Pups all bark, no bite as Tor boycott fails

Last month SF author Peter Grant called for a boycott of science fiction publisher Tor Books after Tor messed themselves over editor Irene Gallo's comments about the Sad and Rabid Puppies Hugo campaigns. Grant's call to doggy arms was quickly embraced by others associated with the Pups. It truly seemed like the boycott was off to a greyhound-fast start.

Or maybe not. Because the boycott now appears to be more like a Greyhound bus broken down on the side of a road instead of a massive movement forcing one of the genre's leading SF/F publishers to their knees.

My proof? Turns out the boycott has had no noticeable impact on the sales of Tor's books, as determined by a sampling of Tor sales reported through Nielsen BookScan, a publishing industry sales-tracking system.

Grant first called for the Tor boycott on June 19, followed almost immediately by others affiliated with the Pup campaigns. To see if the boycott was effective, I examined BookScan numbers for a selection of Tor titles by different authors.

It's extremely difficult to track every Tor novel on their large backlist so I selected 10 novels in different publishing formats — hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback — from Tor titles which had appeared on the Locus bestseller lists over the last six months. These novels' sales were tracked for five weeks prior to the start of the boycott on June 19 to establish a sales baseline, and for the two weeks after the start of the boycott. (For more on what BookScan does and doesn't track with regards to book sales, see the note below this post.)

Here's what the sales of the Tor titles I tracked looked like for this seven week period.

Below is the specific sales data for these titles. The titles are alphabetized by author last name and include the title's publishing format and the specific copies sold as reported by BookScan. The number of copies sold are how many copies that book sold in the week ending in the specific date. So if I listed a book as "100 copies on 7/05," that means the book sold 100 total copies as tracked by BookScan for the week ending July 5, 2015.

  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (mass market paperback)
    137 copies on 7/05, 123 on 6/28, 116 on 6/21, 130 on 6/14, 106 on 6/7, 63 on 5/31, 101 on 5/24.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (trade paperback)
    248 copies on 7/05, 299 on 6/28, 279 on 6/21, 231 on 6/14, 262 on 6/7, 379 on 5/31, 168 on 5/24.
  • Willful Child by Steven Erikson (hardcover)
    3 copies on 7/05, 6 on 6/28, 8 copies on 6/21, 7 on 6/14, 12 on 6/7, 3 on 5/31, 7 on 5/24.
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (hardcover)
    119 copies on 7/05, 118 on 6/28, 161 copies on 6/21, 106 on 6/14, 168 on 6/7, 128 on 5/31, 123 on 5/24.
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (mass market paperback)
    728 copies on 7/05, 744 on 6/28, 724 on 6/21, 641 on 6/14, 695 on 6/7, 623 on 5/31, 711 on 5/24.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi (hardcover)
    65 copies on 7/05, 39 on 6/28, 74 on 6/21, 63 on 6/14, 46 on 6/7, 54 on 5/31, 21 on 5/24.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (hardcover)
    215 copies on 7/05, 252 on 6/28, 240 on 6/21, 232 on 6/14, 249 on 6/7, 308 on 5/31, 262 on 5/24.
  • The Just City by Jo Walton (hardcover)
    43 copies on 7/05, 28 on 6/28, 21 on 6/21, 12 on 6/14, 23 on 6/7, 38 on 5/31, 23 on 5/24.
  • Like a Mighty Army by David Weber (mass market paperback)
    99 copies on 7/05, 89 on 6/28, 110 on 6/21, 101 on 6/14, 112 on 6/7, 112 on 5/31, 124 on 5/24.
  • The Architect of Aeons by John C. Wright (hardcover)
    10 copies on 7/05, 10 on 6/28, 8 on 6/21, 13 on 6/14, 20 on 6/7, 23 on 5/31, 20 on 5/24.

As you can see, there's no significant drop in sales due to the boycott. Yes, some titles saw a slight drop but this was offset by other titles increasing their sales or titles keeping relatively steady sales. In all, the sales of these Tor titles demonstrated similar patterns to what they sold prior to the boycott starting.

Earlier this week George R. R. Martin called for people to support Tor by purchasing their books. Boycott originator Peter Grant claimed this as proof that the boycott is succeeding. But that's not proof. That's what we call wrong-headed speculation.

Proof is looking at the actual sales numbers for Tor books. And the numbers I've examined show the boycott is failing miserably.

Guess the puppy boycott is truly all bark and no bite.

Note about BookScan numbers: Nielsen BookScan does not report e-book sales or some print copy sales or how many books are checked out of libraries. Based on what I've been told, Bookscan numbers represents about 60% of actual physical book sales.