Episode Summary

Let’s talk about the revamped USA Today Best-Selling Booklist, from why the list went on hiatus to the renewed focus on indie bookstores!

Episode Notes

If you’re curious about how the revamped USA Today Best-Seller Booklist works, or why it went on hiatus, or why the renewed focus on indie bookstores, this is the episode for you. Erik Bursch, the SVP of Consumer Product and Engineering at Gannett/USA Today, joins us live to give the inside scoop and answer your questions. 

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Kevin Tumlinson [00:00:01]:

You just tuned into the hippest way to start and grow your indie author career. Learn the ins, the outs, and all the all arounds of self publishing with the team from d two d and their industry influencing guests. You’re listening to self publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital.

Jim Azevedo [00:00:27]:

Alright. We’re live. Hey, everybody. Welcome. Welcome to another edition of Self Publishing Insiders. I’m Jim Azovito, corporate communications for Draft2Digital. And today, it is my distinct pleasure, privilege, and honor to welcome Eric Bursch. Eric is the senior vice president of consumer products and engineering at Gannett USA Today.

Jim Azevedo [00:00:50]:

Welcome, Eric.

Erik Bursch [00:00:52]:

Jim, thanks for having me.

Jim Azevedo [00:00:53]:

Oh, so glad you can make it. I know you’re a busy guy. It’s a lot happening over there. So, of course, today, we’re here to talk about the return of USA’s USA Today’s bestseller book list best selling book list. It’s, yeah, I was reading through some of the history of the book list, and what’s really caught my attention, Eric, was that the book list is the longest journalistic project at USA Today. It’s been running since 1993. So, clearly, it’s it’s had some success. It’s it’s served the readers.

Jim Azevedo [00:01:31]:

Can you talk a little bit about, why the decision was made to to put the list on the hiatus and, you know, give it give it a refresh? We don’t it went on hiatus back in December of 2022. Can you give us an indication of what led to that decision?

Erik Bursch [00:01:48]:

Yeah. Sure. Happy to. And and let me just spend maybe a a minute or so talking about Gannett, as a whole. So Gannett Absolutely. Is we own, are responsible for over 200, properties inside the United States. USA Today being our national brand, and we have a lot of big big sort of, you know, regional brands, Detroit Free Press, Arizona Republic, IndyStar, etcetera. Also a lot of smaller papers.

Erik Bursch [00:02:14]:

So, you know, we are in, you know, a massive amount of communities across the US. And, you know, USA Today has had a lot of history in doing you know, we hear about data projects all the time now. Right? And it’s sort of the you know, obviously, with all the AI boom, you need data be to drive AI products. But data products and it has really exploded in the last couple years. This was is our longest running data product. Right? If you think about it, we were collecting data, you know, BooksRead data and and bringing that together and presenting that for several years now. And, you know, the way it was was, sort of brought together in the past before the hiatus was, you know, we received all the data points and, there was a lot of manual actions in that sort of process of collecting and, and and organizing, ranking, etcetera, to be able to to present that out every week. And there was a pullback in some of the resources that our, our content and editorial teams, had at their disposal, you know, during during that time frame right before we went on hiatus.

Erik Bursch [00:03:22]:

And, you know, really with with the reduced capacity of, you know, of some resources from the editorial side and that it was driven from a manual a lot of manual touch points. We had to make the decision at that point to to put it on hiatus. You know, I’m a I’m a passionate, you know, book reader. I’ve loved books my whole life, and and a lot of us in the product organization at at, Gannett and USA Today, we work closely with our content organization. We wanted to find a way to to bring this forward. And when you’re talking about data, you know, there’s there’s ways to automate as you know, automate data, you know, coming forward. All of our sources at that time were sort of giving us different, different types of formats, you know, that we were receiving from a data file. So we really had to normalize that and bring that together and create an engine that could create that could bring in our current set of sources at the time.

Erik Bursch [00:04:17]:

But also, we we wanted to expand out our number of sources and be, you know, adding every week if we needed to. We really wanna take in as many sources as possible. And and our engine that we built, it did take us obviously a couple months to get there, but the engine that we built is really a system that is fully automated and is an ability to to take in as many sources as as we can, get our hands on.

Jim Azevedo [00:04:42]:

Yeah. It was not a small endeavor. And your background is on the technology side. Am I right? And and you’ve been with Gannett since 2010. You’ve been there you’ve been there longer than I’ve been at Smashwords. I think you started in 2010, if I read that correctly.

Erik Bursch [00:04:58]:

As I like to say as I like to say, I’ve been there for a couple years, you know, from that side of things and and seen a lot of change. But, you know, even though, you know, I’m on the engineering side and and not to go too deep on on engineering, but, you know, myself and and, you know, a lot of my my my leads and and key resources inside of my department, we wear a product hat even though we’re engineers. And there’s a lot of things that I think that, you know, that we’ve been that have come up out of the engineering resources about products that have been massive wins for us, you know, going forward. So I I challenge my folks to think like, product folks every day. And, you know, and and a lot of the passion projects that we have come forward, BooksRead one of them. We’ve done a lot of things around sports and sports data, which is Mhmm. Sports has always been in USA Today. Sort of staple.

