Last week's Outlook 2004 feature focused on future trends, analyzing how vertical integration will change relationships among authors, publishers and retailers. It may also change the nature of these bestseller charts. However, this week, our annual wrap-up deals with the present state of bestsellers—who held the winning hands in 2003, and how that differed from the last three to five years.

The news from the bestseller front proves that there is opportunity for new faces—in 2003, publisher Stroud & Hall hit the hardcover nonfiction charts with its first and only book, National Party No More, while 12-year-old Lake Isle Press made its very first appearances on PW's competitive trade paper list with two editions of 30-Minute Meals. Eight debut fiction titles hit the 2003 lists; two others—The Lovely Bones and I Don't Know How She Does It—were holdovers from the 2002 lists. That year, 11 first fictions debuted on the charts, for a total of 104 weeks (6.8% of all available slots in the course of the year). In 2003, these 10 new novelists racked up 117 weeks—7.6% of all hardcover slots. Five list veterans—James Patterson, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Danielle Steel—placed a total of 14 books on the 2003 charts, with a combined total of 119 weeks.

A bestseller article covering 2003 would not be complete without mentioning newcomer Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code was not his first book, it was his fourth, but he dominated last year's lists. Doubleday launched the book with a one-day laydown and a first printing of about 218,000 copies; 39 printings later, the book has 4.8 million copies in print. Not only was it on the 2003 charts for 39 weeks, it was #1 for 25 of those weeks (and still leads the hardcover fiction list). Da Vinci's outstanding performance also spurred excellent sales for Brown's backlist. Angels & Demons and Deception Point (both from Pocket Books) were on the mass market charts for 36 weeks and 16 weeks, respectively, and a third backlist book, Digital Fortress from St. Martin's, was on the trade paper list for two weeks.

Another new face on the fiction charts was Mitch Albom, with the long-awaited novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven. His Tuesdays with Morrie was a familiar sight for four years on the hardcover nonfiction side; it has a U.S. total of about six million in hardcover and 500,000 copies in trade paperback. Hyperion pointed out that it took Morrie four years to reach that milestone while Five People was up to 2.8 million copies in print in less than three months.

What was hot on in nonfiction? Diet books led the pack; five hardcovers in this category racked up a hefty 42 weeks in the #1 spot (TheSouth Beach Diet grabbed 22 of these spots). The distant second most-popular category was biography—Queen Noor, Hillary Clinton and Katharine Hepburn spent a total of just seven weeks between them in the top spot. Kate Remembered, by A. Scott Berg, was also the year's best-kept publishing secret. The book, published 13 days after the actress's death in late June, was 20 years in the making.

The longest-running nonfiction bestseller, Zondervan's The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., benefited from an effective word-of-mouth campaign. The book's launch was supported by a national "40 Days of Purpose" campaign sponsored by Saddleback involving more than 1,550 churches representing all 50 states and nine countries.

Politics was another strong nonfiction category. George Bush opponents/supporters and election issues—as well as political figures from conservative and liberal viewpoints—were the grist of many of the year's bestsellers.

For the first time in three years, more than two mass market bestsellers had tenures of 15 weeks or longer. In fact, there are seven mass markets on 2003's longest-running list. The perennial Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution did not miss a week during 2003 and took the #1 spot 28 times; so far, it boasts 304 weeks on the mass market list. Another nonfiction mass market top seller was the movie tie-in Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand; it had a 16-week run and the trade paper tie-in had a 43-week run.

Clearly, movies played a strong role in making the top-selling books of the year. Dennis Lehane's Mystic River was on the mass market charts for 16 weeks last year (when the paper reprint first appeared back in 2002, it stayed on the charts for only three weeks). The movie-book influence was also evident on the trade paper list beyond Seabiscuit. Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize—winning novel The Hours was made into a very successful movie; the book enjoyed a 51-week run on the trade paperback charts (18 of them in 2003). The inspiration for the novel was Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, first published in 1925; it enjoyed a 15-week run on our trade paperback charts in 2003. Frank W. Abagnale's Catch Me if You Can, first published in 1980, made it onto the trade charts for two months as a result of the very successful film. Leading the list at the end of 2003 were two other tie-ins, Cold Mountain in the #1 slot and, at #6, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander.

The trade paperback lists continued to be a generous host to fiction, especially those literary in nature. In fact, about 80% of the titles on the 2003 trade paper lists were novels. One of the longest-running titles in 2003 was Yann Martel's Booker Prize winner, Life of Pi. Julia Glass's Three Junes won the 2002 National Book Award and, as a result, enjoyed a 27-week run on the 2003 lists.

