A Better Kind of Bestseller?
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Bestseller lists are morphing and multiplying as compilers scramble to take account of changes in the industry. But nobody seems to be questioning the conventional definition of bestseller that’s based on sales—as variously and partially reported—within a very short period, most often just a week.
A more useful definition might highlight books that keep selling and selling. After all, books with sales mounting into thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions must be serving more and more readers’ needs, and they may well be exerting significant influence on trends and events in the process.
As the reports below show, independent publishers have books with stellar sales records—for instance: “162,000 copies since June 2009,” “7,500 copies per month and rising,” “70,000 in hardcover,” “125,000 in our trade paperback and hardcover editions,” “250,000 copies,” “more than 1.5 million copies,” and “more than 110,000 copies to date, with sales steadily continuing to increase by word of mouth.”
This first installment of “A Better Kind of Bestseller?” also features books with impressive staying power that have lower cumulative sales. But the big numbers here are far from unusual. Totals of this sort show up continually in various kinds of Independent articles (see, for example, “IHA Helps with Childen’s Health: 3,400,000 Copies and Counting” in this issue), and more of them will show up in further installments of this series. Many thanks to all of you who sent news of your bestsellers.—Judith Appelbaum
For Better Health
A book we published in April 2010 is having a remarkable run that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the pace of sales is accelerating.
Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? by Clinton Ober, Stephen T. Sinatra, and Martin Zucker was published as a trade paperback at $18.95, and within two weeks it was ranked #26 overall on Amazon. As I write, it’s ranked #1,326 overall. It has had six printings, bringing the total number of copies in print to 100,000. We expect to double that number by the end of the year.
Sales to date: 70,000 copies, with a rate of sale of approximately 7,500 copies per month.
We published this book because we felt it told a remarkable story about a little known scientific fact that could have a profound health benefit, literally for everyone. It shows that the solution for chronic inflammation, regarded as the cause of most common modern diseases, has been identified. And it is not blueberries. It is something right beneath our feet—the earth itself.
Drawing on research and testimonials, Earthing explains how physical disconnect with the earth creates abnormal physiology and contributes to inflammation, pain, fatigue stress, and poor sleep, and how reconnecting to the earth relieves or eliminates symptoms and accelerates recovery from surgery, injury, and athletic overexertion.
To reach readers, we have concentrated on getting our authors on dozens of radio interview shows (Clinton Ober is devoted to promoting the scientific exploration and practical applications of the concept).
Unlike most books, which get six or fewer reviews on Amazon, Earthing so far has received 38 reviews with an overall five-star rating (except for one negative review written by someone who admitted that he wrote it without reading the book).
Interest in Earthing is expanding around the globe. So far, we have sold translation rights in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and Japan, with interest from other countries pending.
Basic Health Publications, Inc.
Tied to a Test
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves has sold 162,000 copies since June 2009. We wrote the book as a follow-up to The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, the bestseller we published with Simon & Schuster in 2005. Our book has a single purpose—increasing your EQ. It includes a passcode in an envelope that provides online access to the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal test.
Published by us, with Publishers Group West for distribution, the book has achieved greater reach and a much faster rate of sale than it had with S&S. And sales are on the rise.
An earlier book of ours, the self-scoring booklet edition of the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal test, has sold 120,000 copies. That one was created to fill a gaping hole in the emotional intelligence assessment market by providing a rapid, easy-to-understand, and psychometrically sound measure of emotional intelligence.
The test has become the bestselling emotional intelligence assessment in the world. Although it is available in additional formats online, the self-scoring booklet edition of the test is available only from us, and we have repeatedly turned down booksellers’ requests to carry it (to prevent discounting). Sales have grown year over year since the test’s release in 2003.
As a small publisher of children’s books and children’s books with audio CD, I am pleased to report that all our publications have sold in the thousands, from 9,000 to 70,000 copies depending on the title, with most books selling about 30,000 each. We assume that we’re with each project for the long haul. It is more profitable to sell lots of fewer titles than vice versa.
Because I assume that we’ll be “living with” each book for many years, we put a lot of work into the writing, illustration, and sound production. Building in quality and value pays off handsomely over time. Also, for us, it’s important to publish work by authors with the proven ability and desire to promote their work through speaking events, concerts, and so forth. This way, on the off-chance that multiple reviews don’t materialize, the book will at least make it into the second printing.
Our bestseller, The Jazz Fly (book with audio CD), has sold close to 70,000 in hardcover and a few thousand more in a recently published special paperback edition. It’s now in its 10th printing.
