More On Dimitri’s Civil War Sales Figures

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader that was more a reaction to Dimitri’s most recent sales analysis of recent Lincoln titles.  First, here is the comment by Russell Bonds:

I don’t see how sales of Team of Rivals could be characterized as "poor" by
any standard. The book was the #1 New York Times bestseller and was on the
hardcover nonfiction bestseller list for 19+ weeks (and then spent another 15
weeks on the paperback bestseller list – see NYT Jan. 28). Team of Rivals had a
first print run of 400,000 (!); and it went to a second printing in hardcover.
Publishers Weekly puts sales at 620,000 copies for 2005 alone (!!) (see link
) There is NO WAY that Team of Rivals sold only 14,000 copies in 2005 and made
#1 on the NYT list. Getting on the list at all ain’t easy; hitting #1 and
staying on the list for weeks–especially with a 900-page Civil War book–is a
real accomplishment.

The problem is with this revered but baseless "Ingram x 6" formula, which
does not take into account the fact that Amazon, B&N, and Barnes & Noble
all stock certain titles–especially large titles like Team of Rivals–direct
from the publisher or from other wholesalers and don’t go through Ingram at
all–not to mention library and book club sales (which for Team of Rivals must
have been huge). Even now, the book is still the #1 Civil War title on

Don’t you worry about Professor Goodwin; she’s doing just fine.

Here is the relevant section from Dimitri’s post on D.K. Goodwin’s sales:

This Simon & Schuster title came out at the end of 2005 and racked
up an Ingram sales total of 2,236 in the remainder of the year. If we
apply the industry rule of thumb to that number (multiply by six), it
indicates over 13,400. It is hard to compare partial data, so the more
interesting Ingram number is the complete year’s sale for 2006: 1,535.
Applying the Ingram factor to the total for 2005 and 2006, we surmise
that through Dec. 31, 2006 this title sold under 25,000 copies. If a
blockbuster was anticipated – and remember, Hollywood bought the rights
to this title sight unseen – an initial press run of 50,000 would have
been conservative. Publishing and other entertainment industries do not
forgive failure on this scale.

I have to assume that the P.W. number is closer to the target than Dimitri’s figures.  This is anecdotal, but I remember walking in to my local bookstore a few days after the book was released and remembered hearing that around 100 copies had been sold.  Goodwin gave a talk here last May and attracted a crowd of upwards of 200 people.  I would have to say that at least 100 copies of the book were sold that day.  And this is in the small city of Charlottesville, Virginia.  I know little to nothing about this side of the book world, but something is wrong with the way Dimitri is making these calculations – even if sales overall continue to suffer.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

1 comment… add one
  • John Maass Feb 5, 2007 @ 17:54

    Kevin-you are far too polite to say it so I will–D. is purposefully being untruthful about these book sales in order to drive his own agenda. It is that simple, and a reason I do not go to that blog anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *