It was much easier to characterize the bestseller terrain in the two years before 2014. Thanks to E.L. James and the Fifty Shades trilogy, erotic romance was the dominant theme in 2012 and the most frequently covered book story. Duck Dynasty and the Robertson clan got a lot of ink in 2013, with eight books written by various family members making the bestseller charts, three of which were on the longest-running hardcover nonfiction list.
In 2014, book sales seem to have been driven primarily by movie adaptations. The proof is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It boasts three appearances on the longest-running paperback charts, including two tie-in editions—one mass market and one trade—and the regular trade edition. Nicholas Sparks is also on the mass market and trade longest-running charts with tie-in editions of The Best of Me. Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken is also on the trade paper chart. It was a huge hardcover bestseller in 2011, #1 on that year’s longest-running list, and the advance movie publicity (it opened on Christmas) racked up trade paper sales in 2014.
Each year in this feature, we talk about conglomerate clout on the bestseller charts. That trend continued in 2014, and for an even smaller group of companies. Once there were 10 publishers listed on PW’s Bestsellers by Corporation table; last year there were nine. This year we have seven, and that number is likely to decline again next year. In August 2014, HarperCollins completed the purchase of Harlequin, and while at the moment there is no talk of a combined name, 2015 bestsellers from the two will be tallied under one corporate entity. This year’s table is the first in which Penguin Random House is ranked as a combined publisher. As separate publishers, Penguin and Random House were almost always the top two players on these charts. As a single entity, the company now owns nearly 40% of the hardcover bestseller real estate and almost 38% of the paperback.
Adding up all the shares of the 2014 group of seven underscores their bestselling power: they controlled 87.3% of the hardcover bestseller territory and 91% of the paperback lists. Lest writers begin to despair, keep in mind that we are only talking about bestsellers here—books that make up less than 1% of the total number of titles published annually.
While the number of its books that land on the weekly lists is key for a publisher, how long those books stay on the lists can be even more significant. In addition to the number of titles each house has on our bestseller lists in the course of the year, we add up how many “weeks” each publisher holds positions on those lists—in other words, if a company has 10 bestsellers on each of our four lists in 2014, and each title stayed on its respective list for four weeks, we would say that the house had 40 weeks on the lists (the total possible is 5,200 weeks, since we rank the top 25 books in four categories each week of the year). Last year the Hachette Book Group had 63 hardcover bestsellers on the lists—less than HarperCollins, which had 74, and Simon & Schuster, which had 68. But Hachette’s titles stayed on the list for 441 weeks, giving it a 17% share of hardcover real estate—considerably higher than its competitors’ share.
(Click here for an analysis of the bestselling children's titles of 2014.)
Getting the Gold
In 2013, 997 titles landed on our four adult bestseller charts—a hefty amount. Last year that number grew to 1,030. The largest increase was in the trade paperback list: 226 books made that list in 2014, compared to 187 the prior year. The largest decline was in the mass market list, which was down from 290 in 2013 to 264 last year. In mass market, new titles had longer tenures than in previous years: only 16.3% of the 264 mass market titles on the 2014 charts dropped out after one week, whereas 29.9% stayed on the list for two or three weeks. In 2013, those numbers were 17.6% and 37%, respectively. There were also more bestsellers with double-digit tenures: 7.6% in 2014, compared with 4.5%. the year before.
Meanwhile, the situation with trade paperbacks was almost the reverse: the number of double-digit tenures in 2014 dropped to 34, or 15% of the year’s 226 bestsellers. In 2013, 41 of the 187 titles on the list (22%) had double-digit runs. A whopping 144 trade paperback titles—67% of the total—stayed on the list for three weeks or fewer. A year earlier, there were 105 short runs on the trade paperback list, making up 56% of the total.
Veteran authors and nonfiction writers with platforms are prominent on these year-end charts. In hardcover fiction, 273 titles made a bestseller landing, but only five were by debut novelists. They deserve a shout out: Edan Lepucki (California), Erika Johansen (The Queen of the Tearling), Andy Weir (The Martian), Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You), and Matthew Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves). These authors enjoyed a total of 14 weeks on the charts. Compare that to the performance of five veteran novelists—James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, and Debbie Macomber. Their combined tenure last year on the hardcover fiction chart was 160 weeks.
