Last week I mentioned that it is difficult to find sales figures on specific books as this seems to be a closely guarded secret in the publishing industry. With that in mind, I chose to use as a measuring stick a list of the top ten western genre books according to Amazon.com sales rankings. Amazon.com however, cannot fully represent the entire scope of a book’s marketing and sales efforts, but it’s what we have to work with.
I chose my top ten list on October 28, 2007. These stats change hourly and a check of those very same rankings today may show an entirely different list of books. But it gives us a start. The goal here is to use this top ten list and compare it to my definition of what a western is – to see how well what I desire in a western novel fits with what’s actually selling.
Here’s the list -
The Amazon.com Top 10 Selling Westerns (as of 10/28/07):
1. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
2. Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
3. Heart of Texas, Vol. 1: Lonesome Cowboy / Texas Two-Step by Debbie Macomber
4. These is My Words by Nancy Turner
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen
6. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
7. The Star Garden: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine by Nancy E. Turner
8. Blind Your Ponies by Stanley G West
9. A Wanted Man (Stone Creek, Book 2) by Linda Lael Miller
10. The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Volume 4 by Louis L'Amour
Out of this list, I have only read two of these titles. I’m working on collecting the rest from the library or other sources to read.
Just glancing at this list of top 10 sellers on Amazon, I immediately make a few interesting observations:
1. Looking at titles alone, they all sound western or close to.
2. Without looking up the publication date for each and every one, it appears this list is composed of books that are not brand new in 2007 and in fact have been out for some time. Lonesome Dove, for example, was first published around 1985. These Is My Words appeared around 1998. Only the Jesse James book jumps out at me as a recent release.
3. Old time authors endure. I glanced through the top 100 on this Amazon.com list and Louis L’Amour appears frequently throughout. Even my favorite, Zane Grey, makes an appearance on the list. This is heartening for me because somebody out there is reading novels of a more traditional flare.
That’s an interesting start to this little research excursion. In my next post, I’ll examine the Pulitzer prize winning Lonesome Dove and measure it against my definition of a western and see how it stacks up.