Interestingly, the book reached these figures with little aid from the major chains, and with no order of more than 2,000 copies. As a result, the profit margin has been consistently desirable, and the book keeps chugging along at a pace of 6,000 to 7,000 copies per year.
Helped at first by strong reviews in School Library Journal, Booklist, and the like, it went on to win many awards, including a Ben Franklin, and it became the #1 Recommended Children’s Book in the country among booksellers nationwide (via BookSense).
As the author, I have performed this musical story at hundreds of schools and education conferences. It’s also been featured on dozens of radio interviews, including West Coast Live, which reached around 600,000 listeners worldwide. The book found cross-appeal among not just kids and parents, but jazz lovers, music teachers, reading specialists, and so on.
Last year, we issued Jazz Fly 2: The Jungle Pachanga (book with audio CD), which is already in its second printing, and were delighted to see a significant spike in demand for the original Jazz Fly. An experienced publisher of sequels might have seen this coming. Since this was our first venture into sequels, we were pleasantly surprised.
“By Far the Best”
When I first conceived of turning out a comprehensive guidebook to Yellowstone National Park, I was thinking only of making it as useful as possible to any visitor or armchair traveler who wanted to learn more about this very diverse place. Thoughts about running a publishing business or making money on it simply did not enter my head until 34 publishers had turned the book down. Late in 2000, I formed Granite Peak Publications. I obtained invaluable help from IBPA’s newsletter (now the Independent) and from five Publishing Universities.
The first edition of Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler’s Companion to the National Park came out in early 2002 with 5,353 copies and was reprinted (with minimal corrections and additions) in 2003 (5,282 copies) and 2004 (2,550 copies). The updated second edition appeared in April 2005 (10,214 copies) and was reprinted in 2007 (3,996 copies) and 2008 (2,689 copies). The updated third edition, January 2009 (12,142 copies), was reprinted in 2010 (12,130 copies). A third reprint is planned for late 2011.
Thus, to date, allowing for about 4,800 copies given to media or to charity (when the older edition was overstocked), or returned to the distributor in unsalable condition, approximately 45,500 have been sold. More than 200 e-book copies in three formats have also been sold in the last few months.
I attribute the increasing popularity of my book primarily to very positive user response. Most of the 58 reviews now on Amazon.com give it five stars. It has remained #1 in Amazon’s Yellowstone books category almost always in the past year, with comments like: “Of all the travel books I’ve ever used for sightseeing, this is by far the best.” The book is also popular in Yellowstone gift shops and is sold in other stores of many types.
KSB Promotions helped me get reviews for the third edition; we’ve done a limited amount of advertising in western U.S. and national park publications, and the book has won awards that we publicize.
I intend to keep reprinting and occasionally putting out new editions for as long as I can, but, being 76 years old, I’m looking for some person (or more than one) to take over the revisions when I am no longer able to do them. My daughter Beth, who serves as assistant publisher, editor, and Webmaster, would be willing to continue as publisher but would not be able to do the necessary continual research and rewriting. Incidentally, this guidebook was modeled on one turned out from 1890 through 1966 by a father and son, Frank J. and Jack E. Haynes. I would love to think a travel guide from a mother-and-daughter team could attain similar longevity.
Granite Peak Publications
A Dystopia Tailored to Teens
More than 500,000 copies of The Girl Who Owned a City have sold since it was first published by Lerner Publishing Group in 1975, 125,000 in our trade paperback and hardcover editions and 375,000 in a mass-market paperback edition from Random House Children’s Books, which licensed the rights from Lerner. It is also available as an audiobook in multiple formats, including CD, cassette, and Playaway versions, with a teaching guide.
The book remains a strong seller and has generated more than 9,000 “look inside” acts on Google Books. We are planning to publish a graphic novel adaptation in hardcover and paperback versions in future seasons, and to revise the cover of the existing trade paperback edition as well.
Although The Girl Who Owned a City is turning 35 this year, its dystopian genre continues to be popular with teens, and the book has been passed on through generations of students. With a strong following and dozens of teaching guides available online, this book is used by educators across the country to teach about the formation of societies and the organization of governments.
Lerner Publishing Group
Memories of Meals
The Table My Mother Set began as a simple cookbook project for family, but it has become much more. Published first in 2007 and reprinted in 2008, it has sold 3,925 copies through shows, exhibits, signings, presentations, news articles, and word of mouth (57 percent of revenue); stores (including two juried artisan centers; 23 percent), the Internet (Amazon, eBay, the book’s Web site; 12 percent), and mail orders (8 percent). It has attracted buyers in 37 states plus the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, Italy, and England, and won a number of awards.
