At the Mercy of the Bestseller Gods


Well, this is unexpected. This Sunday will be my 11th week on the NYT bestseller list. I will be #6 with an asterisk (denoting that I’m nearly tied with #5). But I learned yesterday that for week 12 Liberal Fascism drops all the way to #21 on the extended bestseller list (the full list has 25 slots, so technically it will remain a NYT bestseller). What’s weird isn’t that it’s dropping so low (this has been a good run after all), but that my sales haven’t dipped that much. According to bookscan — which supposedly captures something 70-80% of sales — I was the number 7 book for the week and I seem to be outselling about half the books on next Sunday’s Times’ list (or so I’m told).

The most plausible explanation is  the same one that explained why I leaped onto the Times list my first week out of the box. After all I opened at #10 even though I had a small first printing and it was hard to find the book in many stores. No one — except the Times itself — really understands how their formula works. But it definitely measures demand, perhaps not as much as sales, but enough to launch a book to the list if the demand is intense. In other words, the rate of sales — and presales — at all levels of the market (stores, clubs, wholesale etc.) are part of the formula. This week a whole slew of new books with big promotion budgets came online and the cross platform demand apparently shoved LF downward. The hope — for me at least — is that some of these books will be flash-in-the-pans and my steady sales will bring me back up after the churn works itself out.

Obviously, I’d like to stay on the list as long as possible. It’s a great promotion tool — pretty much the last one I have left. And it annoys all the right people the longer I’m on it, of course. And of course, it feels wonderful to have a book I worked so long and hard on — and took so much grief over — succeed.

But I can’t really complain about anything. Three months on the NYT list — and hitting #1 — plus a dozen printings is far better than I dared hope. And yet I still hope the book does even better and has a wider following. How could I do otherwise?


Subscribe to National Review