Bestseller List Shenanigans

Memories are so short.

Two years ago, Platinum faked its way to the top of an Entertainment Weekly comic bestseller list by giving away comics and paying retailers to order their book. Here’s more detail on what happened and EW’s response.

Now, Kevin Melrose raises some questions about the New York Times Graphic Books Bestseller list. In short, how does Marvel’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born go from nowhere on the list to #1 to disappearing from the list again, all in two weeks?

Christopher Butcher has one possible answer:

… the NYT Graphic Novel Bestseller lists are equally weighing all of Diamond’s direct-market sell-in with all of the other sales channels’ sell-through. What this means is that every book shipped by Diamond to a comic book store counts exactly the same on their list as every book actually sold by a bookscan-reporting store. It means that, on the week that comic-store-favorite graphic novels get released, their positions on the bestseller list will be abnormally high… but they will most likely never be heard from again. Unless their reorder velocity in a given week is incredibly high… maybe if that item was put on a sale or something?

[…] There was a time period last month where I ordered Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born and received a higher-than-average discount on that book, and for every copy I ordered, I got another copy of the book for free. […] So the week that all of those discounted copies and free copies of Dark Tower that I ordered shipped to me, the book ALSO appeared on The New York Times Graphic Novel Bestseller list.

Now, Chris has some special caveats and explanation, so you’ll want to read the whole thing, especially as he goes on to say that he doesn’t think Marvel was necessarily trying to do this on purpose. It’s just that a system that measures sales to retailers doesn’t match well with more traditional bestseller measurement of sales to end customers.

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