Back in March 2000, the big publishing news was Stephen King's novella Riding the Bullet being published exclusively in e-book format. King was the first major bestselling author to publish in an electronic format. At the time, Simon & Schuster spokesperson Adam Rothberg was widely quoted saying: "This could change the model of publishing."
This year, for the first time in PW's 100+ years of annual features on bestsellers, the magazine collected statistics on e-book sales. We asked publishers (and only publishers that had print bestsellers with sales of more than 100,000 in 2010) to submit e-books with sales of more than 10,000 last year. The response from the houses was mixed. Many declined to share this information, others only submitted selected titles. Still, we collected statistics on about 275 books—enough to underscore that the publishing model has indeed changed and that what is available in e-book format is ubiquitous.
Check out this first list and you will find familiar authors in familiar spots. Many top-selling authors on the 2010 hardcover chart are among the e-book top-sellers, including Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, with electronic sales of 775,000 compared to 1.9 million in print. John Grisham, James Patterson (at least 12 e-book hits), Nicholas Sparks, Stephen King, and more are high and plentiful on both charts. There is also plenty of backlist, as classics like Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatsby, and How to Win Friends and Influence People reap solid e-book sales.
In his March 13 blog, Mike Shatzkin's headline noted, "E-books are making me recall the history of mass market publishing." He also wrote: "The anti-paperback snobbery was widespread, and the separation between trade and mass market publishing persisted for a long time. For at least a couple of decades, paperback houses didn't do hardcovers." That's history now. But Shatzkin's last sentence resonates in today's fast-changing book marketplace. "Much less expensive editions, combined with access to audiences for authors that couldn't get past the gatekeepers in the established houses, can create millions of new readers." Anything that creates more readers is a boon for all kinds of publishers.
"The times they are a-changin,' " sang Bob Dylan back in 1964. It is the first part of that sentence that publishers are all singing: "You better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone."
Note: asterisked titles were submitted in confidence, for use in placing titles on the lists. Those numbers are rounded down to indicate their relationship to figures for other titles; in several cases the sales figures were omitted entirely, at the publishers' request.
For e-book sales of children's and YA books, click here.
E-book Sales, 2010
1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Stieg Larsson. Knopf (775,000)
2. The Confession. John Grisham. Doubleday (*550,000)
3. Decision Points. George W. Bush. Crown (307,216)
4. Sh*t My Dad Says. Justin Halpern. HarperCollins/It Books (242,000)
5. Freedom. Jonathan Franzen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (230,772)
6. I, Alex Cross. James Patterson. Little, Brown (152,626)
7. The Last Song. Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central (134,934)
8. Under the Dome. Stephen King. Scribner
9. Dear John. Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central (130,042)
10. American Assassin. Vince Flynn. Atria (*120,000)
11. The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold. Little, Brown (118,583)
12. Shutter Island. Dennis Lehane. Morrow (115,528)
13. The 9th Judgment. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Little, Brown (114,998)
14. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca Skloot. Crown (110,273)
15. Safe Haven. Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central (108,849)
16. Private. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Little, Brown (107,334)
17. The Postcard Killers. James Patterson and Liza Marklund. Little, Brown (100,490)
18. The 4-Hour Body. Timothy Ferriss. Crown Archetype (91,804)
19. Dead Witch Walking. Kim Harrison. Eos (90,922)
20. Little Bee. Chris Cleave. Simon & Schuster (*90,000)
21. The Lion. Nelson DeMille. Grand Central (85,819)
22. Fly Away Home. Jennifer Weiner. Atria
23. The Reversal. Michael Connelly. Little, Brown (85,121)
24. House Rules. Jodi Picoult. Atria (*80,000)
25. Deliver Us from Evil. David Baldacci. Grand Central (78,951)
26. Rage of Angels. Sidney Sheldon. Morrow (77,264)
27. Innocent. Scott Turow. Grand Central (73,215)
28. Don't Blink. James Patterson and Howard Roughan. Little, Brown (72,776)
29. Room. Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown (71,919)
30. Half Broke Horses. Jeannette Walls. Scribner (*66,000)