Monday, August 24, 2009

Arbitrary backlist policies on the NYT bestseller list?

Publishers Lunch noted today that Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking - a backlist title for nearly fifty years - has reached the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Now, step with me into the Wayback Machine if you would. It's time for a lesson in publishing history:

When Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was in theaters several years ago, both the mass market AND trade paperback editions (published by Del Rey Books and Houghton-Mifflin, respectively) of The Hobbit and the various editions of the Lord of the Rings were selling more than enough copies to warrant being listed on the NYT bestseller list. However, the New York Times refused to list any of the books in the series, stating categorically that they do not list backlist titles on the bestseller list.

This is absolutely true: the NYT doesn't list backlist on their bestseller list.

Unless you're Robert Ludlum.

Or Jane Austen.

Or Julia Child.


Victoria Dixon said...

Elitist swine. ;)

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I bought a copy of Julia"s book after downloading the first chapter free. My contribution.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Let's be bluntly honest -- the NYT lists books that they like on their bestseller lists, and whatever other books that they can't manage to think up an excuse to exclude.

(Some of my fellow marketing people have been known to rant about how all of the nonfiction that people actually buy somehow magically gets transmuted by the Times into "Self-Help and Miscellaneous" to keep it off their precious memoirs & history list.)

Criss L. Cox said...

I couldn't help noticing that 2/3 of the authors who were given preferential treatment were women, while 100% of the authors who were snubbed were men. Should we see this as the beginning of a new trend, where women get more preferential treatment than men?

Are the tides finally turning?


Jeff said...

Didn't you get the note? Lord of the Rings is for mental children. But Julia Child shook up the world!

Actually, her technique for making omelettes is far superior to Alton Brown's. Ack! I just revealed my elitist sensibilities.

Well, I had to do something while waiting for a response on my partial! So I learned to make a killer omelette.

(notice how cleverly I worked a wheedle into this)