THE BLOG
07/20/2007 12:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Harry Potter Won't be a Bestseller

Wanna make some easy money? Tell your friends you don't think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will debut at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List. Heck, you don't think it will even make the Top Ten! Then give them ten to one odds.

Huh? The book that will probably set a single day and one week sales record, the book hundreds of thousands will line up for at midnight won't be the Number One book on The New York Times Bestseller list? That's right because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a children's book and those books don't count.

It happened in 2000. The Harry Potter books -- a once in a lifetime publishing phenomenon -- were dominating the bestseller lists, with three titles ensconced in the Top 15 at the same time. It just wasn't fair, moaned publishers of more "serious" fiction. It kept more deserving titles off the list, titles that people would never hear about, said bookstore owners. And so in a rash, indefensible decision, the New York Times decided to banish children's books solely to their own separate list.

Imagine if the people behind the Nielsen Top 10 TV show listings decided that reality shows were "taking away" valuable attention from dramas and sitcoms. Let reality shows get their own list and the official Top 10 only include "genuine" TV shows, like CSI and House and Grey's Anatomy.

Imagine if Variety decided animated movies were just for kids and didn't belong on the box office Top Ten list, when more adult films like Knocked Up and Ocean's 13 needed the space.

Imagine if Billboard decided to banish country music to Nashville and reserve its list of Top Ten album for "real" music like pop, rock and hip hop.

Of course, that would be absurd. Any list of top TV shows that didn't include American Idol would be a joke. Any ranking of hit movies that ignored Shrek The Third or Ratatouille would be foolish. And any ranking of top CDs that pretended Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood didn't exist would be bizarre.

And yet that's exactly the status of The New York Times Bestseller list.

This isn't just about bragging rights for J.K. Rowling. This is about accuracy and fairness...and about the next Harry Potter. One major reason the books became a phenomenon in the first place was because they broke onto the New York Times bestseller list. At many bookstores, any title that does so automatically gets placed in a prominent position and receives a hefty discount. Adults who read about the success of the books didn't have to skulk into the children's section to buy a copy. They found it right there in the front of the store next to new releases by Stephen King and John Grisham.

Quite simply, if this idiotic rule banning kid's books from the charts had been in effect before Harry Potter, there might never have been Harry Potter in the first place -- and certainly not to the level of sales we've seen today.

Other kid's books became phenomenal hits because they made it onto The New York Times bestseller list, books like Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic and the annual appearance of Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go during graduation season. But that can never happen again. Philip Pullman's brilliant fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials was a big hit -- and should draw even more fans when The Golden Compass, the film version of the first book in that trilogy hits theaters this December. But if it hadn't been banned from The New York Times bestseller list, this mature, sophisticated work might very well have broken out to a much wider audience.

So don't just focus on that childish early review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Fight the even greater injustice that keeps the book off the most important bestseller list in the country. Tell them to "Free Harry Potter!" Tell them to "Stop Turning The New York Times Bestseller List Into A Joke!" Tell them to make the bestseller list actually reflect the best sellers. Anything else is a lie.