Conglomerate Clout

The same five conglomerates continue to control most of the bestseller real estate—Random House Inc., Penguin USA, Simon & Schuster, Time Warner and HarperCollins. And Big Random continues to be significantly in the lead—its bestselling real estate, both hardcover and paperback, is almost double that of the runner-up, Penguin USA. While Random did gain an impressive 3.2% in hardcover from 2002 to 2003, it still stands about 10% lower than it did in 1999, when it held almost 40% of the hardcover bestseller real estate. Back in 1998, when Bantam Doubleday Dell was a separate corporate entity, its command of available bestselling spots was 43%. Random House Inc. led the paperback pack, too, with 30.2%, gaining 3.7% in a year (in both formats, RH enjoyed a larger gain than any other publisher). The publisher's best paperback year was also 1998, when RH and BDD held more than 40% of those slots. Fueling the 2003 hardcover growth was the Doubleday division, taking double the number of hardcover slots in 2003 than it did in 2002. Helping achieve that higher level was the aforementioned Dan Brown; Lauren Weisberger's debut novel, The Devil Wears Prada; and three books by John Grisham, The King of Torts, Bleachers and SkippingChristmas. Kudos to Anchor Books for paperback growth; its four bestsellers—Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, ThreeJunes and Atonement —accounted for 105 slots on the weekly trade paper charts; in 2002, Anchor had two books with a total of 15 weeks between them.

The only other publishers to post hardcover gains were Rodale, thanks solely to The South Beach Diet, and Thomas Nelson, with three books on the weekly charts, including 17 weeks for The Savage Nation, published by its WND Books imprint. In paperback, Time Warner had the largest drop in bestseller real estate—7.7%. In 2002, Time Warner had four titles on the longest-running list, for a total of 106 weeks; in 2003, two books had a combined total of 39 weeks on the charts.

Still, the big five publishers continue to control the majority of the bestseller slots. In 2003, these top five held about 75% of all the hardcover real estate; the 10 publishers on the "Bestsellers by Corporation" chart (p. 30) had 93.2%. In paperback, the top five had 78.3%, and the top eight had about 91%.

Comparing the Numbers

In 2003, 420 books hit the bestseller charts for the first time. This was almost identical to 2002's 421; the record was set in 2001, when a total of 433 books made a first appearance on our four lists. The only 2003 list that saw a gain was hardcover fiction—a record-setting 137 new titles; the previous high in that category was 127, the tally for 2002 and 2001. Hardcover nonfiction had 86 new players, down from the record set in 2002 of 90 nonfiction newcomers. In mass market, 145 new titles landed on the weekly charts, down from the 2002 figure of 153; 2001 was the record year, when 164 new mass markets made it to the charts. Trade paperbacks held steady for two years in a row—52. The highest number for this list was set in 1993, when 60 books made the weekly charts.

Getting on the lists is the first goal for publishers and their authors; staying on is the second. This past year, fewer books were successful in the latter. Only 11 of the 137 new fiction titles had double-digit runs (to qualify for our longest-running list, a book must appear for 15 or more weeks in one calendar year). Runs of one month or less were achieved by 79 of these titles, and 43 had runs of just one or two weeks. In nonfiction, 42 of the 86 new bestsellers had runs of less than one month. Nineteen nonfiction titles had double-digit runs.

Mass markets generally lack staying power, and this year was no exception. While there were more mass markets on the longest running chart than in the past (10 of them with double-digit tenures), about 62% of the mass markets that landed on our list remained there for a month or less (94 titles).

Trade paperback is the category where books enjoy serious longevity. Seventeen titles made it onto the longest running chart, just two fewer than the record set in 1998. Less than 30% of the 2003 trade paperback bestsellers had stays of a month or less. Sixteen new titles had double-digit runs, as did eight others from previous years.

Going for the Gold

Given the increasing scarcity of bestseller space, publishers are trying to make the most of a title's limited window of opportunity for the top spot. The leading strategy seems to be a one-day laydown, with lots of pre- and post-pub brouhaha. Michael Crichton's Prey and Alice Sebold's TheLovely Bones—books that were already on the list when 2003 began—spent one and three weeks, respectively, in the #1 spot during 2003. The other 12 fiction titles landed in the coveted top spot during their first week in the stores. Nine stayed on top for just one or two weeks. Grisham's The King of Torts had a five-week run and TheFive People You Meet in Heaven spent four weeks at the top. The Da Vinci Code commanded the lead for 25 weeks, limiting and/or blocking entry for several veteran authors. James Patterson, Stephen King, Danielle Steel and Mary Higgins Clark were among those who had to settle for the #2 spot. In 2002, 24 novels made it to the #1 spot, and 20 of them achieved that prize in the first week; that remains the record.