Multiple landings were even more prevalent for authors who write mass market bestsellers. Fifteen authors had four or more titles on the weekly mass market lists, including William Johnston (16), Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb (15), James Patterson and his cowriters (12), and Debbie Macomber (11). Collectively, those 15 writers had 115 titles on the mass market list.
Nonfiction strong performers were an eclectic group that included several chart regulars—Bill O’Reilly, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and Steven D. Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The actor clocking the most time on PW’s weekly charts was Cameron Diaz for The Body Book, a winner in the popular health and fitness category that spent 21 weeks on the hardcover nonfiction list. Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, the lead title on the longest-running bestseller chart (see p. 22), points to the health category’s strength. Also, 2014 was the first year in at least a decade that no cookbook had a long tenure on the hardcover nonfiction list; in 2013, there were three cookbooks with long stays.
Religion publishers were also blessed in 2014: Thomas Nelson, FaithWords, Zondervan, Broadman & Holman, Tyndale, Waterbrook, and Abingdon had a total of 126 slots on the nonfiction charts. Four of their books—The Total Money Makeover, Instinct, The Daniel Plan, and I Am a Church Member—were on the longest-running chart. And even with less clucking by the Duck Dynasty clan, the Robertson’s racked up 52 bestseller slots in 2014.
Ninety-six titles were ranked #1 on the four major adult bestseller lists over the course of 2014—considerably more than in 2013, when 78 books reached the top spot. Only three titles lasted 10 or more weeks at the top, while 54 spent only one week in that privileged spot. Killing Patton, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, had a 10-week run as the top seller on the hardcover nonfiction list, and the movie tie-in edition of Gone Girl had a double-digit run atop the mass market list, while the trade paperback edition of Gone Girl spent 18 weeks at #1 on its list.
Thirty-five hardcover novels made it to #1 last year, of which 25 held the position for one week only. And 29 landed in that spot during their first week on sale, proving once again that the only way to make to the top is to get there straight out of the gate. The same is true for mass market’s 24 #1 bestsellers last year: 18 achieved that spot in the first week.
A curious bestseller that rounds out the longest-running hardcover list is The Mystery of Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn (Frontline). Shemitah is a complex set of rules that are pro-environment and are covered in the Old Testament, which says that every seven years, the fields should be left fallow for a year and all debts should be released (shemitah means release in Hebrew, and in the Torah it refers to the year in question). The current Shemitah began in September 2014, at the start of the Jewish New Year, and will be over next September. Most of the traditions are only observed by some in Israel, but what we can all take from this is that when ancient rulings still resonate 3,000 years later and a book on the subject hits the general bestseller charts, there is a message. While the book dwells a lot on the Shemitah and its relation to finance, it also touches on revitalization and building a stronger future. And that is something we can all work toward.
Bestsellers by Corporation
How the large companies fared on PW’s 2014 charts
|Company||# of Bks||# of Wks||Share*||Chg from 2013||# of Bks||# of Wks||Share*||Chg from 2013|
|Penguin Random House||235||1,036||39.8%||-2.6%||167||982||37.8%||4.3%|
|Simon & Schuster||68||300||11.5%||-1.6%||44||216||8.3%||-4.7%|
|Hachette Book Group USA||63||441||17.0%||1.6%||55||419||16.1%||0.2%|
*This figure represents the publisher’s share of the 2,600 hardcover and 2,600 paperback bestseller positions during 2014 (there are 25 positions on each of our four weekly bestseller lists).
