Hugo Contenders and Popularity, November 2014

Without further ado, here’s the list of the Hugo Contenders and Goodreads popularity, as of November 30, 2014:

November Goodreads Popularity

The two far right columns are what’s of interest. Those list the total number of Goodreads ratings (a measure of overall popularity) and the change from last month (a measure of sales momentum). I added Mandel, Gibson, Cambias, and Liu this month, hence the blank squares.

Some observations:

The Martian continues to fly off shelves, aided by the release of the paperback edition in November. I can’t imagine anyone catching Weir, and if it weren’t for significant eligibility issues, he’d be a leading Hugo contender. Once again, Weir will have to console himself with his Martian bags of money.

Words of Radiance continues to impress. It’s hard to overestimate how popular Sanderson has gotten over the past several years. Keep in mind, though, that the Hugo and Nebula have historically been biased against epic fantasy and the second book of a series. So, despite those huge numbers, don’t expect a nomination.

Annihilation has a very strong showing, and that’s part of the reason I have it on top of my Hugo and Nebula predictions. Love it or hate it, the book got in front of a lot of readers, and that’s very important for Hugo/Nebula chances.

The Bone Clocks and Station Eleven have also done very well, and this shows how powerful tapping into the mainstream and literary audiences can be. But are these SFF readers and voters? Mandel has a good chance of finishing 2014 with the second best-selling SF novel of the year (behind Weir, of course)—imagine that. While I can’t see her as a viable Hugo candidate (the book is too literary), she might be in the mix for a Nebula.

On the negative side, we have Echopraxia. The book doesn’t seem to have caught on with the reading public; maybe the 8 year gap between this and Blindsight was too much. While I originally had Watts as a strong Hugo contender, I’m going to have to push him down the list. While The Mirror Empire was well received by the enthusiast SFF press, it doesn’t seem to have crossed over to the broader SFF audience. Symbiont is way at the bottom due to the late release date, and this might put Grant’s streak of 4 straight Hugo noms in jeopardy.

Everyone else is sort of in the middle: they’ve sold enough copies to be considered viable candidates, but they haven’t had such impressive sales that they strike me as “sure things.” Even City of Stairs, one of the most buzzed about SFF novels of the past 2 months, doesn’t have great numbers to back up that buzz. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the contenders begin picking up sales as year end lists come out.

About the Chart: I’ve settled on Goodreads ratings as our current best measure of a book’s popularity. While not perfect—nothing is going to be perfect when measuring this—Goodreads has a large number of uses, and samples a significant proportion (somewhere in the 5%-15% range it would seem) of the reading public. For more discussion of why I use Goodreads, see my original post on the topic.

Lastly, we don’t yet know how this chart will correlate to the Hugo or the Nebula. It will most certainly NOT be a one to one correlation, i.e. the book with the most Goodreads ratings is not the Hugo or Nebula favorite. Rather, I imagine that this list will, over time, help us set a floor for the Hugos: you have to be at least this popular (1500 ratings?) to even be in the mix for the Hugo. It may also allow us to make distinctions between books with similar critical receptions. For instance, City of Stairs and The Goblin Emperor received similar buzz on publication, but it looks like City of Stairs is going to race pass Addison’s novel on the chart. If I had to chose one of the two to make a slate, I’d go with Bennett.

So, what do you think we can learn from numbers like this? Is there anyone else who merits having their popularity tracked?

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2 responses to “Hugo Contenders and Popularity, November 2014”

  1. booksbrainsandbeer says :

    I haven’t read The Martian, even though I received a print ARC of it ages ago, possibly January. I’m not familiar with Sanderson, either, having ignored SFF for a number of years, but I know he’s popular. Still, I’m surprised to see him ahead of VanderMeer.

    That’s a significant one month change for Weir, but I’ve noticed that the e-versions of The Martian have been priced around $2.99 for several months, clearly a wise move on the part of the publisher.

    • chaoshorizon says :

      Good catch on e-book prices. Sanderson has also dropped the price of Words of Radiance down to $3.75, which helps to explain why he’s outselling more recent books.

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