* This is part two of a two-part series.
If you haven’t spent time with yesterday’s data, you should do that before diving into today’s post. This is quite a bit shorter, though it’s got far fewer images. Today I wanted to look at the publishers who are represented on the NYT YA List, as well as talk about what the list looks like now that Veronica Roth has jumped to series. I’ve also got a few concluding thoughts and observations I thought were worth sharing at the end.
Publishers Represented on the NYT YA List
I’m always curious whether there’s one publisher which has more books landing on the bestseller list than others. Part of this stems from the idea that perhaps a bigger marketing push is why those books get on the list in the first place and then continued push on titles which maintain their spots over a lengthy period of time. I think, too, it’s interesting to keep this in mind with the rise of very cheap and short-term ebook sales and what impact those may have on books which then appear or stick around on the list. Because it’s not price that gets books on the list; it’s sales numbers.
Because I am human and because counting up the appearance of publishers on a list, I know I made a little bit of a counting misstep. I looked at 47 lists total, which included the extended books — leaving out the list where Veronica Roth has moved over to series — and there should be a total of 705 books to tally. But in my final numbers, I missed a few and ended up with a count of only 701 books. So, I’ve taken the liberty and rounded the biggest numbers by publisher up to the nearest 0 or 5, for simplicity’s sake. It did not impact the results.
I’ve flattened the publishers, folding all of the imprints within their bigger houses. In other words, Tor books and St. Martin’s books are counted under Macmillan. Because Penguin and Random House are still appearing as separate houses, I kept them as separate in my tally.
On the 47 weeks worth of lists, a total of 12 publishers are represented. They break down as follows:
- Penguin: 295 books
- Harper Collins: 140 books
- Simon & Schuster: 70 books
- Random House: 60 books
- Hachette/Little, Brown: 45 books
- Macmillan: 45 books
- Quirk: 45 books
- Scholastic: 7 books
- Disney: 6 books
- Bloomsbury: 2 books
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 1 book
- Nicole Reed Books: 1 book
**Edited to note: In the course of counting, tabulating, etc — my own human error noted that Falling Kingdoms was a Bloomsbury title. It is not. It’s Penguin. I haven’t adjusted the numbers or text, but it shifts another title to the Penguin column and one fewer to the Bloomsbury.
I talked a bit yesterday about e-books and the impact of e-book sales on the appearance of titles on the list. What I didn’t talk about was that a number of e-originals have themselves made the list. These are books which are not in print but only exist in a digital format. This tells us a number of things about the buyers of these books, as well as about what those appearances may say in terms of who or what influences the books that do appear on the list. Or maybe more, who or what influences the titles which last on the list more than a week or two.
The e-book originals — short stories, it should be noted — that have appeared on the list include two of the Cassie Clare co-written titles in the “Bane Chronicles” series: “What Really Happened in Peru” and “The Runaway Queen.”
Kiera Cass’s “The Prince,” which was also an e-original short story, appeared on the list as well.
The reason I wanted to point these out is because, as noted yesterday, books jump to the series list after there are three titles published within that series. So the publication of Allegiant meant that Roth moved from the YA list onto the series list. But interestingly, this hasn’t always been the case with YA books, and it’s been inconsistent.
Taherhi Mafi’s “Shatter Me” series made the series list this year, despite the fact the third book within that series has yet to be published. Rather than have potentially two spots on the YA list, the books were instead grouped onto the series list. And the reason? The publication of an e-original titled “Destroy Me.”
By that theory, Cass’s books should have jumped to the series list with the publication of The Elite, which came after The Selection and “The Prince.” But it didn’t.
There is clearly some inconsistency and human error going on with the definition of series and it does play a role in what is and is not ending up on the YA list. Had Mafi’s books ended up on the YA List, rather than the series list, perhaps there would have been a week or two where women had more spots than men did. But we’ll never know because when the final book in her series does publish, it’ll definitely be on the series list.