The book is a tribute to my mother and the recipes and traditions which she (and my father) taught me in the kitchen and in life. It often sells to older people who—reminded of the meals of their childhood—buy copies for their children and other family members.
Theresa V. DeCaria
The Table My Mother Set
The Gift of Peace
My award-winning stress-relief audiobook, Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace, began in a surprising way (even to me!) and has led me on an amazing professional journey into a second career that I love.
In the mid-’90s, I’d wanted to create a thoughtful holiday gift for my family and friends. Having benefited personally from extensive mind-body healing experiences, and study with various recognized experts, I was also familiar with recording studios from my work as a pop songwriter for film/TV and theater. I decided to draw upon both and create what I hoped would be a deeply soothing guided imagery for relaxation. I called it “Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace.”
Over the next two years, several recipients told me that something special seemed to happen for them each time they listened. My dentist found his chronic back spasms would release. A friend began playing it at bedtime for her daughter, who had irritable bowel syndrome. Her symptoms were diminishing, and she began waking feeling great. Friends suggested I publish it to help more people.
As an experiment, I test-marketed Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace with a wide range of medical and corporate professionals. Responses continued to be encouraging, so I tweaked a little, scored it with the help of my dear friend composer Daryl Kojak, and rerecorded.
Published in cassette format in 1996, then on CD in 2000, Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace was among Publishers Weekly’s Best Audios of the Year. (Funny—the day I learned of our award I called PW, ostensibly to thank them, but secretly fearing they’d tell me, “Oh, honey, that was a typo.”) But unbeknownst to me, a reviewer had nominated Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace, and it won.
Now that each copy sported our gold embossed Publishers Weekly award seal, doors began to open. As a result of more free (or practically free) seminars than I care to recall, and a zillion media interviews and review submissions, we began to garner some critical acclaim from medical institutions, coverage in the Los Angeles Times, NBC, CBS and ABC-TV, Town & Country, Billboard, Cosmopolitan, and others. Word spread. Invitations came for paid speaking engagements, and to customize stress management programs for Fortune 100 companies, hospitals, and spas. The Coca-Cola Company appointed me to its four-person Dasani WellnessTeam, which opened more doors. Listeners now include The Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, The Betty Ford Center, military families, and everyday folks who could just really use a good night’s sleep.
Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace has sold more than 110,000 copies to date, with sales steadily continuing to increase by word of mouth. It’s been a #1 Amazon Bestseller in five categories, and among Amazon’s Top 100 Books on CD for several years. We reprint 5,000 copies two to four times each year, which are distributed to the book trade by IPG’s Small Press United, with Ingram and Baker & Taylor as wholesalers. We sell direct to spas and hospitals, businesses, and the military, and consumers purchase copies on our Web site. Because people often buy Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace as a gift, we offer a year-round special: “Order 5—Get 6.” That makes it easier for people to buy in quantity with one click.
Everything we do must be done on a shoestring, but publishing is a cordial community. We learned so much of what we first needed to know from Jan Nathan at IPBA (then PMA), and at Publishing University. I still turn to Terry whenever I need book trade advice. IBPA has been a wonderful resource for Relax Intuit, as have others in publishing.
Today, Relax Intuit™ LLC remains a small, hard-working, service-oriented company, with two new titles currently in planning stages. We take great care researching vendors, manufacturers, and distributors. We consider it our business to “reduce stress” by being reliable, ethical, professional, and kind, and choose to work with others who do too. Life is so much easier that way, and infinitely more rewarding!
Relax Intuit™ LLC
Serving a Host of Hikers
Canadian Rockies Trail Guide has sold 250,000 copies since its first edition appeared in April 1971 (a 40th anniversary edition is scheduled for 2011).
Hikers affectionately refer to this guidebook by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson as “the bible.” It was the first guidebook with accurate distances and detailed descriptions to the trails of the Canadian Rockies, and it has evolved to become the most comprehensive and well-known guidebook to hiking in the region.
This month, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is hosting an exhibit telling the story of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide and its two authors, who have dedicated their lives to hiking and the book.
Conservation for Children Catches On
Back in October 2007 I was looking for a resource I could use to teach my four daughters the importance of caring for the environment. When I couldn’t find anything I’d want to read to a small child, I set out to do a positive book that gently explains our global situation in an inspirational way.
One of the people I contacted about the manuscript of One Child, One Planet: Inspiration for the Young Conservationist was award-winning wildlife photographer Carl Sams. (Sams and his wife, Jean Stoick, are co-creators of the New York Times best-selling In the Woods series of children’s books and videos.) A nature enthusiast himself, Sams was on board upon first glance and has been my mentor as I self-published. He and his staff generate many sales of my book in the gift shop market.
One Child, One Planet came out in October 2009. We printed 11,000 copies to start and needed a second printing of 11,000 when Barnes & Noble ordered 9,000 for an Earth Day promo. About 18,000 have sold as I write, though returns from bookstores are possible.
The book was originally intended for nonreaders—small children and their parents—but I’m finding that its true markets are elementary school–aged children and educators.
I enjoy visiting schools and presenting the book and conservation ideas to children, and I get a lot of compliments, often from those who come back and buy another book because they want to share One Child, One Planet with someone they love and don’t want to give up their own copy.
Bridget McGovern Llewellyn
Emerald Shamrock Press
Without Dumbing Down
My specialty is energetic literacy—different systems that I have developed, taught, and, in four cases, trademarked. Although I have been published by Dell (big) and Contemporary Books (midsized), results weren’t nearly as good as when I published my own titles, which have more than 350,000 copies in print here and overseas.
So much of big publishing today is dominated by the high-concept titles, or celebrity vehicles, or variations on earlier innovations. Lucky me that I can do pioneering work where I don’t have to compromise on integrity or dumb down a thing.
Titles that have sold best include:
*Aura Reading Through All Your Senses, a selection of One Spirit Book Club (first published in 1986; more than 136,000 copies in print today). The system is trademarked because it’s so different from the more traditional “see the colors” approach.
*Empowered by Empathy (32,000 copies in print, plus an audiobook edition). My first book for empaths (2001), this was also everyone’s first book for empaths (in English, anyway). This year, I’ll celebrate my birthday (as usual) by teaching a workshop for empaths, and I’m packing up now to teach that one in England.
*The Power of Face Reading (more than 100,000 copies in print). It was also a selection of One Spirit Book Club.
*Read People Deeper: Body Language + Face Reading + Auras (more than 52,000 in print).
How long do I expect to keep selling the nine titles I have published so far? For as long as I believe the contents are valuable and true. And, of course, for as long as people continue to buy them. My one-person publishing company depends on word-of-mouth sales. Plus I maintain a blog, Deeper Perception Made Practical (rose-rosetree.com/blog).
No, I have never bought an Ad-Word or used my blog to generate revenue from anybody else’s advertising. Call me a proud self-publisher, if you must.
I hope my story inspires other independent publishers and writers who want to do quality work. Who cares whether the big presses or Oprah ever notice the tiniest bit?
Women’s Intuition Worldwide
Protecting Hands That Heal
I’m co-author and publisher of Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, 2nd edition. The first edition was published in 1995 by Infinity Press in Seattle, WA, and I became publisher in 2000. We have sold about 100,000 copies.
When the first edition was published, Save Your Hands! was the only book offering comprehensive information on injury prevention for any of the hands-on therapies, including massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, nursing, or athletic training. Since the physical and emotional demands of work in these fields lead to high rates of musculoskeletal disorders for the professionals, the book quickly started selling in the thousands of copies per year. Mostly, we sell directly to schools and individuals, but we also sell through Baker & Taylor and a number of specialized resellers, as well as with Amazon.com.
Over the years, I have worked to remain consistently in the forefront of research and training on injury prevention and ergonomics for manual therapists, and to maintain the prominence of Save Your Hands! as the leading textbook on this subject in these markets (there are a few other books on the subject now).
I teamed up with a prominent ergonomist and doctor of physical therapy to write the second edition (published in 2008) and worked with a major massage-therapy industry association on a study that produced the first statistics on musculoskeletal injury among American massage therapists. My collaborators and I regularly publish articles in major industry magazines and journals to stay in the public eye; we have a blog and pages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
Also, we’ve developed continuing education courses based on the book, which have increased its sales. Our Certified Injury Prevention Instructor (CIPI) program has created a nationwide sales force for the book, since our Certified Instructors sell it at the workshops they set up all over the country. “Save Your Hands!®” is now a registered trademark that will soon be associated with a line of ergonomically designed massage tables, in collaboration with a major medical-equipment manufacturer.
It’s not easy to make a living publishing just one book, but by designing educational products around it and establishing and maintaining the authors’ prominence as the leading experts on the subject, we’ve been able to maintain good sales for more than 15 years. I expect Save Your Hands! will continue to sell well for years to come.
Lauriann Greene, CEAS
Body of Work Books
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