Nonfiction also saw fewer players in the lead. The 2003 figure was 10 books, considerably less than the 18 in 2002. Two books dominated the list—The South Beach Diet, with 22 weeks, and Atkins for Life, with 14; that added up to about 75% of the top-rung chances. Hillary Clinton's Living History came in third; it had a four-week run at #1.

Of the 145 mass market books to hit that list, only 10 got to #1. The #1 spot was monopolized by Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution for 28 weeks, accounting for 55% of the available opportunities. Seabiscuit was second, holding the lead for six weeks, and Grisham's The Summons had the top spot for four weeks. Even fewer trade paperbacks got a shot at #1—only eight books landed in the lead. Sue Monk Kidd's first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, kept the top spot for 25 weeks last year; that's almost 50% of the time. Both of Oprah's choices for her new classics book club made it to the #1 spot as soon as she announced them. Her first selection, East of Eden, had a five-week run at #1 and stayed on the charts for a total of 20 weeks. Her second pick, Cry the Beloved Country, stayed at #1 for just a week and so far has been on the trade paperback list for eight weeks.

So, for 2003, that's all, folks. What's ahead? This bestseller pundit predicts more success on the debut fiction front—an area where publishers work hard and spend lots to achieve that dream. Look for gains in the thriller category and in commercial women's fiction. In nonfiction, politics will continue to dominate the list, but it's a field that's overpublished and a large percentage of titles won't hit their mark. Continued media focus on diet and spirituality (strange bedfellows?) will generate more sales, but it will be survival for only the fittest—titles that offer solid platforms, familiar personalities and trustworthy credentials. In mass market, the chartmakers will remain the same—genre fiction, bestseller reprints, movie tie-ins and the occasional nonfiction (having Atkins as part of the title will help).

But the fact remains that the best performers each year are books that would not have been sighted in most crystal balls. Who could have predicted The Da Vinci Code, The South Beach Diet, even Atkins still leading the pack after more than four years on the charts? And who would have guessed that The Secret Life of Bees would out-sting the trade paperback competition? Clearly, it's all in the buzz.

How the large companies fared on PW's 2003 charts

+/- FROM '02
Random House Inc. 77 434 28.4% +3.2% 68 469 30.2% +3.7%
Penguin USA 48 231 15.1 +0.2 36 215 14.1 +1.4
Simon & Schuster 33 164 10.7 -2.3 27 165 10.8 -0.3
Time Warner 21 164 10.7 -2.0 19 134 8.6 -7.7
HarperCollins 27 160 10.5 -1.1 29 223 14.6 +1.7
Von Holtzbrinck 18 108 7.1 -0.4 17 93 6.2 +1.8
Hyperion 12 94 6.1 0.0
Rodale 1 36 2.4 +2.4
Thomas Nelson 3 23 1.5 +1.5
Harcourt 1 11 0.7 -0.3 3 51 3.3 +3.3
Silhouette 14 51 3.3 +0.2
*This figure reresents the publisher's share of 1,530 hardcover of 1,530 paperback bestseller positions in 2003.

