Interesting angle from Publishers Weekly on the overwhelming Harry Potter sales numbers:
- Sales figures for the opening months of Potter have shot up with each successive book, but they’re going up a lot faster than backlist sales are. Or, put another way, for Harry Potter, the initial release is becoming a lot more important – and the years that follow a lot less.
Take a reasonable time-frame for a franchise like this – say, two-and-a-half years after publication. For Harry 2, the first six months accounted for about 34% of sales for that period, what seems like a reasonable amount. For Harry 3 the number edged up to 37%, higher but also still reasonable. For Harry 4, though, it skyrocketed to 65% – meaning that only about one-third of the book’s total sales came after the first six months. Basically, while with each new book the series is gaining momentum as a sensation, a literary event and a frontlist title, it’s not becoming a correspondingly strong backlist one.
Of course, many publishers would gladly trade their annual revenues for just one month of Potter backlist sales. Still, amid all the reports of how sales for the opening weekend of Harry 5 nearly doubled that of Harry 4, it seems worth remembering that sales for the opening six months of Harry 4 more than doubled that of Harry 3 – but that in the respective two-year periods that followed, Harry 4 sales were actually 30% lower than Harry 3. As seminal as this past weekend was, the next hundred will further tell the tale.
Thought-provoking, but, there are only so many people in the world, and only so many of them are ever going to be interested in Harry Potter. If you reach a majority of them in the early on upon publication, who’s left? I’d like to have that problem on a book of mine – when the silver lining is this large, is the cloud worth mentioning?