Erik Bursch [00:05:50]:

You know, we have a lot of sports fans in our engineering department and and it really, you know, leading some product efforts from that side has been some wins. So, yeah. I I’ve been there for a couple years, seen a lot of change, but this is this has been this was a very fun effort for for us to do and, and certainly, a lot of people thought when it went on hiatus that it was not coming back.

Jim Azevedo [00:06:10]:

Oh, yeah. We we heard a lot of that.

Erik Bursch [00:06:12]:

We heard a lot of that and, we knew it was coming. We couldn’t talk about it too much, but, but it was a great relaunch. You know, we had, a lot of visibility from a press standpoint on on relaunch, and that was good to see the that excitement.

Jim Azevedo [00:06:11]:

Yeah, the indie community, we were all about it. But there are a lot of authors out there who are thinking, hiatus. That equals it’s going away. It’s gone. And so when the announcement was made that, hey. We’re back. There was, like, a collective cheer that went out. Did you have a sense that it was gonna take a a few months? Did you think it was gonna take longer? Because to me, it seemed like it came back quicker than I than I thought it was going to come back.

Erik Bursch [00:06:56]:

Well, we had started working on it just before the hiatus, and, you know, you know, we felt we we wanted you know, I sort of set the goal of of trying to deliver it before the the heavy summer reading, season. You know, we we really wanted to get this out there, and we sort of set that late June goal internally. That was a a pretty big stretch goal for us. You know, and and, you know, even though it launched in late June, we were still, you know, you know, getting some of the pieces of the automation, to, you know, together the the coming weeks after that. But I think it was I think it launched at the right time. I think it’s import was important to get out there ahead of the summer reading schedule. Yeah. You know, obviously, we’d love to have it out sooner than that, but, you know, it was not a small lift, for us to deliver.

Erik Bursch [00:07:41]:

But I’m glad it’s out there and and glad we’re expanding all of our data points every week that we, that we have it out there.

Jim Azevedo [00:07:48]:

Well, we’re glad you’re back. You know, when when a reader’s out there, when they go out and they check out the book list and they check out the methodology of the book list right there on the headline of that page at USA Today’s, on with USA Today’s website. The headline says it’s the people’s book list, which I think is fantastic. But can you give us, a sense of what that means to USA Today, the staff, the journalists, and yourself?

Erik Bursch [00:08:17]:

Yeah. You know, really not to get it not to talk about other book lists that are not that are not USA Today, but, you know, I think with ours, we we do not add any bias to it at all. This is the list is driven completely from data. And we believe that, you know, I mean we are adding, as I mentioned, we’re adding sources every week, to to our, to to bring in that data point and and run our algorithms against it. You know, I think when you talk about people’s list, you know, I think we we feel that, without any sort of editorial oversight or and the fact that it’s driven by data, it’s the people that is buying the books in in any format that they’re buying and then and we’re just reporting on what people are buying, without that without that oversight. Because, like, there’s literally I mean, where we have it now, the sources come in. We do some validation checks from an automatic stand automated standpoint, and then it’s published out in an automated format. There’s not a there’s not a manual action.

Erik Bursch [00:09:15]:

There’s not somebody that says this BooksRead hey. I think this book is great. It should be higher than it is. Right? Or or why is this book on there? We gotta we have to you know, this this shouldn’t be on there. And ,

Jim Azevedo [00:09:25]:

Like my cousin

Erik Bursch [00:09:27]:

Go ahead.

Jim Azevedo [00:09:28]:

No. I was gonna say that.

Erik Bursch [00:09:29]:

No. That’s gonna be the end. Yeah. So so I think it’s I think, you know, you know, no algorithm is perfect. Right? And I think if if any of us if any of you have ever dealt in sort of machine learning or otherwise, it’s it’s always, you know, an ever changing, training side of things from an algorithm. And, you know, we’re continuing to to do small tweaks here and there as we see, you know, things pop up from a data perspective. But I I think that, you know, I love the fact that we’re adding sources all the time to make this an even more complete list, you know, than we had previously.

