Literature Wales has disputed the BBC's claim that some of the Wales Book of the Year winners have only sold as few as 20 copies, describing the Nielsen data as “misleading”.
The winning titles for the prize were announced on Tuesday night (26th June) in Cardiff, with Robert Minhinnick taking the overall award, worth £4,000. However, shortly after the announcement BBC Wales claimed some of the books have sold as few as 20 copies.
Book sales data provided by Nielsen seen by BBC Wales apparently show almost half of the shortlisted books sold fewer than 100 copies with the bestselling title shifting 4,000 copies and Minhinnick's Diary of the Last Man (Carcanet) selling only 202 copies.
Literature Wales, which runs the awards, described the figures as “misleading” because they do not take into account all sales from independent bookshops in Wales and the books sold at events and festivals.
In an official blog post, the national arts body said: “The said figures were provided by Nielsen – an international company which collects data on book sales. However, this is only one source of data. Little consideration has been given to the bookselling culture and industry in Wales.
“There are many independent bookshops in Wales who don’t report sales statistics to Nielsen, and a substantial proportion of sales can be attributed to these bookshops. In addition, a great number of books are sold at a variety of events and festivals across the country.”
Literature Wales also emphasised how the prizes “celebrate” the country’s literary talents, providing benefits through shortlisting as well as winning through “boosting a writer’s profile and their confidence, an extended period of press and media attention, an increase in invitations to participate in events and festivals, and opportunities to develop the work across multiple platforms such as film and theatre”.
According to Literature Wales, following the awards announcement last year the sales of Alys Conran’s winning novel, Pigeon (Parthian) shot up by 43%, and the Welsh-language winning title Cofio Dic by Idris Reynolds (Gomer) saw a 400% rise in sales compared to the figures of the previous year. According to Nielsen Bookscan figures seen by The Bookseller, Cofio Dic has yet to chart on Nielsen while Pigeon went from selling three copies before the announcement in November to 46, representing a 1,433% boost week on week.
One of the Welsh publishers has also responded. Garmon Gruffudd, m.d. of Y Lolfa, told BBC Wales: "All of the shortlisted books published by Y Lolfa have sold more than 600 copies, and we have already reprinted three of them - Meddyginiaethau Gwerin Cymru, Blodau Cymru and Gwales.
"Sales have been very good from our perspective."
Gruffudd said he believed "the majority of sales" at smaller Welsh bookshops were not recorded by Nielsen's systems.
A spokesman for BBC Wales is quoted as saying that "while the data used in the article came from an official industry source, we acknowledge it didn't capture all sales figures".
They added: "There was no intention to mislead."