Another thing that interests me on the YA List is how the creators define “YA.” As noted previously, two “new adult” authors have made the list: Nicole Reed and Abbi Glines. Both of their books are published for the 17 and older audience, which is spelled out right in the listing about the book on the list. This is an interesting — and frustrating — tactic used to get those books on the list meant for books published for the 12-18 market. Would those books stand a chance on the much more crowded adult list, were they listed as being for those 18 and older instead of those 17 and older? How blurry do we allow the lines between YA and not-YA to get, especially when it comes to something as influential as the bestsellers list? And, if we are going to have something called “new adult” fiction, then can we fairly give them a space on the YA list if it’s something completely all its own?
There is a lot to dig into here when it comes to readership and buyership. Those e-originals aren’t getting their sales through traditional means. I want to know who is buying them. My bet is on teenagers who are devoted fans to the series — which then would tie into my previous comments about teen influence on the list being why those titles appear once or twice and then disappear. I suspect, too, the e-original format severely limits long-term readership and audience reach.
The Post-Roth List
Part of my curiosity about gender and the NYT List came because I knew that Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series moving over to the series list would open up two spots. Would they allow more women in? Or would more men have the chance to land on the list? What would her two spots — which have been there since week one — do to the average length of stay for male-written vs. female-written change dramatically now that her two books with 47-week histories are gone?
So far, there has only been one list to look at to think about these questions. But the list that came out when her books went to the series list looks . . . remarkably like every other list so far. No surprises. No one new. Nothing out of left field.
On this week 48 list, the stats broke down as such:
- 9 men total were on the list
- 12 books written by men were on the list
- Within the top ten, 6 males were on the list
- Within the top ten, 8 books written by men were on the list.
- 3 women total were on the list
- 3 books written by women were on the list
- Within the top ten, 2 females were on the list
- Within the top ten, 2 books written by females were on the list.
Because doing an average of overall length of stay across genders would be silly with only this one week post-Roth to compare, this is a number to still think about. The average length of stay for books on the week 48 list for men is 32. Women, 5. This is going to make a difference the further out we go from here, as I predicted yesterday. It will matter.
If you’re curious about publisher representation on the post-Roth list, I’ve got that for you, too:
- Penguin: 5 books
- Random House: 4 books
- Hachette/Little, Brown: 3 books
- Simon & Schuster: 1 book
- Macmillan: 1 book
- Quirk: 1 book
I thought I’d wrap up all of this data, commentary, and totally speculation with some of the interesting trends and ties that didn’t fit neatly into another category but were still worth thinking about. So this will potentially be a little messy and again, no graphics.
First: what were the total representations by gender on the list? This does include the numbers for the Post-Roth list and does include the extended list.
- Males: 17
- Females: 33
- Four male authors had multiple books on the NYT List. These were John Green, James Patterson, Brandon Sanderson, and David Levithan.
- Twelve female authors had multiple books on the NYT List. These were Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Dessen, Ruta Sepetys, Marie Lu, Ellen Hopkins, Cassie Clare, Marissa Meyer, Maureen Johnson, Kiera Cass, Rainbow Rowell, and Gayle Forman.
Finally, I’d noted that there’s a trend for books to end up on the list one week then fall off, particularly for female authors. I took some notes on trends I saw in terms of books that didn’t last more than 2 weeks on the top ten list (or extended list) and thought they were worth sharing. This is very raw and it’s quite likely I’ve overlooked something here, but the trends are worth paying attention to.
Female-authored books which lasted only one week on the top ten before either falling off the list completely or falling onto the extended list.
- Endless Knight by Kressley Cole: Debuted at #6, fell off entirely the following week.
- Battle Magic by Tamora Piece: Debuted at #8, fell off entirely the following week.
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Debuted on list at #6, fell off but returned later on in the 47 weeks I looked at.
- Just One Year by Gayle Forman: Landed on the extended for one week, then disappeared.
- Seige and Storm by Leigh Bardugo: Landed on extended for one week, then disappeared.
- Of Triton by Anna Banks: Landed on extended for one week, the disappeared.
- “The Runaway Queen” by Cassie Clare and Maureen Johnson: Debuted at #8, then disappeared.
- Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken: Debuted at #10 the week before Roth’s book moved over, but on the list following Roth’s shift, it fell off.
- Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: Debuted on extended the week before Roth’s book moved over, nut on the week following Roth’s shift, it fell off.
- “What Really Happened in Peru” by Cassie Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan: Debuted at #4, then disappeared.
- Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers: Debuted at #9, then disappeared.
- Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: Debuted on the extended, then disappeared.
- Ruining You by Nicole Reed: Debuted at #9, then disappeared.
- “The Prince” by Kiera Cass: Debuted #6, then disappeared.
- The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson: Debuted #6, then disappeared.
- Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger: Debuted #9, then disappeared.
- Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes: Debuted on extended, then disappeared.
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Debuted on extended, then disappeared.
- Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman: Debuted on extended, then disappeared.
- I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga: Debuted #2, then disappeared.
- Shipbreaker by Paulo Bacigalupi: Debuted on extended, then disappeared.
My counts show that as 17 women have lasted on week before disappearing (I did not count Forman’s If I Stay since it did come back) and only 3 men who have lasted just one week before disappearing.
I should note there was a comment on yesterday’s post that shed some insight into this phenomenon — Maggie Stiefvater pointed out the pre-order factor playing into books landing for a week and then falling off. So there’s that consideration, and that plays into a whole additional series of questions that I’m not even touching on here but would love to see explored.
Where to Go From Here
There are a million avenues of exploration. And I welcome other people to spend the time to look into them. I’d love to know how the series list looks when broken down. I’d love to see how the NYT List stacks up against other measures of “success” — the BookScan numbers, the USA Today list, end-of-year “Best of” lists, and so on and so forth.
I caution anyone considering looking at these things to understand this isn’t easy to parse out or dive into. This is time-consuming stuff, and there are a lot of implications and considerations to have. You can’t “simply” count up the number of men and women who have had a book published within a year to discuss the notion of “dominance” within the field. That’s just counting. There are far bigger things that impact what dominance and acclaim and prestige are.
There is not one single thing that can be pointed to as the problem nor one single thing that can be pointed to as a solution. And to devalue the meaning of The New York Times Bestseller List as simply something “faulty” or “broken” is to make a grandiose statement about the impact it has in sales, marketing, publicity and not to mention word-of-mouth, the general public, and those who write the books. A system may be broken but it doesn’t mean it holds less merit in the eyes of those who give it merit.
I want to see more discussion of this. I want to see more hard numbers — but it takes time. I want to look at (and plan to with some time and energy) other distinctions within the book world, including things such as the distribution of starred reviews against gender. Do we tend to see male-written books as more literary than those written by females? I’d love to see someone tackle questions that popped up, too, about the differences in marketing budgets for male vs. female written titles. And of course, there’s the question of gender of the main character of these novels, too — though I think that is a much tricker, assumptive measure, particularly when you look at it against the NYT List. You’re suggesting something about readership, rather than you are about prestige. There’s nothing wrong about that, and indeed, there’s something really fascinating to dig out there. But it is not in any way the same thing.
Maybe someplace worth starting would be rounding up posts that tackle the issue of gender and YA and doing a meta-analysis. Go look at Lady Business’s posts about gender in the awards lists. Look at the post that came after NPR’s “Best YA Ever” list. Casey Wilson looked at the breakdown of gender on the NYT List prior to it being split into different categories and that’s more than worth a look. Go look at other posts that have explored gender and any sort of recognition (I’ve written a few myself). Might as well also check out Calling Caldecott’s post about gender disparity with the Caldecott at The Horn Book, too.
This stuff exists and has been talked about for a while now. Perhaps a deep exploration of what’s already out there will show where there are holes. It may also allow a bigger appreciation of how much discussion of this topic has happened.
This is not new.
Of course, nothing is conclusive here, except that there is in no way a female domination in YA, at least when it comes to what’s perceived as being “the best” in this category. The numbers show again and again men hold more places on the list and have the entire time there has been a separate YA list.
It would be interesting to look at the series list and see if this trend remains or changes. It’d also be interesting to look at other best-of lists and see where gender lines up (I’ve done that on the yearly “best” roundups, and I do plan on doing it again this year when all of those lists appear).