Jim Azevedo [00:10:05]:

Yeah. And it sounds like it would it would be frankly, it would be impossible to do this manually. Before we went live, you were talking about just how much larger the the source the source pool is for gathering this data. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Erik Bursch [00:10:22]:

Yeah. So, you know, there was a there was a limit of resource time and otherwise that went in and and, you know, we had, you know, when we call out by name some of the some of the sort of long term data sources that we’ve had, a lot of sort of big box, you know, partners of ours that provide data to us. And there wasn’t really an ability to take on a ton of more, sources, because of the manual nature. We we have we’re just over 7 x the amount of sources that we’re including now than than where we, you know, than where we, we were, from Okay. From before hiatus. So I think that that just speaks to the volume of us when we say people. We’re really trying to, you know, gather in all these different sources and making sure that we have the widest spectrum, you know, of of gathering the different types of data from books sold, etcetera, across, you you know, across the, you know, our data sources. I I you know, this is I don’t think a week’s gone by where we haven’t got a request or somebody asking us, you know, for, you know, to be added to to be included inside the data sources list.

Erik Bursch [00:11:28]:

I think there is an ability for us to to, to expand out. You know, we have the best selling lists. I think there’s also aspects for us to look at, you know, maybe an ebook list, you know, maybe an indie authors list, etcetera, to to be able to expand out the different types of list to surface up more of that the different types of data that we’re getting that might not make the top 150 per se, but are really starting to, you know, to to grow in certain areas of our, of the spectrum of data.

Jim Azevedo [00:12:01]:

I’m smiling because I I can imagine by saying that you’re considering breaking out an indie author bestseller list or an indie BooksRead bestseller list, I can imagine a lot of eyebrows went up and the excitement level just raised about 10 x on our side. So that’s a a ton of data. Yeah. The Smashwords store. So the Smashwords store is a contributor, and our store alone has a list of I think we give you just, you know, tens of thousands of book sales every week, and that’s just one store. Okay.

Erik Bursch [00:12:42]:

And I think it’s, you know, I think it’s, you know, one thing I do wanna call out with the sources. Right? And

Jim Azevedo [00:12:46]:


Erik Bursch [00:12:47]:

And some of your audience, you know, might have seen this during when we relaunched. Right? So we had a a really I talked about earlier Gannett being in in, you know, over 200 communities across the US, and we really I personally believe that that bookstores, especially independent bookstores, are, you know, really the heartbeat of a lot of communities in a way. They bring people together in in ways that that other things in the community don’t bring people together. Right? And and we made a very conservative effort about bringing forward our connection to the independent bookstores. Every week, we’re publishing an, you know, an article about an independent bookstore across the US. We have led with, the the first sort of option for folks to, to purchase a book is is led with bookshop.org.

Jim Azevedo [00:13:43]:

Yeah. I would love that.

Erik Bursch [00:13:44]:

They they’re able to buy they’re able to buy through other sources. Right? And, you know, they’re there, but we’re leading with that connection, and we felt that that was an important mission for us as we talk about one of our mission statements as a company is to continue to be there for our communities. And, we felt that that was such an important connective tissue, during this relaunch. That’s something so the list didn’t just come back as is. The list came back with a much higher, you know, sort of integration there with with independent bookstores.

Jim Azevedo [00:14:16]:

Yeah. That was really exciting when I read about the new partnership with bookshop.org. We’re big fans. We’re big fans of, Andy Hunter and his team and, you know, what they’re trying to do out there with indie bookstores and to keep the eye on the community and give back to communities out there, across the nation and and beyond. How can you talk about how that partnership I don’t know how deep into the weeds you can go with that, but how that partnership came together? It’s it’s super interesting how there’s just so much thought behind the revamping of the list. It’s not just about data. It’s about this whole new forward looking indie community movement in a way.

Erik Bursch [00:14:58]:

Yeah. I mean, we so, a couple things started to happen, you know, in sort of, you know, sort of together. Right? I was certainly aware of BooksRead, and, you know, I I, I had a connection into a, into a bookstore in, just outside of Saint Louis called Novel Neighbor, and was a follower of them, you know, on in social channels just because I thought their content was amazing and how they presented it. And I also, at the same time, established a connection with with ABA and and their leadership there. And so a couple things sort of came together at the same time. We we, wanted to we really wanted to partner with BooksRead. You know, they that’s a that’s been a fabulous partnership with what they’re able to provide to us from a, you know, sort of metadata of BooksRead, and otherwise, and then us providing back to them the the channel for our users to to to go and purchase. And and really making a a national audience aware, they might not have been aware before what what Bookshop or who Bookshop is, and and why are they different than, you know, other places that you can that you can go buy books from.

Erik Bursch [00:16:14]:

Right? So I think that was 1. You know, ABA has been, been a really good partner and and we’ve tried to to really prop them up. We are talking about, you know, giving them some, you know, essentially a a mouthpiece to be able to to shout forward about their indie next list, and and what the you know, what we can do to help out there to amplify that that message. Right? US Senderday’s reach is is, is a little bit wider than than AVAs, and and we wanna be there and help them. That’s been a good partnership for us, and we will be at their, their Winter Institute conference, next month in February. If anybody is coming, we’re we’re hosting a happy hour there and would love to see you. And we also have, our our book editor is gonna be on one of the panels, for Warner Institute, so that should be fun. And then Novel Neighbor, your Novel Neighbor, I as I mentioned, I’d I’d been following them for for a little bit and, you know, they they had a very unique, layer of of doing these mystery boxes.

