Quill and Quire

Industry news

« Back to

The science of sales?

It’s the holy grail for the book industry — empirical scientific data on just what makes a bestseller a bestseller. This Science Daily article tells of a study by “UCLA physicist and complex systems theorist Didier Sornette, who used statistical physics and mathematics to analyze 138 books that made Amazon.com’s best-seller list between 1997 and April 2004.” Says Sornette: “Complex systems can be understood, and the book market is a complex system.”

But trendspotting publishers may not want to go yacht-shopping just yet. As they’re boiled down by Science Daily, Sornette’s findings seem to amount to this: that book sales can be boosted by either an “exogenous shock” (that is, a major review or media appearance) or an “endogenous shock” (that is, word of mouth), with the latter leading to a longer and more enduring sales cycle.

We look forward to the next number-crunching study, which will no doubt bring us the shocking news that books by previously best-selling authors … tend to also be bestsellers.

(Thanks to Moby Lives for the link.)

Related links:
Click here for the Science Daily piece on a physicist’s study of the bestseller lists