September 30, 2019

New York Times Best Sellers tracking to change


If you’ve been looking at the New York Times Best Sellers list lately, perhaps you have seen this book or this book.

If you’re looking at it a couple of weeks from now, you may find it slightly altered. As John Maher writes for Publishers Weekly:

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the TimesBest Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

This is particularly welcome news to our friends in the comics publishing side of the industry, who, back in 2018, signed an open letter asking the Times to re-recognize their art. Now a year later, they’re in luck (though sharing that space more than they might’ve hoped for). Books like graphic novels that are expensive to print and not carried everywhere need the exposure of the list to survive.

As for sports and science books, it is true that they often chart on the general Non-Fiction lists, particularly when they have a strong narrative structure. But the sports and science lists that will now vanish had the value of offering a spotlight to more niche single topic-style books that wouldn’t have a shot in the big time.

Another casualty of losing the Sports and Science lists will be the long-enduring category-specific paperback. For instance the beloved non-fiction surfing book, Barbarian Days won’t retain its Best Seller status, as it has the numbers to linger on the Sports list, but not the general Non-Fiction list. Bummer, Man.

Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.