Sally Rooney and Richard Osman were among the winners at this year's U.K.'s Nielsen BookData Bestseller Awards, which returned as a live event this year on January 23. The awards ceremony, run in partnership with BolognaBookPlus, took place at the Ham Yard Hotel in London.
The awards celebrate titles that passed sales landmarks in print in 2023: 250,000 copies (Silver), 500,000 copies (Gold), and a million copies (Platinum), while authors achieving lifetime sales of more than five million copies are awarded Author Platinum Awards. Overall, Nielsen reported that 199 million print books were sold in the U.K. in 2023, with a value of £1.83 billion ($2.32 billon), with the book industry supporting over 70,000 direct jobs and generating over £7 billion ($8.8 billion) of revenue. Print books accounted for about seven in every 10 sales.
In his opening remarks, Andre Breedt, managing director of Nielsen Book, celebrated the resilience of the UK book industry. “These awards,” he said, “are special because they celebrate success based on the ultimate measure, sales.” Jacks Thomas of BolognaBookPlus added: “Writing is hard—writing bestsellers is even harder.”
The first winner of the evening was the author who held the much-coveted number one spot at Christmas: G.T. Karber for Murdle, published by Souvenir Press. Beamed in from abroad, Karber thanked Nielsen for their “precious medals.” Miriam Margolyes had also recorded a message of thanks, for her Gold Award for This Much Is True. “I'm in Italy,” she revealed, “so that's another reason to be jealous. Half a million people have read my book! I just can't believe it.”
Platinum Award–winning author Richard Osman, who did not attend in person, announced remotely what a huge fan he was of Nielsen's data, adding: “This award [for The Bullet that Missed] is extraordinary and wonderful, and I’m going to cherish it.” Colleen Hoover also beamed in to receive a Gold Award for It Starts with Us and a Platinum Award for It Ends with Us.
Faber had a trio of authors on this year’s Bestseller Award list: Sally Rooney, awarded Gold for Beautiful World and Conservations with Friends and Platinum for Normal People; Kazuo Ishiguro with Gold for Klara and the Sun; and Claire Keegan winning Silver for Small Things Like These. Their awards were collected on their behalf by Faber editors Alex Bowler and Angus Cargill.
Having previously won an Author Platinum Award, Peter James was there in person to collect four Silver Awards for his Brighton-based police thrillers starring Superintendent Roy Grace. “I’m glad I’ve been doing some strength work in the gym,” he quipped as he accepted the framed certifications for selling over a quarter of million copies of Left you Dead, Find them Dead, Dead at First Sight, and Dead if you Don’t.
Elif Shafak accepted a Silver Award for selling over 250,000 copies of Island of the Missing Trees, a love story set on the divided island of Cyprus. “When I started writing this book,” she said, “and I realized that there was going to be a tree at the center of the book, and that this tree was going to talk, I was terrified. It was a risk. But I kept hearing the voice of the tree inside my head and my heart, so this Nielsen award is an indication that the voice of this tree was heard by many others too.”
Alexander Potter, author of 12 novels that have been translated into more than 25 languages, was delighted with her award for her novel Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up: “I’ve been writing for 25 years, and this is the first award I’ve ever got’, she said, ‘so I’m over the moon.”
Sally Page was there to collect a Gold Award for selling half a million copies of The Keeper of Stories, a debut novel that came out when she was just 60—“so it’s never too late,” she declared.
The Thakrar brothers, Shamil and Kavi, collected a Silver Award for the cookbook Dishoom: From Bombay with Love, with Khorsandi taking the opportunity to recommend one of her favorite restaurants in the world, the Britannia in Mumbai. “We feel like interlopers here because we’re not literary,” admitted Thakrar. “We can’t even cook, we’re just restaurateurs—and like Richard Osman says, we love your data.”
Axel Scheffler collected a Platinum Award for The Highway Rat, another collaboration with Julia Donaldson. “An award for a baddie—that’s unusual,” he said, adding: “I’m obviously only half of the team…. I don’t do words, that’s Julia’s job, so I just want to say thank you to everyone involved.”
Other authors there in person were Stacey Ellis, picking up a Silver Award for selling a quarter of a million copies of The Familiars; T.M. Logan, whose The Holiday has now sold half a million copies; Miranda Cowley Heller, who received a Gold Award for The Paper Palace; and Susan Lewis, receiving an Author Platinum Award for sales of over five million copies of her books. Despite writing “gazillions of words,” Lewis was, she admitted, now lost for them.
The final presentation of the evening was an Author Platinum Award for Victoria Hislop for selling over five million books. As she was currently in Greece launching her new novel The Figurine, her husband, Ian Hislop, was there to accept the award on her behalf. Much of her success was, he claimed, due to her “extraordinary husband”—though he admitted to feeling rather like the Duke of Edinburgh now, trudging along behind his much more famous wife.
During the ceremony, Nielsen also revealed various regional trends. Britney Spears’ memoir The Woman in Me was more popular in the northeast than anywhere else in the U.K. Readers in the Midlands made up the largest market share outside London for graphic novels, and buyers in southern parts of the U.K. were more likely to spend money on cookbooks than in the north. The Reverend Richard Coles’s The Murder Before Evensong was favored by readers in the southwest, Pinch of Nom Enjoy by Kate and Kay Allinson was most loved in Yorkshire, and Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients Mediterranean sold best in the south.
The following are all the evening’s winners:
Platinum (1 million copies sold)
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
- Normal People by Sally Rooney
- The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman
- The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
Gold (half a million copies sold)
- Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
- Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
- It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Holiday by T.M. Logan
- The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page
- This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes
- The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Silver (quarter of a million copies)
- Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter
- Dead at First Sight by Peter James
- Dead if You Don't by Peter James
- Find Them Dead by Peter James
- Left You Dead by Peter James
- Dishoom: From Bombay with Love by Shamil Thakrar
- Murdle by G.T. Karber
- Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
- The Familiars by Stacey Halls
- The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
Author Platinum (5 million sales in total)
- Susan Lewis
- Victoria Hislop
A version of this story originally ran in BookBrunch in the U.K. This article uses the U.K. sales data and publishers for the winning books.