Monday, 26 September 2016

The Girl on the Train – Upcoming Movie's Effect on Amazon Book Sales

The Girl on the Train – Upcoming Movie's Effect on Amazon Book Sales 

By now, many people will be familiar with the book “The Girl on the Train, which has been a top seller for most of 2015 and 2016, as can be seen in the chart below. I got his data from the Amazon sites for the specified countries. Basically I was just curious to track a top seller over a long period, to watch nits ebbs and flows, and see what sorts of events affected its sales.

As you can see, the book became very popular, right out of the gate, and stayed in the top 10 or so in the four main English speaking markets for most of 2016. It lost steam late in that year, but was revived by strong Christmas sales, then by being voted a “best book” in the Goodreads reader site, early in 2016. Its sales rank then drifted up into the 25 to 75 range, for much of 2016. Lately, it has moved back to the top 10, as the opening date for the movie version of the story approaches. The movie is scheduled to be released on October 7, 2016.
The graph below has converted sales ranks into estimated sales, based on an Indie writer crowd sourced rankings to sales power law. For the sake of full disclosure, the formula was:
Sales = 20293 * (Rank)-.7071
Naturally, that will just be a rough estimate of actual sales, which only Amazon and the publisher actually know for sure. You hope the writer, Paula Hawkins, also knows this, but it's trad publishing, so she might not be the last to know, or so trad writers sometimes say.

I added a version of the graph that uses a logarithmic scale for the y-axis, so that the different countries can be more easily seen. Note the fairly close correspondence of the curves for the various national markets.
My sales rank to sales figure calculation indicates Amazon sales of about 3.5 million books, mainly in the U.S. and U.K.. That's just Amazon sales, of course. A book like this would have sold a lot of paper copies in book stores, so you could probably scale that figure up to at least 10 million copies sold, possibly many more
As you can see from the charts, British and American sales have tracked pretty closely. As the book is set in London, British sales seem to have punched a bit above their weight.
I read that the movie is expected to do about 30 million dollars on its opening, which would be solid but not astronomical. But the book was a bit of a sleeper hit, so the movie might just be the same. Clearly, the story hits a lot of notes that work on some sort of archetypal level – it's got jealousy, betrayal, substance abuse, and murder, among other ingredients. Emily Blunt plays the main character, Rachel. I gather she's a pretty big name in the acting world. There are some other big names, in the movie as well.
One interesting fact is that the movie writer is listed as Erin Wilson, not Paula Hawkins. I suppose that's not too surprising – after all, a novel and a screenplay are rather different animals. Still, you hope it's not one of those cases where a decent novel gets ruined by ignoring the novelist's creative contributions, being turned from a stylish and relatively unique literary work into a homogeneous movie “product”.
The book is written in an alternating point of view style (yes, I've read it), with many flashbacks, often recalled through an alcoholic haze. So, it will be interesting to see how well that can be translated to the screen.
Oddly, the setting has been changed from London to New York. To me, that's not a good sign, as the book seemed to be very “English” in plot and characters, and the London train system was a major feature of the story. So, his setting change seems like a mistake to me, but you never know.
And here is a graph showing the number of reviews, in each market, over time.  The reviews more or less are a mirror image of the sales graph, though at a much smaller scale.  This indicates that reviews are a fairly constant fraction of books sold.  It would appear that about 1 in 75 Amazon book purchasers do a review.

Here is a log transformed version, again as an aid in comparing the different national markets. 

So, this is another test case of how a movie affects book sales. The upcoming film has certainly give book sales a bounce.  This is just the beginning – in a month or two we will have a much clearer picture, in both senses of the word. 

“The Girl on the Train” is an interesting read, about troubled people with dark secrets. But if you would like some romance and science fiction adventure with a lighter touch, try “the girl on the drowned planet”, Kati of Terra.

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