Starting August 21, the New York Times will tweak its children’s bestseller lists, separating hardcover middle grade and young adult titles from paperback and e-book bestsellers. The hardcover lists will appear in print, and the paperback and e-book lists will be available online. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, told PW that the changes were meant to be more useful for readers, authors, and publishers in helping discoverability of titles.
Paul said that when she started as children’s books editor of the Book Review in 2011, middle grade and YA were reported together under the category “chapter books,” with paperbacks a separate category. “It was such a wildly mixed group,” she said, “that I thought it was very confusing to readers. If you’re a parent, and you’re looking at that list for your child, The Hunger Games is very different from Rebecca Stead. I thought it made sense to break the two categories apart,” and separate middle grade and YA lists were created.
Adding paperbacks to the newly created middle grade and YA sections allowed more titles to be included on the list. What happened, however, “was that given the relative unit sales of paperbacks, they would overtake the lists,” she said. “New authors would find it hard to break into the list, and it was difficult for readers to discover new writers from those lists. So it made sense to return to the model we use in adult.” Paul sees a slight trade-off in moving paperback and e-book figures online, as opposed to their appearing in print, but said, “Given how large our Internet readership is, I didn’t feel we were losing anything. Our Internet audience is growing enormously, and paperback and e-book sales are not trending the way we expected four years ago, and as a result the lists are not reflecting the breadth of what’s being published.”
Paul posits that readers, authors, and publishers will be happy to see more diversity in the newly reconfigured lists, in the same way that bestselling titles are represented for adults. She had received complaints, including seeing debates on Twitter among new authors who felt they weren’t being represented fairly. “I was witnessing this debate at the same time I saw the trends at the Book Review,” she said. “What they were saying supported what we were seeing. But there are major technical challenges that we were unable to implement right away.” Those challenges have now been addressed, and the changes will go into effect for the lists dated August 21.
Paul hopes that the new lists will help draw potential readers to new books. “I think in this new reconfiguration, you’ll see a lot more newly published hardcover fiction,” she said. “Just like book reviews, the bestseller lists are another place for discovery. It will be useful for readers, too.”
See the revamped children’s lists here: