioning it. Or that Keira Knightley stays so thin because she 'just can't put CS Harris' books down, not even to eat.'

How *does* one start a rumour, anyway?

Almost makes me wish I understood the smoke-and-shadows, long-thin-knives world of rumour and innuendo...

Shauna Roberts said...

That idiot reviewer on Amazon obviously never heard of William Wilberforce. And there was even a movie out about him fairly recently.

The cover for When Gods Die made me want to read the book. It was also successful in conveying the setting, time period, and mood of the book.

If it failed as a cover, it might be only because it paled by comparison with the cover of When Gods Die, which is one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Reviews can be helpful to both the potential reader and the writer. As noted, reviews can also be idiotic, depending on who has written them and their credentials.

Beyond that, I think I must be out of step with most people, since I see no really useful place for bestseller lists, league tables and the like . . . especially not ones that change hourly.

I'd prefer to have a book that stays available for a lengthy time and is read and enjoyed by people who don't need to show their friends they have a copy of some organization's "book of the month".

We want to be read, but surely we are not asking to take part in a race or a competition when we have a book published. Can't that be reserved for the games and sports fields?

My experience is that encouraging rivalry between creative individualists, like writers or musicians, tends to lead to partisanship, enmity and bitterness.

And in the long run it's unproductive.

If published writers in a particular genre -- historical mystery or whatever -- have to be matched and compared, it should be so that we can appreciate and celebrate their differences, not so that we can declare one "better" than another, or one "right" and another "wrong".

In a small way, I hope the new edition of the Black Horse Westerns ezine, Black Horse Extra, gives an indication of how genre writers should be approaching this for the mutual benefit of all in their field.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't guess it would help to have a photo of "me" carrying the book eh? (Lol)

I want to get a picture of Steve Malley carrying one of my books in the hinterlands of NZ, maybe somewhere close to a site where they filmed something from Lord of the Rings.

Sphinx Ink said...

Just wanted to let you know the RSS feed from your blog is not working properly for me. I've had your blog feed in a module on my Yahoo home page for over a year, and the titles of your most recent entries would always show up on it as they were supposed to. However, since your blog switched over to its new URL following your website redesign, the new postings no longer show up on my home page. When I click on the Atom icon at the bottom of your blog page to try reinstall the RSS feed, it just reopens the blog page again. Let your website manager know that the RSS feed isn't working properly. Thanks.

cs harris said...

I've had some other issues since it switched, Sphinx Ink. The web managers blames Blogspot.

Farrah Rochon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Farrah Rochon said...

I agree with Shauna, I loved the cover of When Gods Die and think the one for Why Mermaids Sing is amazing.

I try to stay far away from Amazon's numbers. It just depresses me and who needs that?