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It's the Stieg Larsson show in 2010 paperback bestsellers. The first two books of his enormously successful trilogy racked up sales of more than 10,942,000 in their mass market and paperback editions. That's more than the combined sales of two other stellar sellers—James Patterson and Nora Roberts. Their combined sales total for 15 titles in mass and trade amounted to a bit more than 7,734,200.

As noted every year, the mass market bestsellers are by veterans of these annual charts, with almost no surprises. Nicholas Sparks had three mass market titles, with a combined sale of 2,770,816; Debbie Macomber had four with sales of 2,513,394; Danielle Steel's big three in 2010 had a 2,313,583 sales combination. Janet Evanovich was the only woman in 2010 with a single title that enjoyed sales of more than one million; her two 2010 titles sold 1,855,946 combined. In 2009, she was one of five women with single-title sales of more than one million.

The only two names that were not the usual on the mass market annual list was Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger. Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was celebrated in a 50th anniversary edition and had sales of 804,752; Salinger died in January 2010, and sales for The Catcher in the Rye amounted to 578,141.

Waning Mass Market Sales

In mass market, we asked publishers to report 2010 sales for titles that sold 500,000 copies or more during the 12-month period. This is the same criteria we have used since 2002. In that year, there were 107 books with sales of 500,000 copies or more (compare that to 1990, when 123 mass markets enjoyed sales of one million or more). The number of titles peaked in 2005, when 131 titles went over the 500,000 mark. In 2010, only 58 titles reported sales of at least 500,000. And in 2010, only 13 books exceeded sales of 750,000 copies or more; by contrast, in 2005, 39 titles broke the one-million–copy mark.

The high rollers also saw their unit sales melt away. In 2005, Nora Roberts had nine titles with sales of more than one million and two of them were over two million; her highest sale in 2010 was 785,000. Patterson had two over the million mark in 2005, but his highest in 2010 was 927,681; Dean Koontz had three titles over a million in 2005, but only one got as high as 948,000 copies. Nonfiction was never a major factor in mass market, but these days it is a total no-show. The 2005 list had seven nonfiction titles.

Trade Paper Faltering

Again, back in 2002 we asked publishers to submit trade paperback sales for 100,000 or more copies. Previously, the number was 50,000 unit sales, and PW raised the number because sales picked up in the 100,000-plus category. That year we counted 166 titles with sales of 100,000-plus, twice as many as the 1995 figure of 83 books. In 2005, the 100,000-plus figure soared to 226; in 2010 it dropped to 134. As for the big sellers, there were 12 titles with sales of 500,000 or more in 2010; a year earlier, the number was almost double, at 22.

The trade paperback list, as always, is much more eclectic than its mass market counterpart. And while popular commercial fiction is always strong, this is the list where literary fiction, including prize winners, get to shine. Little Bee, Cutting for Stone, The Finkler Question, The Old Cape Magic all had strong sales. And Oprah's most recent (perhaps last?) book club pick—A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations—racked up sales of more than 480,000. Food and diet were the most popular categories, with 18 top sellers on the 2010 charts. Movie tie-ins helped, and two figured in the one-million–plus category: Eat, Pray, Love and The Last Song. While the reviews for both were generally harsh, that did not seem to have an impact on book sales.

And that is the good news despite a falloff in bestseller sales. This listing is only a drop in the bucket of books published in 2010. Just keep reading.

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