The metrics of lost book sales

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 2009Amazon’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.

Of course the only way it will work is if we all help out by submitting details of all our lost sales so please bookmark Lost Book Sales and make an effort to record all the books you don’t buy.

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6 Responses to The metrics of lost book sales

  1. Marg says:

    This is a very good idea isn’t it? I’ve already added half a dozen titles, and have just been reminded that there is another one too!


  2. Bernadette – Thanks for sharing this website. It’s an absolutely terrific idea! The more that publishers, agents and so on know about why people don’t buy books, the more books will hopefully become available. And maybe people who write books would have a better market for them…


  3. Thats a great idea. I will definitely check it out. I can’t think off the top of my head of an example where I haven’t purchased a book I would liek to (except when I can’t afford it of course)… but if it happens I know there is somewhere I can go


  4. kathy durkin says:

    This is a great idea. Thanks for the information and the links. I don’t buy books too much, largely due to budget concerns, but also because I firmly believe in the public library system. It should carry all books, even if I and others have to rant and pressure them to do so, or even if I have to wait a year for a book. It’s ingrained in my psyche.
    But this thing about geographical restriction is absurd and maddening. I do not think companies respond to emotional pleas, but do respond to hard, cold facts about sales–and profits. If they are convinced they’re losing sales, they’ll try to change that.
    After seeing the sales’ lists at these three websites, I am concerned about what people are reading. It’s worrisome, but I guess I can’t have an attitude about that. Reading taste is so personal, but a little Indridason, Nunn, Piniero, Leon, etc. wouldn’t hurt anybody. (I’m leaving a lot of good authors out, but had to edit.)


  5. I did have a little giggle though as I found GWDT on Borders in epub format for cheaper than Amazon, but yes the point is well made. Hopefully a site like this might help publishers and authors decide which works to push through quicker.


  6. Kerrie says:

    But tells me I can buy a Kindle version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for $5.03

    Were you looking at Amazon UK?


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