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5 Simple Ways to Put BookScan Data to Work for You

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PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2017

by Allison Risbridger, Client Development Specialist, NPD Books –


Allison Risbridger

So, you signed up for BookScan. Now what? We’ve teamed up with the BookScan experts at The NPD Group to bring you five tips to make the most of your subscription.

To check out BookScan discounts available to IBPA Members, click here.


1. Sell your title into a retailer with an accurate comp title (TIER 2, TIER 3).

Selling in your title is all about choosing the right title for comparison. Buyers hear about “the next Gone Girl” all the time. You’re more likely to succeed with a comp that is specific and realistic.

For instance, you have a vegan cookbook by a first-time author, and you’re aiming to get an order from Barnes & Noble. Start by mining the BookScan weekly bestseller lists until you find another debut vegan cookbook, one that fits the profile of yours. Consider the brand of the authors: Does your author have a strong online presence? What skill level are the recipes? You’re better off with a mid-selling book that closely matches yours than the top-selling vegan cookbook just because the sales look good.

Once you have your comp title, arm yourself with the BookScan sales figures to show the buyer what your specific book could do for their store.


2. Inform your acquisitions by researching an author’s sales and their “lookalike” authors (TIER 2, TIER 3).

Acquiring an author can be risky even when you love and believe in their writing. Use BookScan to do your research by confirming their prior sales or their comparative authors. Start with the “Title Lookup” tab where you can search the site by Author (remember, it will be Last Name, First Name). From there, you can go to the “Author History” page to see a complete list of that author’s titles along with their weekly, year-to-date, and prior year sales. If it’s a debut author, you can do the same search for comp authors to help evaluate the worth of this acquisition.


3. Use DMA mapping to geo-target a book’s sales (TIER 2, TIER 3).

BookScan can tell you in what cities your books and your competitors’ books are selling. DMA stands for designated market areas, which is Nielsen’s proprietary term for major metropolitan areas. Each DMA encompasses the major city and surrounding area, so the New York, NY DMA is not only New York ZIP codes, but also parts of Southern Connecticut and New Jersey.

With the DMA sales and index for any ISBN, you can see where your books, authors, and competitors are popping in the US in any given week.

First, navigate to the “Title Detail” page for whichever title you hope to map. In the “Report” dropdown, select “DMA Sales Report.” You’ll see the below report with units sold by DMA, or metropolitan area.

Sorting by the sales columns will give you the top-selling DMAs for that title.

Take it a step further and use the DMA Index report (found in the “Reports” dropdown on the title page). The DMA Index compares the title’s DMA sales to the category’s DMA sales. Indexing provides another level of insight into book sales where we can compare two variables to measure relative interest in a specific title’s sales. By creating indices, we are able to identify strengths and weaknesses in geographic areas to inform publishing decisions. You won’t need to calculate the index yourself, but here’s the formula for a title’s DMA Index:

Title Index = [(Title Sales in DMA ÷ Total Title Sales) ÷ (Category Sales in DMA ÷ Total Category Sales)]×100

Murder Games by James Patterson & Howard Roughan

The index’s base is 100, so an index more than 100 is “over-indexing” and an index less than 100 is “under-indexing.” The DMA Index report for Murder Games shows that Harrisburg-York-Lancaster-Lebanon, PA and Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, PA are the top-indexing markets for this title when compared to the overall Suspense/Thrillers category. This means that these areas are pockets of interest for this title. The lowest-indexing DMA is Albuquerque, NM with an index of 51, meaning there is less interest for this title than the Suspense/Thrillers market in general.

These indices can be used to tell the publisher where there is a pocket of interest for a title, or a gap in sales where there might be an opportunity. The DMA reports can provide a road map for your marketing, sales, and inventory decisions.


4. Track your competitive titles’ performance on a weekly basis (TIER 3).

BookScan’s “Report Sets” capability enables you to keep track of what your competition is selling on a weekly basis without having to query the database each week. You can save specific title reports and run them on a weekly basis.

Navigate to the “Title Detail” page and choose the report you want from the dropdown. Then, click “ADD TO SET” at the top of the page. You’ll create a new set and be prompted for a set name and description. You can create several sets. For instance, you have five titles and you want to check their comp titles’ performance on a weekly basis. You can create a set for each of the five titles and add title reports for each of their comp titles.

Then, when the site is refreshed each Wednesday, you’ll navigate to “REPORT SETS” and click “RUN.” You can choose to have the set delivered by e-mail or “PICKUP” in HTML or CSV format. If you choose “PICKUP,” you’ll navigate to the “PICKUP” tab and download the report from there.


5. Identify trending book categories by looking at the broader picture, not just your own lists (TIER 3).

It’s important to stay on top of the trends in the broader marketplace. This allows you to benchmark your category performance against the larger market and to identify opportunities in other areas.

Navigate to the “Category Summary” page from the “Summary” tab. This report shows units sold by category on a weekly and year-to-date basis, as well as %CHG weekly and on last year. Here, you can identify categories that are in growth and those that are in decline.

You can then benchmark your growth or declines in specific categories to see if you are in line with the total market. As an art publisher, you may find that your sales have been soft this year because the entire category is down. Or, in a perfect world, you’re outperforming the declining market. On the other hand, you may have a backlist biography book that has been lacking attention and now could be the time to ramp up efforts as the category is growing.

It’s also important to check the bestseller lists to see if the growth is being driven by a single title, or if the category growth is organic and robust.


Allison Risbridger is a client development specialist at NPD Books where she analyzes book sales data and consumer research for publishers, booksellers, and other players in the industry. Allison is a self-proclaimed data nerd who’s passionate about the marriage of research and all things publishing.

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