Need to find book sales stats
August 4, 2009 11:04 AM   Subscribe

How can I find sales stats and chart statistics for books released over the past 30 years?

I am working on a research project regarding Star Wars novels. I know that many tout "New York Times Bestseller" on the covers; I am interested in finding out which ones were indeed NYTimes Bestsellers, when, for how long, etc.

Is there any way to look up bestseller status by book, rather than just looking at every Times Bestseller list from 1977 to now?

(Bonus points if there's any way to find out how many copies of the books sold, or a breakdown to hardcover and paperback release).

PS: I realize that often there are services that require a fee for such information. I'm willing to pay perhaps 3 figures for this information if I MUST but any association over $1,000 is outside of feasibility for me.

PPS: Yes, I've contacted the publishers. They don't have this information in a ready-to-share format.
posted by arniec to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Alas, no, you can't. The closest thing is Nielsen's Bookscan, but their data is only from 2002 onward, and misses certain nontraditional sales (special sales, i.e. sales to retailers that are not bookstores, etc.). Their license is almost certainly more expensive than what you can afford.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:17 AM on August 4, 2009

Also, occasionally publishers append "NY Times Bestseller" to a bestselling author, rather than (as they should) to a bestselling title.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:19 AM on August 4, 2009

Unfortunately, no such repository of information exists. As ocherdraco says, Bookscan has this information but only from 2001 (limited) and 2002 onward and not all channels report to Bookscan anyway, and it does not indicate NYT bestseller status.

The publisher almost certainly has this information and it's probably quite easy to share, but they don't want to/don't have to. Another option would be to contact the author or agent since royalty statements would probably be helpful (in that many contracts indicate bonuses for bestseller status) but again, they aren't likely to share that information with you.

Since you are willing to pay for the information, I'd offer the job to a student and pay them to do the research.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:37 AM on August 4, 2009

OK...barring the best solution of having a reasonable source, maybe someone can point me in this direction... The NY Times web site is unwieldy and I need to subscribe to see information from the 70s and 80s. Does anyone know if the information is online in their archives (on a week by week basis) or am I going to the library and pulling out the microfiche?
posted by arniec at 2:23 PM on August 4, 2009

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