Why Sales and Bestseller List Reporting Is Vital in 2020: An Overview

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This fall during the regional trade shows, the American Booksellers Association presented a new education session focusing on how indie bookstores can report their online and in-store sales and bestsellers.

Why Sales and Bestseller List Reporting Is Vital in 2020” looked at the increase of online sales in the indie channel this year and why it has become more important than ever to report to the Indie Bestseller Lists and the New York Times bestseller lists, which are vital to showing the extent of the indie reach.

A recording of the session can be viewed on BookWeb.org.

Here are some of the key points from the session:

  • Stores can report their sales using one of three methods:

  • Booksellers using other e-commerce platforms can export a CSV file containing one line for each book sold during the reporting period, detailing for each book the ISBN and the total sales for that ISBN, headed respectively with “SKU” and “Quantity.”
  • NPD BookScan tracks the U.S. book market. It records print book sales at more than 16,000 locations across the country at both online and brick-and-mortar locations.

    • There are three main reasons to report to NPD BookScan.

      • It helps the industry understand the relevance of independent booksellers, and ensures that business at indie bookstores matters in the context of the wider ecosystem. Reporting to NPD allows booksellers to report to bestseller lists at more than 90 other consumer outlets, and that consumer influence results in industry influence, which can help booksellers gain marketing attention, advanced materials, author events, and more.
      • Reporting sales helps demonstrate the power of indies in a healthy ecosystem. Based on NPD data, indie bookstores sell on average more than six percent of frontlist titles within the total market.
      • Reporting sales also helps booksellers optimize their revenue opportunities. NPD data helps booksellers make informed decisions about what to carry.
  • The New York Times bestseller list takes reports from all kinds of stores from Sunday through Saturday each week.

    • The deadline for reporting is 12:00 p.m. ET on Tuesdays. Reports are published online at 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesdays and appear 11 days later in the print edition of the New York Times Book Review. Reporting stores receive a thank you note with a list of all the titles that will be included in the book review.
    • Book review titles can differ from what ends up on the NYT bestseller list, but together, both lists can offer a variety of titles for booksellers to consider buying.
    • Booksellers who can’t report through their POS system can email reports to the New York Times.
    • To report to the NYT, stores must be open for a year, but exceptions are made in certain circumstances. In reporting, consistency is key.
  • Karen Torres of Hachette Book Group urged booksellers to report. In the current printing environment, bestselling figures are critically examined for reprints and reorders. Keeping the indie stores top of mind relies on accurate reporting. Stores that report sales are prioritized for events and opportunities.
  • Craig Popelars of Tin House Books said that as a small indie publishing house, indie bookstores are the press’ largest market segment. The more accurate reporting provided from indie bookstores helps smaller presses establish better printings, better inventory management, and a better understanding of where books are succeeding in the marketplace.

Questions and answers from the session:

If I’m reporting manually to BookWeb, do I have to continue doing that even if I start reporting to BookScan automatically through my POS?

Reporting to BookWeb manually and to BookScan via your POS would be a duplication of data. Reporting to BookScan is meant to replace reporting to BookWeb. Stores reporting to BookScan directly do not, and should not, report to BookWeb.

Reporting to BookScan via your POS is preferred because automation increases the likelihood that your store will report consistently and that all sales data will be included. But reporting to BookWeb is a fine alternative.

What is the difference between reporting to the Indie Bestseller List via BookWeb vs. reporting on BookWeb with BookScan checked off?

Stores reporting via BookWeb and sharing their data with BookScan by checking the box have not configured their POS to report directly to BookScan for a variety of reasons (perhaps they have no POS, perhaps they’re more comfortable with reporting directly to ABA/BookWeb, or they’ve always reported this way). It’s up to the stores to decide how they’d like to report.

Stores that do not check the box to share their data with BookScan are electing to do just that: not share their data with BookScan. The data reported via BookWeb is always used to help compile the Indie Bestseller Lists, regardless of sharing with BookScan.

When I report sales to ABA, there is a red statement on the load page that asks if I want to report to BookScan. I always check the box. Is there more to reporting to BookScan than that?

There are two ways BookScan receives reporting data from stores:

Some stores report directly to BookScan via their POS. That data is then shared with ABA each Tuesday, and helps with the compilation of the Indie Bestseller Lists. NOTE: Reporting directly to BookScan does require a setup and configuration between the store’s POS system and BookScan.

Some stores report directly to ABA via BookWeb and choose to share their data by checking the box. Their data is then shared with BookScan each Tuesday.

Who reports Bookshop sales? Are we supposed to do that or does Bookshop?

Bookshop reports its sales.

Should IndieCommerce sales go through our POS because of sales info going into our POS, and then Quickbooks for financial accounting?

It is difficult to make any universal recommendations, considering the myriad solutions stores employ for executing and recording sales, both in-store and online. One bookseller suggested combining sales via the POS so that the bestseller lists generated for their store include both in-store and online sales.

We automatically upload sales to BookScan, so the sales are reported as they happen, which can be six months before a book publishes if it’s a pre-order. Do those sales still get recorded for BookScan data and ABA bestsellers?

ABA is working on a solution for recognizing and storing book sales ahead of their on-sale date and integrating them into sales reports the week of the on-sale date.

On reporting to the New York Times Bestseller List (answers courtesy of the NYT):

Which link is for stores that are uploading their files for reporting purposes?

It is https://bestsellers.nytimes.com/login. Stores must have been accepted into the New York Times reporting panel of stores before they are given a login.

How does a reporting store get the thank you email?

We send it at noon on Tuesdays. It goes to the email that we have in our system for our reporting stores. Stores need to make sure that nytimes.com and mx.nytimes.com are on their email’s safe list.

Does the NYT include Amazon sales on their list? Do the NYT lists include direct sales from publisher to customers?

We do not disclose the identities of the stores that are part of our confidential panel of reporting stores. We do not share any information that is given to us by anyone. We give an overview of our reporting store roster here: https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/methodology/

I export the CSV file out of Square and delete any used books and the non-book items. Do I really need to do that cleanup or can the NYT and BookWeb sort that stuff out?

You do not need to clean up or edit your file. There are some formatting things that must be in place, such as proper headers, but our system flushes out non-book items. I assume the used books are not frontlist titles, so that shouldn’t be an issue either. If in doubt, send the full sales for your Sunday-to-Saturday and let us take a look next week.

I’ve been told that NYT disregards any reporting of sales in advance of the laydown date, so there should be no reason to remove sales that you will then be reporting for the laydown week, correct? We don’t want to accidentally double report. Is this accurate?

Our system locks up the data each week when we finalize our lists. The data is not carried forward on our end. We do not count sales until the reporting for the week of the laydown date is sent. We recognize this is frustrating. We need stores to make sure they are sending us the full amount of pre-sales with the book’s first on-sale week’s data.