Erik Bursch [00:17:15]:

And it’s not saying that they were unique and that other stores aren’t doing this, but I was really impressed with some of, what they were doing. And it’s sort of like I call the stitch fix for books. Right? So, really taken in, like, what you know, this is what people have read, and and I would love to find them some new things. Can you can you put together a box for them? And I felt that, you know, with, again, with continuing down the the road of, of of being there for independent bookstores and otherwise, we formed a partnership with Novel Neighbor to, to highlight the work that they’re doing, around mystery book boxes and, and book subscriptions. We actually had a, we we wrote an article about, it was the first, the first the first mystery BooksRead. It was it was, like, ordered, I wanna say, 2 hours after we relaunched our our, our book list and we relaunched the the novel neighbor relationship at the same time. So 2 hours after we launched, I think the first order came in and it was it was for a mom that that had, had a had a had a daughter that that was a passionate reader. And she ordered up the mystery box and, we actually did an article on it because it was the first one and everything like that.

Erik Bursch [00:18:27]:

And just such a really cool thing to see of, you know, they they were based, this the person in the bottle was based in Virginia, Novel Neighbors in St. Louis. You know, really would never had a connection to Novel Neighbors before, but, you know, just the creativity they wouldn’t thought was it was put into this box of of of delivering books that that her daughter had not read and and just a passionate reader. It was just rave reviews back. So, and I I think that we we’ve had a couple other conversations with other bookstores about, hey. Could we help partner with you, and and amplify a a unique thing that you’re doing to the for the community that could be done at a at a national scale, that we could help, go forward.

Jim Azevedo [00:19:09]:

That’s huge.

Erik Bursch [00:19:10]:

You’ll I think it just again, I I can’t continue to to speak to the volumes of what the mission was here for us, you know, going forward.

Jim Azevedo [00:19:20]:

Okay. I wanna talk to you a little bit more about, how the book list intertwines with the book section. But before we get to that, I wanna take a step back because we’ve talked a little bit about this, but we’re still getting questions in the comment section, about the different formats that are reporting into into the sales. I’ll bring up this question here from Beth first. Beth Irwin asked, am I hearing this is a print centric only data collection? No. No. It’s not print centric.

Erik Bursch [00:19:51]:

It’s not, and and Smashwords is certainly an example of that. Right? You know, I think we we, we we are not limiting it to a a particular format. I do think that, I mean, with the data that we see, speaking at a very high level here, you know, we we do see a lot of volume with print sales, still. And and as a best as a best selling book list, you know, it’s our responsibility to adhere to the data that we’re receiving. You know, and so my comment earlier about us having a focus on sort of ebook specifically, a list that is that is trending there and and, and otherwise, I think that’s just to call out the fact of, there are there are, I think, a really strong and interesting ebook, ebooks out there that might not crack that 150, but are certainly do you know, having a strong following and strong sales that we wanna be able to showcase in some manner. So, no, we are not PrintCentric.

Jim Azevedo [00:20:55]:

Okay. And along those same lines, I’m just gonna bring up Steven. Steven says, hey. Why do ebook sales no longer count toward a best seller run? And from what everything that we’re hearing here from Eric, they do count toward the best seller run because you’re collecting not just print book sales, you’re collecting hardcover sales, ebooks, audiobooks too, Eric?

Erik Bursch [00:21:18]:

We are. Yep.

Jim Azevedo [00:21:19]:

Audiobook. Yeah. So all formats.

Erik Bursch [00:21:22]:

Yeah. And we do. And we and so if if there is a book that is, you know, is carried throughout all those different formats, we, you know, we bring them together in our algorithm and and count those count those as one.

Jim Azevedo [00:21:35]:

Okay. So I wanted to ask you too, can you talk a little bit about how intertwined the the, the BooksRead section content is with the bestseller list? You mentioned that you’re that you that you’re doing some coverage of indie bookstores out there, and you’re trying to get did you say one feature a week? That’s that’s amazing. How do you how do you manage that? How many people are on are on the BooksRead team?

Erik Bursch [00:22:05]:

Well, so that that comes with our partnership with ABA. Right? So ABA has has really helped us in highlighting a lot of unique bookstores, independent bookstores. So, you know, they put together that content. We review it from an editorial standpoint, but they’re the ones really pulling some of that content together. We have a we put together sort of a joint form that that, their independent bookstores can fill out, and submit, and then they’ve been helping to to package that together. You know, I think everybody has you know, everybody reads the news. They know that, you know, we have to be more and more, sort of we have to be very productive with each resource we have inside of the editorial division. I have to be an engineer, and I have to be even more productive with every resource that I still have on engineering side of things.

