Event Recap / First Friday Club with Bianca Whiteley

‘What successful authors have in common is that they’ve found their community and catered to it… Really try to nail the core demographic of your genre.’

For our August First Friday Club we were joined by Bianca Whiteley, Account Director at Nielsen Book. Bianca spoke with Sherry Landow, our Membership and Development Officer, about the vital work Nielsen does for the Australian bookselling industry, including how and where the provider sources its data, up-and-coming trends in Australian publishing and the various projects administered by and forthcoming with Nielsen.

Bianca started her career in publishing at Murdoch Books in 1999, working in various roles including Inventory Management, to join Nielsen in 2006. For the past 12 years she has helped publishers and retailers make the most of the data Nielsen provides, and is currently working on establishing their ebook sales tracking service across Australia and New Zealand.

Bianca was joined by Soren Huet, Book Analyst at Nielsen. Our Membership Intern, Lou Garcia-Dolnik, sat in on the session to capture all the key details.

Nielsen BookScan

The world’s first continuing retail service for monitoring books, Nielsen BookScan collects data from book retailers at point of sale and supplies that information to both small and large publishers and authors. They operate in 10 territories other than Australia, including the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and about to release the service in Poland.

The data provided by Nielsen to their clients since its establishment in 2002 has radically changed the way publishers, retailers and self-published authors interact with the market. Capturing all information provided at the point of sale, including the net quantity of the product sold, date of sale, and price, Nielsen’s data allows publishing houses to make well- informed decisions about their products considering market trends and tendencies extrapolated from that data.

Collecting and distributing data

Nielsen receives information from over 90% of physical book sales across retail stores in Australia and New Zealand. The sales data captured is what Bianca termed the ‘sell-through’, i.e. not the quantity sold by the publisher to book stores, but actual sales captured at the counter when the book is scanned. Over the course of a week, Nielsen receives data from over 130,000 unique ISBNs. With only 10 employees making up the team across Australia and New Zealand, it wasn’t hard to believe Bianca when she revealed she doesn’t get much sleep!

In Australia, Nielsen splits sales across three main channels, including bookstore chains and their online sites, discount and department stores, and independent bookstores. Nielsen currently engages a weighted sample of over 200 independent bookstores alongside specialist and academic retailers.

They also supply bestseller lists to media outlets such as Newscorp and Fairfax Media, and identify long-term trends in the market for media and industry use.

Some of the ways publishers can use BookScan 

BookScan is a vital resource for authors at all stages and publishers of all sizes. Clients might engage Nielsen’s services in: 

  • deciding whether to reprint a product: knowing a book’s sell-through figures are important as publishers are liable to lose lots of revenue through unsuccessful reprints (this is particularly helpful for smaller publishers, who cannot afford to lose money on small and ineffective reprints)
  • determining marketing strategies: it is useful to know how competitor titles fare in the market
  • researching long-term trends and seasonal markets highs and lows: first-time authors and smaller publishing houses might want to consider publishing in the low seasons to avoid the kind of competition one might encounter during Christmas and other peak periods
  • researching genre trends
  • researching price points

Bianca and Soren also encouraged authors to use BookScan to identify the market habits of established authors and to emulate those. What successful writers have in common, Bianca told the audience, is that they’ve found their community and catered to it. If you don’t nail your core demographic, obscurity is, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion for your book.

Soren and Bianca identified some current trends in contemporary publishing for the audience, which included:

  • the introduction of adult colouring books
  • growth in Self-Growth categories, including money and consumer-oriented books such as The Barefoot Investor, books about politics, government, and personal development
  • growth in some areas of Fiction, where there has been a large increase in interest in the Romance and Historical Fiction categories
  • huge growing interest in serious non-fiction/general interest

The biggest growth categories in 2019 included:

  • Family, Health, Relationships
  • Pre-School titles (with Andy Griffiths continuing to see strong sales, and an increasing focus on alpacas!)
  • World, Ideas, Culture

Nielsen Projects 


Nielsen also offer a ‘search-inside widget’ called Book2Look. Book2Look allows publishers to create ‘Biblets’ for the books they publish, a streamlined digital presentation of the product which collates chapter extracts, reviews, shoplinks and author interviews all in one URL. Book2Look is especially important for publishers and their publicity teams as far as driving pre-orders is concerned: imagine all that data in the eager hands of book bloggers and social media personalities!

Title Editor

Nielsen’s Title Editor is a free service for publishers, authors and booksellers that provides key information about all books with an ISBN, including the book’s price points, date of publication, jacket/cover images, and overseas distributors, collated from publishers around the world. That information is provided to online retailers such as Book Depository and Amazon, and is available to access in over 100 countries.

If you’re planning to self-publish your book, it’s best to approach Nielsen at least 3 months before the publishing deadline with this information – data captured in the first 12 weeks of the book’s release gives important insight into how the product is tracking market-wise.


About the speaker

Bianca Whiteley started her career in publishing at Murdoch Books in 1999, and spent seven years in various roles including Inventory Management. She joined Nielsen Book in 2006 where her latest role is Account Director. For the past 12 years she has helped publishers and retailers make the most of the data and is currently working on establishing Nielsen’s ebook sales tracking service across Australia and New Zealand.

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