What makes a bestseller?


Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen BookScan India shares how important it is for publishers to have accurate data of the industry and how Nielsen BookScan is trying to fill this void. What makes a bestseller? Well, there are so many bestseller lists – newspapers have their list, big bookstores have their list, Amazon has its own list and Nielsen BookScan has another. Of these, perhaps Nielsen BookScan is the only quantitative dataset in the industry, says Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen BookScan India. “It is because before BookScan in India, there was no robust statistical methodology driven data available in the market. “Guesstimates” were in vogue and bestsellers were created by prominent bookstores. The publishers and retailers were using their own sales data but they had no idea about the competitor’s data, or their share in the entire market. Basically, there was no one aggregating the data in the market,” he shares.

Data collection…

Vikrant MathurSo how Nielsen BookScan collects data? “Initially, we started with organised retail stores in India in 2011 and gradually expanded our panel from nine critical retail groups (including all the top ones, such as Crossword, Landmark, Flipkart, Om Bookshop) to almost 43-44, as of today. In fact, we have expanded our retail panel 10 times since 2011. Both publishers as well as retailers have found BookScan data/ reports very useful over all these years for strategic decisions or understanding of the competition in the market,” replies Vikrant. “Today, Nielsen covers 40%-45% of the English trade book market in the country.Going by the Nielsen India Book Market Report, the English language covers 55% of the total trade book market in India.”


“We have tailor-made subscriptions for small and niche publishers. It is called BookScan Online Sales Summaries (BOSS), which is essentially a subset of the BookScan. Besides, we also support self-published authors or debutant authors with our services, to whom we usually provide figures without charging any fee,” he shares.

The comprehensive data…

“We have all the relevant information available with us for all the genres and it is at the discretion of the media houses to decide what they want to publish. For instance, in the UK not only do they publish the bestsellers list by sub-genres such as romance and crime, they also publish lists by the format of the book, i.e. paperback or hardback,” tells Vikrant. Moreover, BookScan provides data by geographical areas.

On asking about the data on Indian language books, Vikrant replied, “We capture the sales of all books that have been sold from the panel retail stores. So any regional language book sold from these counters will be tracked in our system, but it should have a valid ISBN, which should be 10 or 13 digits. Beside, we can capture data only from retail counters that have Electronic Point of Sales (EPoS) systems in place. I think regional books are largely selling from the fragmented market which does not necessarily have the EPoS, that’s why they do not feature frequently in the bestsellers list.”

On Indian authors…

“Last few years show that Indian authors, especially in the fiction genre, are performing really well. It is an opportunity for publishers to add new Indian authors.

I see immense opportunity in genres like romance, historical fiction and mythology,” he says.

“According to our data, 2016 was the best year in terms of volume and value for the publishing industry and Chetan Bhagat is the highest selling author,” adds Vikrant.

The BookScan advantage…

Publishers and retailers use Nielsen data for taking strategic decisions such as author acquisitions, reprint and even the future direction of publishing based on the sales figures of different genres. BookScan has introduced a lot of transparency in the system.

Year 2017 round-up…

“The performance of the industry in 2017 has shown a marginal growth as compared to the same period in 2016. India is a backlist-driven market but the list has not performed well. At the top of the charts are fiction titles rather than nonfiction and children’s books. Typically, the nonfiction genre contributes to 50% in the BookScan-covered market, fiction is one-third, and the rest is children’s books. Besides, Indian authors mostly dominate the fiction category, while nonfiction is a mix of both Indian and international writers. The children’s genre is mostly dominated by international authors,” he shares.

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