Friday, January 24, 2014

Bestselling Book Analysis Reveals Surprises

Publishers Weekly examined its bestselling books for 2013 (Top 25 books each week for hardcover, trade paper, and mass market—fiction and non-fiction), and it revealed that amongst the biggest publishers, Random House had the most books (203) hit the list, and stayed there the longest (1147 weeks).  Penguin was a close second (193 books, 826 weeks).  The two are now one company, meaning they will own about 42% of all best-selling hardcover books and 33% of paperback ones.

The other key players are Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Macmillan.  Hyperion, Harlequin, and Kensington to a far smaller extent, were the only other bigger houses with at least double-digit totals for best-selling books.

The Big Six—now the Big Five—accounted in 2013 for 89.6% of all bestselling hardcover books and 70.7% of paperback bestsellers.  This list did not take into account digital book sales.

Many books lacked staying power.  They’d hit the list, then fall off.  Only 23 hardcover books—out of a zillion published titles—lasted at least 15 weeks on a bestseller list.  Only five were fiction.  Oddly, the same number—23—did the same thing for trade paperbacks.

997 books made the PW best-seller lists.  So what are the odds of making a print book best-seller list?  Over 300,000 books were printed by traditional publishers last year, so the odds are 1 in 300.  Then factor in self-published books, where estimates say another 600,000 could’ve been published.  Now your odds go down to 1 in 900 or so.

It seems being the #1 book is a short-lived feat.  There are four weekly bestseller lists that PW tracks.  So, in theory, there could be 208 #1 titles if each week’s top spot changed.  89 books hit #1 this past year—only three spent 10 or more weeks there.  40 books hit #1 for just one week.

So what does it all mean?

If you want a print book bestseller, the odds greatly favor that you go with a Big Five publisher, but even then, your chances are small.

If you hit a bestseller list, even greater odds are against you sticking around.

And if you really want to write a print book best-seller, make sure your name is John Grisham, E. L. James, Dan Brown, Susan Cain, or Sheryl Sandberg.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, 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 is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014.

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