I focused on UK data, because it’s such an important market and it carries a much bigger stick. But today I’d like to have a look at the Irish bestseller lists on their own, because some little trends and patterns emerged which may be useful to any author thinking of self-publishing. Ireland was often used as a ringfenced product test market (ask Cadbury’s), so trends can often become more apparent here than in a much bigger country.
That said, the Irish market can look quite different to the UK market, because we love our Irish authors here – almost slavishly so. When a popular Irish author releases a new title in hardback (or trade paperback) it will generally hit the top 10 more or less immediately, regardless of what’s lighting up the market across the Irish Sea.
But when it comes to paperbacks, we go for the international bestsellers every time, and the release of a big movie adaptation of a book can send sales of that book into the stratosphere.
How Many Book Sales Make A Bestseller?
This shows how many sales you’re going to need at certain times of the year, in order to shoehorn your way into the Irish Top Ten. It looks like a ridiculously small amount in Ireland – sometimes just 250 would do it – but our population is of course much smaller.
I’ve crunched the numbers for both Ireland and the UK, and we buy similar numbers of bestsellers per head of population, although fewer in Ireland, because we seem to spread the love a little more amongst mid-list (and Irish) authors.
In the UK, from June to October, 2.47 top ten bestsellers were bought per 1,000 head of population, per week. In Ireland, 2.29 bestsellers were sold per 1,000 people, but we bought far more of them in hardback format than in the UK: Irish people bought 0.96 hardbacks (generally new releases) per 1,000 people per week, but in the UK, this was only 0.62.
Now for the meaty bit. There’s a lot of juice running out of these tables, so you might want to keep a serviette handy.
Note: Look at the number of paperbacks which were sold to reach the #1 spot in June. This skyrocketed with the film adapatation of The Fault In Our Stars, which multiplied sales of the book almost fourfold. And in October, we see a spike again with the release of the Gone Girl film. The moral of the story is – if you’re releasing a work of fiction, don’t time it to clash with the release of the screen adapatation of a major bestseller.
On a more positive note, it can take as little as 250 sales to get into the Irish Top 10 in certain months of the year. Think about it: if you get everyone you know to buy your book in the week of your launch (from participating booksellers, obviously), you could find yourself in the position to say you’ve written a “Times Bestseller”!
What Happens Once You Hit The Top Ten?
Most hardbacks have a bestseller shelf life of about 4-6 weeks. The paperback bestseller lists, however, are a mixum-gatherum of titles released 3, 6 or 12 months ago, along with the odd title from 3 years ago which has just seen a screen adaptation and is back in the bestseller list for the 4th time. This bestseller list from the end of June includes release dates and shows what I mean:
Dodgy Advice Incoming**
The way I see it, if you’re relatively well-known in this country, you can chuck out a hardback in the big months, get all your journalist besties to give you a nice write-up in the national papers, and your book will almost definitely make the list.
But in the paperback market, you’re competing with the Faults In Our Stars and the Gone Girls, not to mention the Stephen Kings and John Grishams, so be prepared for a slow burner and don’t expect too much.
What About Non-Fiction?
For non-fiction, the Christmas market is your oyster. So get that self-help pocketbook or your humorous sideswipe at Irish fathers out in September or October. Work on your press release, and be prepared to use whoever your uncle-in-law met in the Palace Bar for favours in order to get publicity.
It’s not pretty. But that’s book sales.
I’m off now before I give you serious data overload, and you all leave, and never come back. That wouldn’t be pretty either.
As always, observations, diatribes or witticisms in the comments are even more welcome than a good book on a rainy day.
**Note: All advice must be taken at your own peril and should only be imbibed with a stiff drink. So there.