Quarterly Report

Quarterly Report: Media Heavyweights Drive Book Sales

By posted at 5:51 pm on November 21, 2007 0

Every three months I’ve been looking at Barnes & Noble’s quarterly conference call to get some insight into recent book industry trends and to see which books were the big sellers over the past few months and which are expected to be big in the coming months. Staving off a post-Harry Potter hangover, B&N’s quarter ended November 3 was boosted by several titles that got major media attention, sending readers into stores to get in on the action.

Here are the highlights from CEO Steve Riggio on the Q3 conference call (courtesy Seeking Alpha):

  • The most important factor now “is the effect of media on the book industry and on the sales of individual titles.”
  • coverThe company was “pleasantly surprised when the third quarter opened quite strong with the release of Stephanie Meyer’s Eclipse, which became the fastest-selling teen novel in our history.” It just goes to show, people love vampires.
  • “Media coverage of adult books was more extensive then typical, led by two shows, the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes and Oprah Winfrey.”
  • After feature stories on 60 Minutes, the publicity for “Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence, Clarence Thomas’ My Grandfather’s Son and Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You, and Valerie Plame Wilson’s Fair Game shot those books onto the top of our bestseller list.” In other words, it was a good quarter for books with the author’s picture on the cover.
  • coverMeanwhile, the backing of Oprah led to “phenomenal demand” for books like Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious Cookbook, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, Cathy Black’s Basic Black, and Michael Roizen’s YOU: Staying Young. In other words, self help and cookbooks remain in the Oprah wheelhouse. The “Book Club” lives on as well, “even sending classics such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera to the top of bestseller lists.”
  • And the last of the big media booksellers turned out to be Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, whose shows helped make a bestseller of Colbert’s I Am America (And So Can You!).
  • Moving on to fiction, “it was a particularly good quarter for new releases for brand name fiction writers and those included John Grisham, David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson and the return of Ken Follett with his World Without End.”
  • Of course, with big media being the hand that feeds the publishers, the writers strike could limit promotional opportunities. “We are already hearing of cancellations of writers that were scheduled to be on some of the major talk shows.”
  • “Nevertheless, several books by brand name writers with new and forthcoming titles including Sue Grafton, Jim Cramer, Steve Martin and Dean Ornish” are expected to do well in the coming months.
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