Canada Reads 2011: Will the New Format Change Sales Patterns?


Canada Reads 2011 has come to a close with Terry Fallis taking home the prize for his novel The Best Laid Plans.

A few of us at BNC were lucky enough to attend the debates this week: Neha Thanki was at Round One, I was at Round Two, and Jackie Fry was in the audience for the final. Want proof? That’s me lurking over Jian’s right shoulder.

Meghan at Canada Reads 2011 Day Two

BNC Field Reporters

“I thought the panelists defended their books with wit, passion and intelligence.”— ackie Fry

“I went into this viewing not having read any of the books (gasp!); I came out putting The Best Laid Plans on the top of my next-read list because of Ali Velshi’s spirited defence. Like magic, I was moved to pick up CanLit, which isn’t a regular read for me. Could it be that increasing readership (of CanLit) among readers is as easy as choosing well-spoken, funny champions, throwing them into the ring, and putting them on the tube? Yes, yes it is.”—Neha Thanki

My Take

This year has been very different from the past versions of Canada Reads. The changes to the book selection process put more of the responsibility in the hands of the public instead of in the hands of the panel. I think that giving the public the power to choose the top 10 books also makes these readers more engaged in the entire competition. Many have argued against this process, but that’s not what I’m here to write about. Instead, I’m interested in how this fundamental change is going to effect the sales trends we normally see with Canada Reads.

When I was in the audience on Day Two, Jian mentioned the sales spike that the winner of Canada Reads always sees, alligning it with the Giller effect. He’s right. Normally Canada Reads is a bit of a winner-takes-all game where sales increase for all contenders during the debate week, but absolutely skyrocket for the winner.

For example, in 2010 sales of Nikolski (the blue line) peaked at more than 8 times that of the other contenders. But not only do sales increase during the week of the debates, they continue to rise for the next month or so.

Canada Reads 2010 Sales Trends

Will this trend you see in the chart above continue to be true now that the general public has been given more of a voice in the contest?

The Canada Reads 2011 People’s Choice Poll saw Jeff Lemire’s Essex County backed by Sara Quin sweep the competition with 53.15% of the vote. The questions now are: Will the opinion of the public translate into more sale for Essex County? Will a more engaged audience bridge the gap between the nominees and the winner? Or, will we continue to see the celebrity pick go home will the majority of the sales?