Confidential Sales Data Demonstrates Indie Influence

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If data is the name of the game, it's crucial that independent bookstores make sure they are represented in the starting lineup. One of the best ways for ABA member stores to do so is by facilitating the collection of independent bookstore sales data via confidential reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List.

For booksellers, there are two key benefits to reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List: First, booksellers who report via Nielsen BookScan or the ABA File Upload Method are eligible to receive Nielsen BookScan demographic data that can help them make more informed decisions, and second, their data, which is compiled in aggregate form (by ISBN) to form the bestseller list makes clear how influential ABA members are in the marketplace.

"The book sales data that is collected for the Book Sense Bestseller List is instrumental in keeping the interests of independents in the halls of publishers," said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. "The Book Sense Bestsellers are different from every other bestseller list and demonstrate the diversity of what's being sold in independents as opposed to other channels. Often times, what's been a Book Sense bestseller for some time will eventually wind up on other bestseller lists, which is a direct indicator of independents' influence in the marketplace. Simply put, every week, the Book Sense Bestsellers List reinforces the importance of the independent channel to publishers."

There are three methods of reporting to the Book Sense Bestseller List: via Nielsen BookScan, the ABA File Upload Method, or manually.

ABA has partnered with Nielsen BookScan, a central clearinghouse for book industry data, to create a fast, reliable, and confidential method for booksellers to report their sales data. BookScan compiles the data by ISBN and sends reports back to ABA that are used to create the Book Sense Bestseller List. BookScan also combines independents' aggregate sales data with data from other channels to create reports for its industry subscribers. At the foundation of ABA's partnership with BookScan is that independent sales data is not broken out in reports to the industry or to subscribers.

Both ABA and BookScan hold all data provided by booksellers in the strictest confidence. Jim King, senior vice president and general manager of Nielsen BookScan, told BTW, "Regardless as to who reports to us, we do not expose or present any reports where an individual store is exposed. All the data is aggregated, there's no way to parse out what one store sold."

ABA receives income in return for member sales data collected by Nielsen BookScan. The association, in turn, uses that income to help support the Book Sense marketing program, which is free to ABA members. In addition, BookScan provides ABA with reports comparing aggregate independent sales information to other channels.

Reporting stores that opt to use Nielsen BookScan and those who check the BookScan permission box on the ABA File Upload page receive charts of the National Top 100 Bestsellers, Top 100 Adult Fiction Bestsellers, Top 100 Adult Nonfiction Bestsellers, and Top 100 Children Bestsellers. They also receive a chart of the Top 50 Local Market Bestsellers. In addition, category charts are available in subjects such as art, architecture, photography, and more. Category charts also include week-to-week sales for each title.

Nielsen BookScan's client subscribers are primarily book publishers and distributors who use the aggregate data in a variety of ways including formulating sales and marketing efforts, inventory control, distribution control and management, title/author sales history research and acquisitions, new title or program development, and more. The data is also used by industry analysts to study and improve the entire industry.

Sales data collected directly by ABA by the File Upload Method and via manual entry is also held in the strictest confidence. Data collected from member stores is added to that collected by Nielsen BookScan to create the Book Sense Bestseller List and occasional in-house studies of a particular title's performance.

For most reporters who have computerized inventory control systems in their stores, the easiest and fastest way to report is via Nielsen BookScan. At present, about 70 percent of bestseller list reporters use this method. All that is needed for the Nielsen BookScan method is a telephone line or Internet connection and a computerized POS system. An integrated POS module generates the weekly sales data file and orchestrates the transmission of the file with virtually no staff time. There is no cost to report sales to BookScan, and it takes just a matter of minutes to transmit data.