Monday, January 18, 2016

Record Number Of Best-Sellers In 2015

A record number of print titles made the best-seller lists of Publishers Weekly in 2015.  

1,065 titles made a weekly list.  The odds of a book making the list are low -- anywhere from around 1 in 350 traditionally published print books (or 1 in 700 or more when you add in self-published titles).  

In 2014 1,030 titles hit the list and in 2013 – the first year the lists expanded from Top 15 to Top 25 in hardcover fiction, hardcover non-fiction, mass market and trade paperback, 997 titles made the lists.  This means that fewer titles stay on the list a long time, but plenty of books do stick around.

So which publishers dominated the best-seller lists?  Penguin Random House had hardcover books occupy 40% of the available best-seller slots.  The other Big 5 publishers combined to take 46.7% of the slots, with none bigger than Simon & Schuster, at 14.6%.

Paperback bestseller lists were a little more divided.  Penguin Random House still dominated, with a 34.2% share, then followed by Harper Collins with 21%, and Hachette Book Group at 14.4%.

13% of the trade paper best-seller list slots were filled by adult coloring books.  Other spots on the list were filled by books with movie tie-ins.  Popular series like the 50 Shades of Gray books, made the lists for many weeks as well.

So what’s the key to making a best-seller list on Publishers Weekly?  Sell a lot of books!

Actually, sell a bunch in a particular week, and you can be a best-seller.  Some genres and formats can have books hitting the list with as few as 2,000 sales in a 7-day period, which averages out to 300 copies a day.  A good marketing campaign with plenty of bookstore events could produce a best-seller.  A strong PR campaign or a well-oiled social media campaign can do it too.

Many books are not great.  Some stink.  Others are mediocre and a substantial amount reach a certain level of quality.  They are good enough or as good as others.  But just a few are actually amazing.  But even the top 1% in terms of quality don’t necessarily become best-sellers.  Case in point.  If 375,000 books came from the traditional publishers in 2015, and only 1,065 got on PW’s best-seller list, then less than a third of 1% of those titles made a list -- and not every single book that made the list was truly great.  Folks, it comes down to marketing manipulations, luck, timing, cover price and a number of factors as to what becomes a best-seller.  

Good luck in fulfilling your aspirations to crack the list.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016

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