Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bestseller Lists Reveal Several Trends

The results for 2012 Publishers Weekly bestsellers are in and there are some surprises.

There was more variety in terms of the number of books making a bestseller list in 2012. Just 563 made it in 2008. A record 89 books enjoyed the No. 1 spot (out of a possible 208) but 56% held on for only one week.

Once a book hits the bestseller list, word of mouth, news media coverage, and social media can give it a boost to stay on the list but competition is so furious that the No. 1 spot constantly changes hands. A lot has to do with pre-orders and big print-run launches and how these lists are tabulated, but only three books had a double-digit No. 1 run.

Not surprisingly, the Big 6 dominated the best-seller lists for hardcover titles. Random House had the most cloth bestsellers – 103. Penguin had 78. Those two will seek to merge in 2013. The other four barely equaled their combined total (Simon & Schuster, 59; Harper Collins, 54; Hachette, 50; Macmillan, 32).

The bestseller lists for 2012 includes a total of:

·         202 Hardcover fiction titles (179 in 2008)
·         222 Hardcover non-fiction titles (123 in 2008)
·         196 Mass market titles (205 in 2008)
·         122 trade paperback titles (56 in 2008)

For paperbacks, there was more competition, as eight publishers had at least 10 bestsellers. Penguin led with 70, Random House 64. Harlequin had 38 and Kensington 10. Hachette had 48, S & S 32, Harper Collins 29, and Macmillan 25.

If you write science fiction, you’ll only make money if your book becomes a movie.  Just one book sold over 100,000 copies. By comparison, all top 10 mystery bestsellers exceeded at least 121,000 copies sold, each beating out the top sci-fi book.

Audiobooks’ top 10 combined to outsell the top 10 science fiction titles.

Only seven books in the history genre sold 50,000+ copies each, but four of them sold over 250,000 copies per title.

Romance came up big. Nine bestsellers exceeded 250,000 sales, with five selling over a half-million copies each.

Business books as a genre were down 18% from a year ago, but four books each sold over 100,000 copies.

Even though it seems everyone eats out, eight cookbooks sold over 100,000 copies.

The biography/autobiography genre featured eight books with 250,000+ sales each.

Children’s fiction had a big year, thanks mainly to Suzanne Collins. Six of the eight best-selling books in the genre were by her – each selling no less than 598,000 copies.

Still absent from the best-seller lists are self-published books. Though many such books have flooded the marketplace -- and some are very good – many are under-marketed and poorly distributed. But, perhaps with the right PR behind them, we will see more titles from the self-published corridor.

In 2013, hundreds of millions of books shall be sold in America. Which ones will become bestsellers? Who knows?

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

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