components/article_pagination.html not found (No such file or directory)

It seems almost retro to be writing an article on 2011 bestsellers focused on print only, especially in a year that saw major gains in e-book sales and when one of the hottest holiday gifts was a Kindle. Current estimates put e-book sales at about 20% of total book sales, with higher figures projected for this year. According to an online CNNMoney report, the Kindle e-reader was Amazon’s top seller in December, boasting more than a million Kindles each week during the gift-shopping season. The story also noted that 2011 sales of e-book readers at Amazon outpaced 2010 sales by more than 175%.

The report also noted that Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs, was the retailer’s #1 book in December, with enough print copies sold to create a stack that would be higher than Mt. Everest. So bestseller history for print books will prevail for at least another year (or longer) as we analyze the ups and downs of bestseller real estate for print copies.

Short but Still Sweet

A trend that continues year after year is more titles landing on PW’s weekly bestseller charts, but with shorter tenures. In 2011, a total of 686 books landed on the four weekly top 15 charts; 2010 had 648 and five years earlier (2006), the total was 495. Both hardcover nonfiction and trade paperbacks set records for the number of books making a first appearance—199 for nonfiction and 84 for trade.

There were also a large number of titles ensconced on the charts from previous years, including 17 nonfiction hardcovers and 22 trade paperbacks. It is easy to see why getting on these weekly charts is a coup. It is even more difficult to achieve long-term attraction. In fiction, less than 25% of the 203 new titles on the charts lasted for more than a month; more than 25% only had a single appearance. Double-digit runs in fiction were also scarce, with only four 2010 holdovers and five 2011 new titles staying on the list for that length. The figures in nonfiction also continued the trend of more books with shorter runs. Less than 20% had a bestseller run of more than four weeks; 47% were on for a single appearance. Chances for a double-digit run were a tad better, with four 2010 holdovers and 12 newcomers making that grade in 2011.

The same scenario describes mass market longevity. Here, too, about 20% were on the list for five or more weeks, and single appearances were marked by 55 titles, accounting for about 27% of the new titles. It was a hard scramble to get to double digits in this category unless your name was George R.R. Martin. Four of his books did just that, and another four 2011 newcomers also enjoyed long tenures, including books by Michael Connelly, Sara Gruen, John Grisham, and James Patterson. Bestseller tenure was more prevalent in trade paperback; 35% had runs of five or more weeks, but at the same time almost 50% only had a single appearance. As usual, the news was also more upbeat for double-digit runs; 12 first-landers were on the list for 10 or more weeks as well as nine holdovers.

Considering the tougher competition, debut fiction had a good showing in 2011, though achieving traction was also a hard feat. Ten first fiction landed in 2011, but only two stayed on the charts for more than a month: The Night Circus managed seven weeks and The Art of Fielding held on for five weeks. Kudos to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, which continued its bestselling longevity in 2011 with an additional 18-week run, giving her 97 weeks total on the fiction list. The popular and critically acclaimed movie tie-in gave Stockett a 36-week run in trade paperback.

components/article_pagination.html not found (No such file or directory)