Hugo Best Novel Nominees: Amazon and Goodreads Numbers, May 2015

It’s been a busy month, but Chaos Horizon is slowly returning to it’s normal work: tracking various data sets regarding the Nebula and Hugo awards. Today, let’s take a look at where the 5 Hugo Best Novel nominees stand in terms of # of Goodreads ratings, # of Amazon ratings, and ratings score.

So far, I’ve not been able to find a clear (or really any) correlation between this data and the eventual winner of the Hugo award. In my investigations of this data—see here, here, and here—I’ve been frustrated with how differently Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookscan treat individual books. It’s also worth noting that I don’t think Amazon or Goodreads measure some abstract idea of “quality,” but rather a more nebulous and subjective concept of “reader satisfaction.” You definitely see that in something like the Butcher book: since it’s #15 in a series, everyone who doesn’t like Butcher gave up long ago. All you have left are fans, who are prone to ranking Butcher highly.

As a final note, Jason Sanford leaked the Bookscan numbers for the Hugo nominees in early April. Check those out to see how Bookscan reports this data.

On to the data! Remember, these are the 2015 Hugo Best Novel nominees:

Skin Game, Jim Butcher
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson

Number of Goodreads Ratings for the Best Novel Hugo Nominees, May 2015

Hugo Goodreads May2015

This chart gives you how many readers on Goodreads have rated each book; that’s a rough measure of popularity, at least for the self-selected Goodreads audience.

Goodreads shows Skin Game as having a massive advantage in popularity, with almost 5 times as many rankings as Leckie’s book. Given Skin Game is #15 in the series, that’s an impressive retention of readers. Of course, any popularity advantage for Butcher has to be weighted against the pro and anti Sad/Rabid Puppy effect. Also don’t neglect the difficulty that Hugo voters will have in jumping into #15 of a series.

While Liu is still running behind Addison and Leckie, keep in mind that Liu’s book came out a full seven months after Addison’s book and a month after Leckie. Still, the Hugo doesn’t adjust for things like that: your total number of readers is your total number of readers. That’s why releasing your book in November can put you at a disadvantage in these awards. Still, Liu picked up a huge % of readers this month; if that momentum keeps up, that speaks well for his chances. Anderson’s number is very low when compared to the others; that probably is a mix of Anderson selling fewer copies and Anderson’s readers not using Goodreads.

Switching to Amazon numbers:

Number of Amazon Ratings for the Best Novel Hugo Nominees, May 2015

Hugo Amazon May2015

I don’t have as much data here because I haven’t been collecting it as long. I foolishly hoped that Goodreads data would work all by itself . . . it didn’t. Butcher’s Amazon advantage is even larger than his Goodreads advantage, and Liu leaps all the way from 4th place in Goodreads data to second place in Amazon data. This shows the different ways that Goodreads and Amazon track the field: Goodreads tracks a younger, more female audience (check the QuantCast data), while Amazon has historically slanted older and more gender-neutral. Your guess is as good as mine as to which audience is more predictive of the eventual Hugo outcome.

Lastly, the rankings themselves:

Goodreads and Amazon Rating Scores for the Best Novel Hugo Nominees, May 2015
Hugo Goodreads Amazon Scores May2015

Let me emphasize again that these scores have never been predictive for the Hugo or Nebula: getting ranked higher on Amazon or Goodreads has not equated to winning the Hugo. It’s interesting that the Puppy picks are the outliers: higher and lower when it comes to Goodreads, with Leckie/Addision/Liu all within .05 points of each other. Amazon tends to be more generous with scoring, although Butcher’s 4.8 is very high.

The 2015 Hugo year is going to be largely useless when it comes to data: the unusual circumstances that led to this ballot (the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, then various authors declining Best Novel nominations, and now the massive surge in voting number) mean that this data is going to be inconsistent with previous years. I think it’s still interesting to look at, but take all of this with four or five teaspoons of salt. Still, I’ll be checking in on these numbers every month until the awards are given, and it’ll be interesting to see what changes happen.


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