Erik Bursch [00:22:54]:

So, you know, I I think there there wouldn’t be the time to do that if it was if we DD not have that partnership to help us, you know, sort of pull together that that content. Again, I I think that’s that we we felt that that was an important spider web of type of content, on relaunch that was important to us, to be able to have all of those. And, you know, we will be releasing, it’s probably gonna go live, today or tomorrow. We’re gonna be releasing a, you know, a page that that pulls together as a basically a map of the US and every state that we’ve done an article on is highlighted and you can drill down into that state and see what articles are about independent bookstores were written about that article, about that, in that given state. And I think it rather than just to publish a week and then it sort of disappears a little bit, we’re bringing everybody back into the realm of, you know, of all the different articles we’ve written so far, and and that will continue to build as the as the weeks go by with that. And you asked about sort of our our entertainment BooksRead, sort of traditional editorial side of things. And, you know, certainly, they were, you know, the resources that are the editor and and the the other resources that are inside of that department, they were they were side by side with us as we sort we’re building the engine for for relaunch, you know, making sure that we were accounting certain things as we were setting up our algorithm and otherwise. But they don’t they as I mentioned, they don’t do anything with the list itself.

Erik Bursch [00:24:25]:

I’ve none of my team does anything with the list. That’s it’s coming through data, automated, published out. You know, they’re focused on stories that they feel have a, have a national presence to them.

Jim Azevedo [00:24:36]:


Erik Bursch [00:24:36]:

From a US Today standpoint. You know, our over our 200 plus local markets, they do do they do do local stories, about books that might pop out. Whether it’s an author that, you know, let’s say we we have, the Austin Statesman. Let’s say if there was an author down in Austin, that had a, you know, you know, was getting a lot of press around a book, the local property might, highlight that and and write an article about that. That might then be promoted at the USA Today level, you know, that that being shared out to our USA Today property from there. So, yeah, that sort of gives you the you know, where where that editorial team sits and otherwise.

Jim Azevedo [00:25:15]:

Yeah. Thanks for that. And it makes me just get this huge sigh of relief to hear that the editor or the managing editor were so closely aligned with the tech with the tech team as you were refreshing this list because I think we’ve all seen, you know, BooksRead teams sort of dwindle and sometimes go away out there.

Erik Bursch [00:25:34]:

Yeah. And and, you know, certainly, there was a couple, you know, very, very passionate book folks, you know, inside of our product and engineering team to help push that along. But but we could have done that without them. They have a they were able to answer some crucial questions for us to to automate. And, you know, I mentioned that that we have a that our that our books editor will be speaking at the at the Winter Institute for, ABA’s Winter Institute in February. So, again, I I I love that she is spending the time and making herself available to, to that community.

Jim Azevedo [00:26:05]:

Fantastic. Yeah. Me too. As a matter of fact, I wanna bring up this comment from our own Mark Leslie Lafay, who says, I love the accounting book sales on all formats.

Erik Bursch [00:26:16]:

Well, happy that happy that we can see get some excitement there.

Jim Azevedo [00:26:20]:

Yeah. Omar and I are gonna try to make it out to, to Winter Institute if we can if we can if we can make it out there. Something that we’re looking forward to. And here’s a question I wanna bring up from Beth Cox. Beth, you may have missed it. Beth asks, and appreciate the question, Beth, are the sales broken out by format, unless if BooksRead bestsellers and print bestsellers? So we talked about this a little bit before, but do you wanna clarify again, Eric, how that’s like kind of a forward looking possibility?

Erik Bursch [00:26:51]:

Yeah. So right right now, we don’t we don’t break out. Right? We have some some filters in place that where you can select, by fiction, nonfiction as a filter and and some different genres, as a filter. But, you know, we we do our our display and, you know, the combined formats in a 1 50 a top 150, a list from a best selling perspective. I hope to and I hope to do this at some point in 24. I hope to be able to bring other lists to the table to complement our sort of flagship bestsellers, 150 list, to highlight, you know, formats or or genres or otherwise that might not have been able to to get to the top 150 overall, but are certainly, you know, worthy of of, you know, of a call out and and, you know, a position on a list and and otherwise. So, expect more from that in 24.

Jim Azevedo [00:27:46]:

Right. Alright. I love that. Before I forget to ask you hope I hope I didn’t ask you this question already. But with, with Gannett and the list and all the different properties out there, is the is USA Today’s best selling book list? Is it syndicated to other papers around the country?

Erik Bursch [00:28:07]:

So we don’t we don’t. I mean, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of, local papers that will call attention to it. And we don’t syndicate it for a couple different reasons. We don’t syndicate it digitally because, for most of our products, we from an SEO standpoint, right, we don’t wanna duplicate, your sort of data content that lives on one property, you know, and and then duplicate that data content on another property. What we will do is call attention to it and give that funnel of traffic into our, you know, into our sort of the core place where that data element lives. And in this in this case, on USA Today.

