It’s ridiculously easy to find out what books are selling well. I spent only a few seconds googling the subject and came up with some official US figures for 2009, Amazon’s current top seller list and their list of bestselling eBooks for 2010. I am confident I could do better If I spent a bit longer at it but that’s not the point of this post.
The point of this post is to promote a way to quantify all the books that aren’t sold.
I don’t know any avid reader who hasn’t got a mental list of books they didn’t buy for one reason or another. Either the price was too high, the title wasn’t available in their preferred language or format or, my personal favourite, the book wasn’t available due to geographical copyright restrictions. Some enterprising people have been listening to these reader stories and have created a website at which readers everywhere can record these experiences of not buying books.
Lost Book Sales is a simple to use, single purpose website. It allows anyone to record the times they don’t buy a particular book. If, for example, I wanted to buy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for a Kindle and I discovered that I can’t because I am Australian
I would (in addition to grumbling and ranting about it to all and sundry) visit the Submit a Lost Sale page of the website and provide the details of the sale that wasn’t as well as describe what I did instead of buy the book.
The point of recording lost sales is to build up a picture for authors, agents, publishers and anyone else in the industry about they money they’ve lost because a reader could not buy a book when they wanted to. Sometimes the money will only be temporarily lost to the author (the reader will wait until the price is more reasonable for example) but sometimes it will be forever lost (if the reader chooses to read something else or pirate a copy of the book for example).
Although my primary interest in this issue has arisen due to the restrictions I have faced buying books in digital format the site is not exclusively about eBooks. You might be a reader who likes to read in English but who lives in a country with a different primary language and therefore find that English language books are not readily available to you because the rights have not been sold in your region. You can use the site to record all those times when you don’t buy the book you want to read and when the English-speaking author discovers that that they missed out selling to you forever (because the rights may never be sold to your country) maybe they’ll raise the issue with their agent or publisher next time they negotiate.
I am hopeful that the collection of lost book sale metrics will succeed in melting the hearts of mainstream publishers where emotional (even snarky) rants from readers like myself have failed. I am optimistic that cold, hard facts about the number of sales lost and the alternative choices made will help make the industry wake up to the fact that readers are no longer sitting around waiting for whatever books the industry deigns to make available to them.