Follow-up to Yesterday’s Post about The Fault in Our Stars
Yesterday I posted about why I think The Fault in Our Stars has sold so well, and there were hundreds of very interesting responses. Among them:
1. Valerie2776 pointed out that the mechanics of sharing online changed tremendously between 2008 and 2012, which meant that TFiOS’ first readers (fans of my previous books and/or nerdfighters, mostly) could respond to the book in a public way (on tumblr and twitter especially) that just didn’t exist in the same way in 2008 when Paper Towns came out.
This also reminded me that both Paper Towns and WGWG had under 5,000 preorders, whereas TFiOS had something like 65,000 (primarily because I signed all the preorders*) so the initial activation energy was much larger. So there were both more people talking about the book and more places online to be heard talking about the book.
2. Jutze (who wrote the brilliant 52-second song The Fault in the Fault in Our Stars) pointed out that in fact there was in fact a statistically significant decline in goodreads ratings in the past six months, although a relatively small one.
Publishers take note: You should hire this guy to do quant analysis. Anyway, if you’re wondering why Amazon bought goodreads….this is why.
3. Many people argued the The Fault in Our Stars is just BETTER than my other books. I think this is probably true, and certainly the data agrees: The overall goodreads ratings:
The Fault in Our Stars - 4.52 - 234,000 ratings
Looking for Alaska - 4.26 - 152,000 ratings
Paper Towns - 4.13 - 84,000 ratings
Katherines - 3.87 - 60,000 ratings
How strong is the correlation between number of readers (as represented by number of ratings) and overall rating? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Jutze. But there certainly is a correlation (and consistently, every week, TFiOS sells better than Alaska which sells better than Paper Towns which sells better than Katherines)**.
Publishers take note:After you hire someone to do quantitative analysis, you can find books on your backlist that are beloved but selling less than they should and then market them more aggressively.
4. Jemappellery points out, “I want to read this book again. I need to buy another copy, though, because my aunt’s dog threw up on mine.” This is also an important component of my sales strategy.
5. Genre. till-therewas-you points out that people like romantic tragedies, which has been true for quite some time. My previous books were less genre-conscious. Alaska is a boarding school novel, but that is a less well-established genre.
6. And lastly, toloveandlivejess points out “another factor is the thyca community.” (Thyroid cancer survivors.) So have many young people living with cancer and their families have supported the book. This has really surprised me, but I am grateful for it. It means a lot to me personally, but on a purely professional level, it speaks to the power that niche communities have today to make a book/movie/vlog/game successful. Whether it’s nerdfighteria or book clubs or the online network of thyroid cancer survivors, communities matter.
* Except those of you living in the UK/Germany. SORRY.
** Of course statistical analysis can’t reflect passion or enthusiasm or quantify the importance of a book to someone. People on average may like Katherines less than my other books, but the people who do like it often feel a deep connection to it, which is wonderful and I’m in no way trying to say that sales are the only (or even the best) measure of value. I’m just trying to put together some thoughts on what shapes sales.