Jim Azevedo [00:28:49]:

Okay. Thank you for that. I’m gonna bring up another question from one of our viewers here. Oh, Stefan asks, if you’re able to answer this. Stefan asks, what are the numbers for each avenue to make the list? That is Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobal, Barnes and Noble, print. I gather that

Erik Bursch [00:29:12]:

Is is somebody is that question based on, like, well, what how many sales do I have to have to make the list? Is that is that I don’t That’s how

Jim Azevedo [00:29:22]:

I was that’s how I’m that’s how I’m reading it. Like, I guess, how many how many sales I have to have at Amazon, Apple, Google. But it sounds like you’re combining the numbers from all the different from all the different stores.

Erik Bursch [00:29:32]:

Yeah. That’s correct. And and, obviously, every week’s different. Right? You know, so where Yeah. You know, where 150 is, 1 week is is different on another week. Certainly, there’s ebbs and flows, you know, during the year of when when book sales might be higher. Obviously, even in the end of the holiday season, we saw an uptick, with folks buying any number of formats of books, buying those and and as gifts. Right? So there was a little uplift there.

Erik Bursch [00:30:00]:

The summer season, I think we saw, you know, at least certain genres really really spike high during the summer season, with what we saw there. But really, any any weeks, you know, different of, you know, of what would what it would take, unquote, to to make the the top 150.

Jim Azevedo [00:30:18]:

Yeah. Even on our journalists here at at Smashwords and some of the lists that we gathered from the DraftDigital sales, they can fluctuate wildly from 1 week to the next. It’s based on all the promotions and what else is hitting the market at a particular time. How do so if a bookstore if any bookstore wants to contribute sales data, how do you what makes them eligible to contribute sales data? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Erik Bursch [00:30:44]:

Yeah. Certainly, we’re we’re doing, you know, there there’s a level of check that goes in to make sure they’re, you know, sort of a valid bookstore. Right? And we wanna make sure that we’re taking in data, from that side of things. And then we have a process that we go through for, for setting them up. We call attention to it in in some of the verbiage, you know, on the book list itself. So if if you email BooksRead dot book list at usatoday.com, you know, that’s the the email thread to get into our queue and, let us start that discovery process. Once that discovery process is finished, you know, just as we DD with smash Smashwords, we’re we will provide a, a method for for that BooksRead to to follow a certain format that we need, a certain type of, you know, contribution contribution layers. So email has to be structured for a certain way for that to come into the system, and be processed automatically.

Jim Azevedo [00:31:37]:

Yeah. I haven’t imagined when you announced the the list was was coming out again, were you just completely slammed with requests from booksellers?

Erik Bursch [00:31:45]:

We were. We were, in a positive way. In a in a I would have been I would have been disappointed if we weren’t.

Erik Bursch [00:31:52]:

So as I mentioned, the at launch, you know, there was a couple other things we had to get in place to fully automate everything. So I had to I had to ask everybody for some patience, for submitting. To add those in, but, but we did. We we you know, it took us a a little bit, but, you know, for you know, we got out there. You were you were one of them on the Smashwords side of things, and you, we we got we sent out all the the updates to everybody with how to how to start submitting and and now those we’re still getting requests every week for additions, which is great.

Jim Azevedo [00:32:26]:

Well, kudos to you guys because it’s a pretty straightforward process. And originally, when you first came back to me and you’re like, hey. Thank you for your interest. It’ll be a couple weeks. We’ll get back to you. I thought a couple weeks? There’s no way they’re gonna be able to get back to us in a couple weeks because I could just feel the the tsunami that is probably crushing and about to hit you and your team.

Erik Bursch [00:32:47]:

Yeah. Yeah. I wanted to be a little bit faster than it was, but, you know, we we I I should be open that the books is not something we solely work on. Right? We we my teams are responsible for all that we do digitally from USA Today’s perspective in our local property. So, there’s a lot of different priorities across the board, but, we wanted to get that one across the finish line, right, to a place where it can really run itself, and that was, that was a crucial piece. So we finally finally got there. We’re in a good shape right now.

Jim Azevedo [00:33:18]:

Okay. I wanna bring up this question here from, Guillaume, who asks, what is the secret ingredient for any book or ebook to make a bestseller list? And I write only fiction. That’s the that’s the $64,000 question there, Guillaume. We all wanna know. Do you have a sense based on what you’ve seen, Eric?

Erik Bursch [00:33:41]:

I I mean, you know what? I I’ve seen books make the list that I was really surprised had the numbers and and the following that they DD, and, you know, I you know, I’ve had others that I fully expected to to be

Jim Azevedo [00:33:54]:


Erik Bursch [00:33:54]:

You know, near the top. And, you know, obviously, the ones that are that are sitting near the top are a lot of very well known, your authors and books that are out there, but we’ve had some really unique books that have have have have populated fairly high on our list, which I’ve been excited to see because I think that that just you break sort of the mainstream, the books that everybody hears about. Right? You sort of break out of that and you get some really, really unique books that get out there. I don’t I I I don’t think that there’s I don’t I don’t have a secret ingredient to pass along. I think, you you know, for any book, you have to capture a sliver of of fandom and and, you know, a unique layer that that grips readers. And, you know, I a lot of the books that I get are from word-of-mouth. Right? I said, hey. You know, I’ll talk to friends of mine and they’re like, hey.