PW’s 2014 Longest-running Bestsellers
|# of weeks on |
2014 top 25 list
|42||The Goldfinch |
Little, Brown (9)
|34||All the Light We Cannot See |
Simon & Schuster
|30||*The Invention of Wings |
Sue Monk Kidd.
|28||The Husband’s Secret |
|18||*Sycamore Row |
|17||Somewhere Safe with Somebody |
|15||*Edge of Eternity |
|# of weeks on |
2014 top 25 list
|39||Grain Brain: |
The Surprising Truth About Wheat,
Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent
Little, Brown (12)
|31||*Killing Jesus |
Bill O’Reilly and Martin
Henry Holt (13)
|31||David and Goliath: |
Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of
Little, Brown (12)
|29||Everything I Need to Know I Learned |
from a Little Golden Books
Random House/Golden Books
|26||The Total Money Makeover: |
A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
|24||I Am Malala: |
The Girl Who Stood Up for Education
and Was Shot by the Taliban
Little, Brown (11)
|21||*The Body Book: |
The Law of Hunger, the Science
of Strength, and Other Ways to
Love Your Amazing Body
|21||The Doctor’s Diet: |
Dr. Travis Stork’s STAT Program to Help
You Loose Weight & Restore Your
|21||*One Nation: |
What We Can All Do to Save
|19||*Flash Boys: |
A Wall Street Revolt
|18||Capital in the Twenty-First Century |
The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive
Imagine a World Without Her
|16||*Things that Matter: |
Three Decades of Passions,
Pastimes and Politics
Crown Forum (9)
|16||Think Like a Freak: |
The Authors of Freakonomics
Offer to Retrain Your Brain
Steven D. Leavitt and
Stephen J. Dubner.
|16||*What If? |
Serious Scientific Answers
to Absurb Hypothetical
Houghtn Mifflin Harcourt
|15||The Daniel Plan: |
40 Days to a Healthier Life
|15||I Am a Church Member: |
Discovering the Attitude That
Makes the Difference
Thom S. Rainer.
Broadman and Holman
|15||Guinness World Records 2015 |
Guinness World Records.
|# of weeks on |
2014 top 25 list
|Mass Market Paperback|
|19||*Sycamore Row |
|18||*The Best of Me (movie tie-in) |
|18||*Gone Girl (movie tie-in) |
|15||A Dance with Dragons |
George R.R. Martin.
|15||The Racketeer |
|# of weeks on |
2014 top 25 list
|43||The Power of Habit: Why We Do |
What We Do in Life and Business
|36||Gone Girl |
|31||The Boys in the Boat: |
Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest
for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown.
|29||*Heaven Is for Real: |
A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of
His Trip to Heaven and Back
|27||10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse: |
Lose up to 15 Pounds in 10 Days!
|25||Brain On Fire: |
My Month of Madness
Simon & Schuster (14)
|22||Four Blood Moons: |
Something Is About to Change
A World War II Story of Survival,
Resilience, and Redemption
|19||The Rosie Project: |
Simon & Schuster
|18||The Longest Ride |
|18||Behind the Beautiful Forever: |
Life, Death, and Hope in a
|18||Me Before You |
|18||The Best of Me (movie tie-in) |
|17||Orphan Train |
Christina Baker Kline.
|17||The Cuckoo’s Calling |
|16||*Gone Girl |
|15||The Mystery of Shemitah: The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future! |
*Asterisked titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2014 tenure on PW’s weekly top-25 lists.
Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the title spent on PW’s top-25 lists prior to 2014.
Ranking the Houses: How the Divisions and Imprints Competed in 2014
|Publisher||# of Book||# of Weeks|
|Simon & Schuster||23||89|
|Spiegel & Grau||7||16|
|Wizards of the Coast||6||9|
|Farrar, Straus and Giroux||5||19|
|Broadman & Holman||3||21|
|St. Martin’s Griffin||2||9|
|Prime Test Kitchen||2||4|
|Feiwel & Friends||1||10|
|Time Home Entertainment||1||1|
|Hard Case Crime||1||1|
|Simon & Schuster||7||70|
|St. Martin’s Griffin||6||44|
|World Almanac Books||2||5|
|Old Farmer’s Almanac||2||3|
|Spiegel & Grau||1||1|
|Stewart, Tabori & Chang||1||1|
|Dark Horse Comics||1||1|
|Guinness World Records||1||1|
The numbers reflect first-time landings on the bestseller lists during a given year.
2013 was the first time that the numbers reflected the top 25 books for each list; previous calculations were based on the top 15.