Robot 6

As suddenly as the Gunslinger arrives, he leaves

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

After roughly a month, I’ve just about given up on The New York Times’ weekly Graphic Books Best Seller List.

It’s great for publishers, in that it allows them to slap “A New York Times Bestseller!” on the cover, but I don’t see that the list tells much — if anything — useful.

I concede I might be late to that realization. However, the mystery of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born leaves me wondering what we should make of the list, which, like the other Times book charts, employs a mysterious, and often-criticized, formula.

Last week, Marvel’s 2007 adaptation of the Stephen King fantasy epic appeared, as if by magic, atop the hardcover list, unseating Watchmen. Although I couldn’t find an obvious reason for the book’s performance, I was willing to accept that the upcoming release of The Dark Tower: Treachery hardcover or another miniseries might’ve renewed interest in the original. (Or did I completely miss a new edition or reissue?)

But this week The Gunslinger Born is nowhere to be seen. Watchmen again rests comfortably upon its hardcover throne, followed by a trio of Batman-related books.

It’s as if last week never happened.

More than half of the hardcovers in last week’s Top 10 are still there, moving a few positions in either direction. But last week’s No. 1? There’s no gentle drift back down the list. Just … poof.

Perhaps the lists are too short; if we were to see, say, the Top 20, maybe The Gunslinger Born would be peeking at us from No. 11 or 12. Or maybe the sampling is so small that a relatively minor change in sales triggers a major shift in position?

Or maybe it’s neither of those. It just seems odd.



I’m no longer a retailer, so I don’t know this for sure, but I would bet that Marvel ran a deep discount on the hardcover to get rid of inventory and boost interest in the subsequent book. More retailers bought it based on the cheaper price, and therefore putting it on the NYT list. But that’s just a guess.

I agree. My comic store recently received a large selection of discounted new graphic novels, and he is completely overstocked with the Gunslinger. For every several of the other graphic novels he’d pick up, he’d get free copies of the Gunslinger.

The real question: is it sales to the store that are counted, or actual sales to the customer?

This is trickier than you might think. In direct sales, the books are non-returnable, so the sale to the store is the sale. This happened a few years back to get Elfquest on the regular NYT list, all the books shipped to stores in one week in numbers high enough to get it on the chart.

I hypothesize that Marvel remaindered the book as noted above. Look at #10… New Avengers Illuminati. Out for a year in hardcover, the trade paperback has just shipped, and it appears. This goes against all theories of bookselling and retail experience. Customers will wait for a sale, or a cheaper version available in a month or so. Any buzz the book has will usually evaporate after three months, as publishers and media move onto the next thing, and word of mouth has dwindled. Very few hardcovers sell consistently up to the year-later paperback release. Time Frame was an unusual example.
Try it for yourself. Grab a copy of the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list from last September and last May. Go to your local bookstore (the biggest you can find) and see how many of those hardcovers are still on the shelf.

It’s odd especially because Born was terrible, a pale shadow of the source material. I’d hope Dark Tower fans would have heard that by now.

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