Erik Bursch [00:34:46]:

I just I found this book or somebody passes the book. It was great. You should check it out. And I think that just comes to authors, you know, not trying to sort of recreate the, you know, the the stories that have been out there and and done several times over, but creating a unique, you know, unique type of, a book, unique type of audience that you’re looking for, and and then build it upon that.

Jim Azevedo [00:35:09]:

Yeah. Yeah. Good good answer. The list this is kind of a follow-up to Guillaume’s question from my from me. But the list runs, Monday through Sunday. Or you collect data for sales that occur Monday through Sunday. Correct?

Erik Bursch [00:35:24]:


Jim Azevedo [00:35:26]:

Do you have a sense of what’s what the what the best day for someone who wants to hit the list? What what the the best day is for them to release a new book?

Erik Bursch [00:35:41]:

So I think I don’t really have that. I don’t we don’t get data broken out by day of week.

Jim Azevedo [00:35:47]:


Erik Bursch [00:35:48]:

You know, we ours are when we receive the the the numbers, we ask for those numbers to be rolled up for that that whole time frame. Yeah. You know, I think, historically, I think as a lot of us know, you know, we see, you know, Tuesdays being a heavy day for book releases, you know, or or at least, you know, touting of of book releases and otherwise with Tuesday, Wednesday time frame. So yeah. But I don’t I don’t have data on saying, hey. You know, this if a book is released this day, the sales really pop this day, etcetera.

Jim Azevedo [00:36:20]:

Yeah. And I’ve heard different things. I’ve heard, you know, some folks say, well, don’t release on Tuesdays because that’s when all the traditional publishers are releasing their big books. You have to compete with them. And, I think there are probably myriad different formulas out there. I wanna bring up this question. I don’t know if you can answer it, Eric, because I feel like it’s kind of encapsulates, the thoughts of a lot of authors out there. But Bianca De Ark asks and thanks for the question, Bianca.

Jim Azevedo [00:36:48]:

When comparing the current list to the prior incarnation, it seems like indie authors are not really able to hit the list as easy as easily. Do you have any idea, why that is?

Erik Bursch [00:37:00]:

Well, I mean, I can speak to what we’re doing now and the fact that we’re we’re we’ve we’ve 7 x ed, our number of sources that we’re receiving, and there’s no editorial oversight on on on BooksRead making the list. And we we are not there’s nothing in our algorithm that would, say that we have to we have to lean towards traditional publishers or anything like that. We are we’re using data to drive our list. You know, our prior our prior, incarnation, you know, the there there was there were some manual actions that had to occur there, and, you know, we tried to follow their their methodology as close as we could. We took in a lot of feedback from our our books editorial team on, some considerations that we should have an automated format. But I’m not in a position to say, you know, well, indie authors appeared more previously than they do now. You know, I could just say that we are continuously open to, to sources to receive so that we’re making sure we’re getting a wider spectrum of data in there and and really presenting out, you know, what we believe, you know, what what our algorithm says is is the best selling BooksRead know, for that given week. And, so, yeah, I don’t I don’t have any details or or explanation why there there was a perceived situation previously.

Jim Azevedo [00:38:26]:

Yeah. No. I appreciate that answer. And I think that’s a fair answer. And I’ve heard that from other authors as well, but it sounds like, well, the list is completely new. You’re taking on, is it the same amount of formats? It it sounds like like the new list has is ingesting more data from more formats than the previous list, but maybe I’m wrong about that. And and I know that the list is 7 x larger right now, and you’re constantly adding more stores to it. Are all the same stores that had reported before, some of the bigger stores, are they are they all reporting to the new list?

Erik Bursch [00:39:03]:

There is one, there’s one, partner of ours that, we’re just working through some details from, from a agreement standpoint, in that. Okay. So they are they are not included as of right now, but they should be included very, very shortly. And that’s just that’s just some language that we have inside of our agreement with them to Yeah. To to bring that data. Other than that, all the all the sources are there. You know, they were there previously.

Jim Azevedo [00:39:34]:

Okay. And we touched upon some things earlier, Eric, about, you know, what you see going forward with the new list. Was there anything else that you had or that you wanted to add about some ideas or what’s coming down the pipe that people can look forward to?

