DISCUSS: Should Bestselling Books Be Awarded Sales Certifications?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

certificateAt PubCamp@SXSW, discussed in today’s feature story, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books suggested that what the book industry needs is to award sales certification status to bestselling titles. “I know how much the book industry rejects comparison with the music industry,” she said, “but wouldn’t it help customers is books were awarded something like Platinum and Gold status just like bestselling music albums?”

She argued that the honorifics would help customers know what books had sustained long-term interest with readers and would, ultimately, aid in discovery and spur even more sales. Certainly sales figures offered by publishers for their top selling titles are amorphous at best and fictitious at worst, but with services like BookScan, the numbers are becoming easier to ascertain. Provided the actual sales could be certified in some way by and authoritative source, the idea could work.

But do you think it is a good one for the book business? Is there a risk that labeling books based entirely on sales — beyond the moniker “bestseller,” which is itself a slippery one — that it might spur even more sales of bestsellers to the detriment of other books, thus making the industry even more dependent on just a handful of books? Or is the risk overstated…or even non-existent. How do you envision such a system working?

What are the upsides? Downsides?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.