Monday, November 26, 2007

SF Awards Watch's "Poll of Polls"

SF Awards Watch has just completed their Poll of Polls, to determine which of this year's award-winners is the best (or, at least, has the most support online).

Since I'm a grumpy old reprobate, I decided to check the sales of each of these books, through such secret publishing channels as are available to me, and present them in a way which, with luck, will provide me some plausible deniability.

Percentages are of the total 92 voters at SFAW, sales figures are for the first-published edition (generally hardcover or trade paper) in the US, expressed as an index pegged to the level of Nova Swing sales:
  • Nova Swing, M. John Harrison (Clarke) (24%) Index 1
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (Hugo, Locus SF) (23%) Index 7.3
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer) (12%) Index 120.9
  • The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner (Locus Fantasy) (9%) Index 5.8
  • Soldier of Sidon, Gene Wolfe (World Fantasy) (7%) Index 2.1
  • Seeker, Jack McDevitt (Nebula) (7%) Index 3.2
  • Spin Control, Chris Moriarty (PKD) (4%)Index 3.6
  • Titan, Ben Bova (Campbell) (1%) Index 1.7
Of course, sales -- or any measure of popularity -- does not equal worth. But it is striking that the winner of the poll has sold the fewest copies by a good margin. I'm not sure who is out of touch with what, but this is not a desirable situation.

On the other hand, Titan is the next worse-selling book, and the Internet voters (and talking heads in general) loathed that book, so perhaps art and commerce aren't quite as far apart as they seem.

2 comments:

Marilee J. Layman said...

Now, look at the awards won. The McCarthy won the Pulitzer and was reviewed as mainstream in the WashPost. Of course it has more sales.

Cheryl said...

It would surprise me greatly if a poll voted on by a mere 92 people managed to get anywhere near close to matching sales. Just because a poll is on the Internet, it doesn't mean that it is in any way a mass market opinion. Those who bothered to vote are a tiny minority, even amongst fandom.

On the other hand, an interesting thing about Nova Swing is that, unlike all of the others, it was first published in the UK and only came out in the US fairly recently. A comparison of US sales figures would therefore seem somewhat inappropriate.

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