Erik Bursch [00:39:48]:

Well, I think the biggest thing is is is calling attention to the different types of, you of other lists that we could that we could call out to give attention to. You know, I mean, sometimes I mean, as I’m sure a lot of the the the folks in the community here are seeing it, it might be tough to to crack that 150. And, you know, and but but it doesn’t mean that there’s books at 175 to 200 that aren’t really, really, good BooksRead are really starting to to really skyrocket up the charts. You know, in a different type of format or in the indie world or otherwise. And we wanna make sure we’re we’re capturing that. To make sure that we’re we I mean, I I wanna bring our audience to a wider spectrum of of, you know, of of books and and listen otherwise. And some of that we can’t do, in the in the 150 list because it is strictly best selling, and it could it could be tough for some of those types of, you know, of parts of our data’s data sphere to to make it into the full 150 list.

Jim Azevedo [00:41:01]:

Okay. Okay. I appreciate that. Oh, I wanna bring up another comment here from Mark that says this is incredibly insightful out there and help clear up a lot of misunderstandings. Thank you, Eric. And another comment here from Lexi, who says, if I’m hearing y’all, there needs to be a bestsellers after dark list. Bet you thought I wouldn’t show that one. Alright, Lexi.

Erik Bursch [00:41:28]:

I’ll put I’ll put that one in the list the the the list top of it. We’ll we’ll think about doing.

Jim Azevedo [00:41:34]:

Well, okay. I mean, we’re gonna hold you to that, Eric. Well, I I would just I would

Erik Bursch [00:41:40]:

I I would just say, you know, I I love, I love hearing feedback. I try to get back to everybody that that writes in, to to our book list at usatoday.com email address. Yeah. So if there are ideas that anybody has or or otherwise, happy to listen to them. You know, we we doesn’t mean, you know, I’m not gonna be able to jump on a a great idea right away, but, because of all the all of our other priorities. But I do expect to have, have some advancement throughout 24. As I mentioned, we’re having that, you know, that the the independent bookstore US map list, that should go live, you know, in in the in the coming days. And, Jim, I’ll I’ll shoot you a link when that does go live.

Jim Azevedo [00:42:24]:

Oh, please do. Yep. That’s that’s a that’s a really cool project. Did you say the, the email to shoot any ideas is booklist@usatoday.com?

Erik Bursch [00:42:35]:

Yep. Book list. Yep. Without the s.

Jim Azevedo [00:42:37]:

Yes. Okay. Are we okay to share that here on in the comment section? I don’t want you to get in the inundated in your

Erik Bursch [00:42:44]:

No. It’s not a problem. Not a problem.

Jim Azevedo [00:42:47]:

Alright. Well, hey. I would I’d love to talk with you off the record about some ideas, and we we can brainstorm for different things in 2024.

Erik Bursch [00:42:54]:

I hope to see I hope to see you in Cincinnati.

Jim Azevedo [00:42:57]:

Man, we’re we’re we’re trying to yeah. Mark Lefebvre and I are trying to pull out all the stops to get one of us there, and we’re both, you know, trying to get there. So we would love to be there, and I think we need to be there.

Erik Bursch [00:43:10]:

Keep me up to date on that, and if anybody else is coming, you know, our our happy hour we’re sponsoring are, is, Tuesday evening 13th. It’s right one block from the convention center where Winter Institute’s at. So, happy to to to buy anybody a beverage of their choice and and some food and, talk to you about some ideas. So so, Jim, hopefully you and Mark could you and Mark can make it. I would love to connect.

Jim Azevedo [00:43:36]:

Appreciate that, Eric. As we wrap up today, I just wanted to remind our viewers to if you could please like, share, comment, and subscribe to Self Publishing Insider, we’d greatly appreciate it because we get to go out there and invite awesome guests like Eric here to come in and tell us about what they’re doing out there. Also, be sure to bookmark dddlive.com so you could see the topics and the guests that are coming, for the next week, because each week will we do it again. And finally, if you are an aspiring author, why not sign up for your free Draft2Digital account at draft, the number 2, digital.com? For all of you watching out there, thank you again for joining us. We really, really appreciate your viewership. And, Eric, if you don’t mind, if you could hang out in the green room for a second, I’m just going to place, I’m going to play a quick 32nd promo spot here, and I’ll meet you over in the green room. Everybody else, thanks so much for joining us. We’ll see you here again, same time, next week.

Jim Azevedo [00:44:42]:

Take care, everybody. Too. Thank you.

Kevin Tumlinson [00:42:54]:

Ebooks are great, but there’s just something about having your words in print, something you can hold in your hands, put on a shelf, sign for a reader. That’s why we created D2D Print, a print on demand service that was built for you. We have free beautiful templates to give your book a pro look, and we can even convert your ebook cover into a full wraparound cover for print. So many options for you and your books. And you can get started right now at draft2digital.com.That’s it for this week’s self publishing insiders with Draft2Digital. Be sure to subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts and share the show with your will be author friends, and start, build, and grow your own self publishing career right now at draft2digital.com.