By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Globe’s Kennedy book makes a splash

“Last Lion,” the book version of the Boston Globe’s series on Ted Kennedy, edited by Washington bureau chief Peter Canellos, will be number seven on the New York Times’ bestseller list next week. I never cease to be amazed at how much appetite there is out there for material about the Kennedy family.

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7 Comments

  1. Neil

    Yea, under “Hardcover NonFiction”. Wow, 7–at this rate Ted’s story will zoom past the book about life with sextuplets (6) and the one about a kitten left in the returned-book slot of a library in Iowa (3).Make enough categories and every book’s a bestseller. I wonder what the raw numbers for this category are. How many people buy new nonfiction hardcovers? Not many I’d guess in which case it’s longevity on the list that matters. Dewey the kitten’s been on it for 24 weeks! Let’s see if Ted’s life story can match that level of appeal. After all a lion’s just “more kitten”, right?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Neil: Just in case anyone thinks you’re making sense, I want to point out that there are two big lists — hardcover non-fiction and hardcover fiction.

  3. mike_b1

    Neil has a point: How many units shipped does it take to crack the top 10 on a given week? Probably not as many as one might think. I found one item that said McClellan’s book made it to number 1 on the basis of 20,000 units sold its first week.Found something: (from Slate, ‘What’s With All the “National Best Sellers”?,’ Oct. 15, 2004): So how many books do you actually need to sell to make it onto, say, the Times list? There is no defined threshold, but according to the Stanford study, one book made the hardcover fiction list selling only 2,108 copies a week; more typically, the median weekly sales figure in the study was 18,717. And most books can’t keep even these modest sale rates up for long: Sales generally peak during a book’s second week on the list and then steadily decline. Over a period of six months, the median best seller in the Stanford study averaged weekly sales of just over 3,600 copies.Not so impressive.

  4. Neil

    NYT lists their bestseller lists, which include hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, paperback trade fiction, paperback mass-market fiction, paperback nonfiction, hardcover advice, paperback advice, children’s books, hardcover business best sellers, paperback business best sellers, and graphic books.Everybody can get a trophy! Good for the self esteem.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: Not so impressive compared to what? In general, people don’t read. Specifically, though, the bestseller lists tell us what those few who do read are reading.Neil: You’re embarrassing yourself. As I said, the two big lists are hardcover non-fiction and hardcover fiction. The reason for all the other lists is that this is important information for people in the bookselling business. The NYT Book Review is one of the bibles of the trade.

  6. Neil

    Questioning the Bible are we now young man, finger-wags Fr. Kennedy. Sit still in your pew and say ten Hail Marys before you make a further fool of yourself. You have triggered a flashback onto my poor little heathen self.Nevertheless last week I ventured a heretical peek at Amazon, the Koran so to speak of the trade, trying to figure out how they come up with their rankings. They update a book’s sales ranking hourly, but only overall (#593 as of this hour), so it’s in there jostling with the inspirational self-help and diet works so beloved by the grimy paperback-reading rabble. Unlike NYT, Amazon’s categories aren’t based on bookbinding methods. But their categories are nonsensical in other ways. Joe Torre’s book for example isn’t under non-fiction, it’s in Sports. And their bestsellers seem to be total sales over time, rather than week-by-week. I gave up trying to make sense of it.However before this entry scrolls off the bottom it’s worth mentioning, that Last Lion has fallen to 22 in this week’s NYT Book Review hardcover non-fiction list. So the splash was more of a…tinkle.Dewey meanwhile holds fast at #5 and in the spot occupied by Last Lion last week, is the O’Reilly book o’ the month, 21 weeks on the list now. Which is a sorrowful notion to ponder indeed.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Neil: You’re getting nowhere with this. Last week “Last Lion” was #7 on the most prestigious bestseller list in the country. This week it isn’t. So what? What is your point?As for Amazon, you are talking with someone who, five years ago, obsessively checked his own Amazon rankings, oh, every five minutes or so. No one can make heads or tails of Amazon.What throws all of these things off is that not many Americans buy books, so small numbers skew things quite a bit. Not exactly news.

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