My Thoughts on the New York Times Cutting Various Bestseller Lists

Quick recap for those of you who may not have been following this news: Last week, the New York Times cut a bunch of its bestseller lists. What does that mean? It means, for the affected formats, the Times will no longer publish a bestseller list. Which formats were affected? My understanding is that mass market, e-books, and graphic novels/manga were among them.

Let’s begin with me acknowledging that I’m not a NYT bestseller, nor was I ever in danger of becoming one. But I’m an author whose books were published in mass market and e-book formats – and I’m a 7 days-a-week print subscriber of the Times. I have been for years – long before it became “cool” to be so. Which is why their recent decision gives me such heartburn.

But I’m not going to unsubscribe. Why? Well, first, because I’m not a child. I do, sometimes, vote with my feet, but the circumstances have to be much more egregious than this. Second, my subscription is actually a gift subscription for my parents. They adore that paper and I’m happy to be able to give them a gift subscription every year. And third, I support the paper because of its journalistic integrity – even when decisions like this one seem baffling.

Why is it baffling? Because I can’t quite figure out why they did it. Various theories have been advanced. The RWA wrote an open letter suggesting sexism was behind the changes, but I’m not convinced. I think it more likely that the Times was motivated by something else and didn’t particularly care about the indirect consequences of eliminating those lists. (Seems hypocritical to cut its e-book bestseller list and then tout its own increased digital subscriber figures. If the Times doesn’t include the preferred formats of a genre that sells more than $1.3 billion a year, those lists are neither inclusive nor accurate.)

A desire to avoid brand dilution may have played a part. Myriad lists and the practice of authors “getting their letters” through boxed sets led to a lot of NYT bestsellers. (I don’t begrudge those authors; part of me wishes I’d joined them!) But, from my perspective, instead of preventing dilution, the Times just damaged its brand.


Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

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