Keeping an eye on the list now that Roth is off is something I want to do because I’ll be curious what happens over the next six months. Will more women appear on the list? Will they last there very long? Or will the list remain essentially the same as it is now, primarily men who have been holding those spots for a very long time. It’d be interesting — though challenging — to look, too, at who has relationships with who on those very lists and what influence that might have on books that appear again and again and those which don’t. A book that gets, say, a John Green blurb or review in a well-respected newspaper have a better chance of getting on the list and lasting there? Will more publishers reduce books in e-format for a very short period to get an author on the list in time for whatever their next release may be?
The List gives such a minuscule view of the YA world at large, and it is revered one of the most, if not THE most, prestigious places to be because of that. But it’s too bad that even that prestige comes with the now-disproven suggestion that women dominate the YA world. They don’t. Men do — at least when it comes to what many see as what “matters” because it’s “best.”
Responses to Yesterday’s Discussion
This section wasn’t in my initial post, but I feel compelled to add it.
I was blown away by the response to yesterday’s post, and I’m grateful for everyone who read it and took the time to think about it and discuss it.
But I want to point you all specifically to a very interesting — and very touchy — conversation that took place on Twitter about gender and the List. This happened between E. Lockhart, Maureen Johnson, Maggie Stiefvater, and John Green. Go read. Then come back.
Let’s pick this apart just a little bit. I don’t want to lead into too much of what it means or suggests because I think it’s fairly evident. But what stands out to me are the following points:
1. Green’s comment that we need to accept this is happening and “begin a conversation about why.”
There is no “beginning” this conversation. It has been on going for a long, long time. But it’s interesting that the moment a male steps in to the gender conversation, it’s a beginning. Just because someone decides to enter a conversation, doesn’t mean it’s the beginning of a conversation.
2. Lockhart’s suggestion that hetero lady librarians buy books because of good looking men.
I have to say it flat out: this actually offended me on a personal level, as a librarian myself. And seeing it from an author who benefits from the skills and work librarians do made it even rough to see. It so devalues the hard work and knowledge and dedication to doing our jobs well. It undermines how much we put into serving our communities and connecting our communities to the books they want to have.
Further, seeing that from an author who has written such amazingly feminist novels is utterly disheartening.
While it was most likely a mis-typed sentiment, I saw it, and I know many, many other librarians saw it. And many were not happy about it. It only further plays into some hugely problematic gender schematics — and as they relate to one’s professional affairs.
3. Green’s suggestion that by not being a top ten selling author in the country he’s not privileged.
Green’s been on the NYT Bestsellers list for 47 weeks, with multiple books. Green is in a very elite, VERY RARE, set of the 1% of YA authors out there. He has never not received some acknowledgment of his work.
This isn’t to say he isn’t talented — CLEARLY he is. Absolutely no one would ever argue that, nor should they. He’s earned it!
But being unable to assess one’s own privilege and reducing it to a comparison of another “bestselling” measure is derailing the bigger point.
4. Green’s offense on behalf of another author who has benefitted from his voice and platform.
Were his platform, fandom, and voice not seen as valuable and profitable and worth pursuing in the YA world, then people wouldn’t clamor for a review from him nor a blurb from him. Green blurbs and reviews very few books — fewer still in a lengthy column in The New York Times — and it would be silly not to see that as beneficial to any author who receives it, ESPECIALLY when that blurb is used again and again in future promotions for the author who received it.
This is a place of privilege. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something to be said about understanding that privilege and value of voice.
This was never, EVER about a single book he wrote a review for. It’s about the value of his voice as it helped propel a woman’s work into a wider audience. As I noted in the comments on yesterday’s post, his blurb on E Lockhart’s forthcoming book is big and bright. There’s no question that is a selling point to the book — so much so that Random House tweeted about it.
And so I revert to the question I keep wondering about: how much does a revered male’s voice help a female’s career? When a man who is seen as someone with power and authority within a field — be it the YA world, the librarianship world, the teaching world, the publishing world, the corporate world, and so on and so on — why is it his word is what can make (or break) a woman’s chances in that same field? What is it that allows him continued authority and respect? And hell, he doesn’t necessarily even need to be revered. It’s likely having a male voice is enough to help a lady out in many, many places.
This isn’t just about John Green. It’s about gender on a much huger scale.
It is clear there is an issue to discuss here, and I am so glad it’s bring discussed.
But it should also be clear that in discussing this issue, there are even messier, sometimes more problematic, knots to untangle.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).