Book Sense Bestseller Reporting -- Never Faster, Never Easier

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According to many booksellers, independents can now transmit the data for the Book Sense Bestseller List before you can say "Kingsolver." Since the list debuted in November 1999, its importance to book buyers, publishers, and media analysts -- as well as booksellers -- has increased dramatically.

During that time, improvements in the software have significantly cut reporting time. A key innovation came in January, when, based on bookseller requests, electronic options were launched along with a streamlined data entry system for those not using the electronic options.

While, previously, reporters had to manually enter extensive information, following an agreement between ABA and BookScan, bookstores can now use BookScan with an integrated POS module to generate a weekly sales data file and to orchestrate the transmission of the file. In addition, with the new ABA Upload option, after once generating a weekly sales data file from a store’s existing POS system, a file can be transferred instantly from the store to the Book Sense Bestseller Reporting System. Technical support has been readily available throughout the process. (For more information on reporting, click here.)

Maude Odgers of the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, New Hampshire, has been reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List since its inception, and when ABA "gave us the option of reporting electronically, we switched right away. [ABA has] made it so easy for us with the automated program," she told BTW. "It takes me five minutes at most. When we used to do it title by title, it could take an hour."

"There was a quantum leap," according to Chris Wilcox of City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina, "when we switched from manually entering ISBNs under the categories to the [file upload method] of the entire week's sales."

Size of the store doesn’t matter when reporting to the list. Two Colorado stores, the 800-square-foot Bookworm of Edwards and the Tattered Cover in Denver have both reduced their reporting time to under two minutes.

Ruthanne Devlin, owner of Bell, Book & Candle Bookstore in Port Orchard, Washington, told BTW that even as the time involved in reporting has lessened, the importance of reporting has become increasingly important and valuable to her business. "I have been reporting for over a year," Devlin said, "I’m not sure exactly when I started. I used to report by category, but switched to the straight listing report when it became available. It cut my time by more than half, however, I never begrudged the time earlier. Reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List is a major element in my stock replenishment process, but not just to make sure I have the national top-selling books on my shelf. Actually, while I am reviewing my sales report for Book Sense, I am also re-acquainting myself with all my store’s sales, and, thanks to some features of my Anthology software, I can spot what my other store bestsellers might become if given a nudge." Devlin has noticed the impact of the increased information, "Making the weekly report also lets me sense local trends and see where I might shift some emphasis.... Just the discipline of knowing I have to report weekly gives my overall ordering process some structure, when previously it was more haphazard."

At Odyssey Books in Grass Valley, California, owner Jeanne Michael told BTW that she was very pleased with the new reporting system, "Before, trying to separate the books into the appropriate categories without trying to make a career of it was challenging and time-consuming."

Kathy Westover of the Bookworm of Edwards, Colorado, told BTW that "I have Booklog, and I just got the updated version, which allows me to report in about two minutes compared to 25 minutes before." As a member of the board of the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association, she is eager to convince other stores to report and hopes she and other MPBA members can mentor prospective reporting stores. Matt Miller of the Tattered Cover concurs, and told BTW that "we have been reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List since it began, and the difference now is like night and day. We are using BookScan to report each week, and it literally takes five seconds for the electronic file to transmit. The reports we get back each week for national and local sales are fascinating. It has become increasingly easier to report to the Book Sense Bestseller List and now it could not be any simpler. We love it."

Several booksellers view reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List in the larger context of preserving and increasing the independent’s market share and strength. "I believe that the Book Sense Bestseller List is the most important thing that we can do as indies to keep our businesses alive and well in the face of all the big boxes out there," concluded Bookworm’s Westover. Devlin of Bell, Book & Candle talked about the "intangibles" of reporting to the list. "Being part of a larger whole; knowing my small store can actually influence whether a book makes it or not -- and when has a small indie been able to exert much influence before? I love seeing how my store sales stack up nationally and having a list the publishers take seriously that does not include the chains." -- Nomi Schwartz