How the divisions and imprints competed in 2003

Putnam 31 165
Doubleday 16 157
Little, Brown 13 114
Simon & Schuster 13 79
Random House 12 77
HarperCollins 11 46
Bantam 11 38
St. Martin's 10 74
Morrow 10 26
Hyperion 9 62
Dutton 9 38
Scribner 8 24
Ballantine 8 22
Warner Books 7 49
Delacorte 6 25
Knopf 6 24
Atria 6 21
Broadway 4 39
Free Press 4 29
Regnery 4 21
Viking 4 13
Talk Miramax 3 32
Norton 3 25
Tor 3 21
Regan Books 3 18
Crown 3 14
Del Rey/Lucas 3 5
Berkley 2 9
Thomas Nelson 2 6
Riverhead 2 6
Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2 5
Guinness 2 5
Hay House 2 4
St. Martin's/Dunne 2 3
Zondervan 1 46
Rodale 1 36
HarperBusiness 1 23
WND 1 17
New World Library 1 16
Crown Forum 1 12
Harcourt 1 11
Houghton Mifflin 1 8
Tyndale 1 8
Scribner/Grant 1 6
Crown Business 1 5
Forge 1 5
WWE 1 5
Del Rey 1 4
Dial 1 4
Modern Library 1 4
Stroud & Hall 1 4
DK Publishing 1 3
3H Productions 1 3
Wizards of the Coast 1 3
Broadman & Holman 1 2
MacAdam/Cage 1 2
Doubleday/Talese 1 2
Andrews McMeel 1 1
Harmony 1 1
HarperEntertainment 1 1
Pantheon 1 1
Warner Aspect 1 1
Pocket Books 18 121
Bantam 15 54
Avon 14 92
Warner 12 66
Berkley 12 54
St. Martin's 10 29
Ballantine 9 50
Jove 8 37
Dell 8 32
Del Rey 8 28
Signet 7 21
HarperTorch 6 41
Silhouette 6 21
Pocket Star 5 11
Warner Vision 4 25
Zebra 4 11
Dell Island 3 30
Harlequin 3 17
Tor 2 5
Kensington 2 4
Mira 2 2
Warner Forever 1 4
Leisure 1 3
NAL 1 3
Fawcett 1 2
Onyx 1 1
Regan Books 1 1
Vintage 7 24
Broadway 6 43
Anchor 4 105
Penguin 3 71
Harcourt/Harvest 3 51
Picador 3 39
LB/Back Bay 3 17
Warner 2 39
WSP 2 27
Perennial 2 26
Free Press 2 23
St. Martin's/Griffin 2 22
Lake Isle Press 2 17
Delta 2 15
Berkley 2 14
World Almanac 2 10
Harlequin 2 6
Yankee 2 3
Ballantine 1 43
Quill 1 38
M. Evans 1 31
Workman 1 18
Random House 1 10
Plume 1 9
Meredith 1 8
Scribner 1 8
Grove 1 6
Harper San Francisco 1 6
Three Rivers Press 1 6
Norton 1 5
Silhouette 1 5
Tarcher 1 5
Good Books 1 3
HarperResource 1 2
HCI 1 2
Holt/Owl 1 2
Marlowe 1 2
Regnery 1 2
S&S/Touchstone 1 2


*The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold. Little, Brown (25) 40
*The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown. Doubleday 39
*The King of Torts. John Grisham. Doubleday 25
The Devil Wears Prada. Lauren Weisberger. Doubleday 24
*The Purpose-Driven Life. Rick Warren. Zondervan 46
*Atkins for Life. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. St. Martin's 40
*The South Beach Diet. Arthur Agatston, M.D. Rodale 36
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson. Putnam (154) 27
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't. Jim Collins. HarperBusiness (22) 23
What Should I Do with My Life? Po Bronson. Random House 21
*Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life. Queen Noor. Miramax 19
The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Languages & Culture. Michael Savage. WND Books 17
Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.... Al Franken. Dutton 17
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Eckhart Tolle. New World Library (3) 16
The Essential 55: An Award Winning Educator's Rules. Ron Clark. Hyperion 16
*Living History. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Simon & Schuster 16
Stupid White Men... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation. Michael Moore. Regan Books (31) 15
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Michael Lewis. Norton 15
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Walter Isaacson. Simon & Schuster 15
*These titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2003 presence on PW's bestseller list.

Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the book was on PW's list prior to 2003.


*Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. Avon (253) 51
*Angels & Demons. Dan Brown. Pocket 36
*The Summons. John Grisham. Dell 18
The Beach House. James Patterson and Peter De Jonge. Warner 17
Deception Point. Dan Brown. Pocket 16
*Mystic River. Dennis Lehane. HarperTorch (3) 16
*Seabiscuit. Laura Hillenbrand. Ballantine 16
*The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd. Penguin 46
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Alexander McCall Smith. Anchor 44
*Seabiscuit: An American Legend Laura Hillenbrand. Ballantine Reader's Circle (25) 43
Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. Quill (15) 38
Life of Pi. Yann Martel. Harcourt/Harvest 35
Dr. Atkins' New Carbohydrate Gram Counter. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. M. Evans 31
Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert Kiyosaki with Sharon Lechter. Warner (129) 30
Three Junes. Julia Glass. Anchor 27
Bel Canto. Ann Patchett. Perennial (29) 24
*The Nanny Diaries. Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. St. Martin's/Griffin 20
*East of Eden. John Steinbeck. Penguin 20
*Atonement. Ian McEwan. Anchor 19
*The Hours. Michael Cunningham. Picador (33) 18
What to Expect When You're Expecting H. Murkoff et al. Workman (202) 18
Self Matters: Creating Your Life from the Inside Out. Phillip C. McGraw. Free Press 16
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Dai Sijie. Anchor (7) 15
Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf. Harcourt/Harvest 15
*These titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2003 presence on PW's bestseller list.

Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the book was on PW's list prior to 2003.