Is it the economy? Is it the aftereffects of September 11? Is it because there are too many books being written and published? Perhaps other leisure-time activities are gaining in popularity? Whatever—the fact is that in 2002, there were many shifts in the bestseller power game. A sign of the times or a preview of future trends? The following analysis of what happened on PW's weekly charts may offer enlightenment.

What were the bestselling categories for the year, and how have they changed over the last five or 10 years? In hardcover fiction, the big names still garner the most slots on the charts: John Grisham, James Patterson, Danielle Steel, Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark had a total of 15 books on last year's hardcover fiction charts; that's 16.6% of all available slots in the course of the year. At the same time, 11 debut fiction titles held a total of 104 weeks on the 2002 charts—13.6% of all slots, and one of the strongest performances for first fiction in more than five years.

In hardcover nonfiction, how-to/self-improvement titles were very strong—these books took the #1 spot about 55% of the time. In fact, Self Matters: Creating Your Life from the Inside Out by Phillip C. McGraw was the only nonfiction hardcover that enjoyed a double-digit run in first place—13 weeks in all. Six of the 11 longest-running hardcover nonfiction bestsellers in 2002 are in this category; these six alone (and there were many other self-help top sellers) accounted for about 25% of all available slots on the year's weekly charts. The most published category (some would say overpublished) were books relating to September 11 (including titles on terrorism). Sixteen titles in this category appeared on the weekly charts, 11 of them on the lists for four weeks or less; 9/11—related books took up about 9% of the nonfiction slots. That's roughly the same percentage achieved by seven 2002 bestsellers that had a very strong conservative political slant—yet another nonfiction publishing trend last year.

There were no changes in what holds court on the mass market list: bestseller reprints, category romance, Dr. Atkins and Nora Roberts. While John Grisham's A Painted House was the only mass market to have a double-digit run in the #1 spot, seven of Roberts's 2002 mass market bestsellers (she also had four bestsellers on the trade paperback list and two on the hardcover fiction list) enjoyed a total of 16 weeks at the top; her 10 mass market bestsellers accounted for about 8% of the spots on that list.

In trade paperback, literary fiction, as well as selected commercial fiction, shined. Eight works of fiction, of the 19 longest-running trade paperbacks, took up about 26% of the bestseller slots; in total, trade paper fiction held more than 50% of the slots. That's up considerably from 10 years ago—in 1992, fiction took about 25% of the trade paper slots.

The Power Players

The five usual suspects—read: conglomerates—continued to control the largest chunk of bestseller real estate. In hardcover, Random House Inc., Penguin Putnam Inc., Simon & Schuster, Time Warner and HarperCollins took 77.4% of the available slots; in paperback, the figure was 79.5%. Add just two more hardcover players—Von Holtzbrinck and Hyperion—and the hardcover figure goes to 91%; and add three more publishers with multiple books on the charts—Regnery, Tyndale and Multnomah—and the 10 control 95.5% of all available slots. In 2001, the same 10 firms controlled a mere 92.6% of the year's hardcover spots. On the paperback side, that 79.5% figure increases to 85.8% when you add Von Holtzbrinck and Hyperion, and goes up to 91.4% when you toss in Tyndale, Silhouette and Health Communications. That figure is unchanged from 2001.

While the Big Five still control the bestseller real estate, some did not fare so well in 2002. It was the third year in a row for percentage losses for Random House Inc. on the hardcover side. The falloff came in part from fewer long-running hardcover nonfiction titles. In 2002, two Random titles on that chart accounted for a combined 34 weeks; back in 2001, Random had five nonfiction hardcovers with a combined tally of 102 weeks. Penguin Putnam was down about 3% in hardcover and more than 11% in paperback. A look at the trade paperback lists of the last two years explains a good percentage of that loss. In 2002, there were no books from the conglomerate among longest-running trade paper bestsellers; in 2001, there were five, with a combined tally of 132 weeks.

The Von Holtzbrinck Group (which includes St. Martin's and Farrar, Straus & Giroux) had the largest gain in hardcover—4.2% to be exact. Time Warner gained 3.2% in hardcover and had the largest gain in paperback, 6.3%. For the former, the jump can be credited to placing more books on the weekly charts plus The Nanny Diaries (from St. Martin's), which had the longest bestselling hardcover fiction tenure. Little, Brown's very successful debut fiction The Lovely Bones and four James Patterson winners made the difference on the hardcover side, but again it was longevity that accounted for Time Warner's paperback success—five long-tenured titles on the trade list for a tally of 156 weeks; in 2001, it had just two, with a combined 61 weeks.

Win, Place or Show

These days, it's a horse race to hit the bestseller chart, even for a week. The number of books published each year is enormous. The most recent figure, from The Bowker Annual, is for 2000, when about 120,000 books (any publication with 50 or more pages, including textbooks) were published. Of that number, 4,250 were hardcover fiction. In the same year, only 123 titles landed on PW's weekly charts. That means that less than 3% of the hardcover fiction published spent even one week on our lists.

So who got on the track in 2002? A total of 421 books appeared on the lists last year, down a bit from the record set in 2001, when 433 books made a first landing. The previous high was 385 books, back in 2000. The only weekly list that had more players in 2002 was hardcover nonfiction, where a record 90 books made an appearance, breaking the record of 83 books set in 2001. There were 126 hardcover fiction first appearances last year, down just one from the record 127 in 2001. In mass market, 153 books placed on the lists, down from the record 164 also set in 2001. Only 52 trade paperbacks made a first appearance, down from 59 in 2001. The record of 60 new books, set in 1996, still stands. About 35% of these new books enjoyed a respectable tenure on the weekly charts of 10 or more weeks. The scenario is quite different on the mass market list, where only 3% can make the same claim.

Much has been written about the fact that bestsellers have had briefer stays on the weekly charts. In fact, on both the fiction and nonfiction hardcover weekly lists, about 45% of the books stayed on the lists for four weeks or less. Compare that with books that were on the list for 10 weeks or more—about 12% on the fiction side and 15% on the nonfiction. Only about 3% of the mass market top sellers had double-digit tenures; for trade paperbacks, that figure was 35%.

At the Top

No matter what the likelihood of landing on the charts, for some players, the goal is to reach #1—and to do so in the first week in the stores. Last year, 24 novels made it to the #1 slot; 20 achieved it the first week out. In 2001, a record 21 made it to the top, with 18 doing so after just a week in the stores. Among the 20 that hit the top within a week of their laydown dates, only three authors had runs of four weeks—John Grisham, Jean Auel and Michael Crichton. The two-longest running fiction bestsellers, The Nanny and The Lovely Bones, were #1 bestsellers that needed a bit more time to top the charts; the latter also had the longest run at the top, 11 weeks in all.

Eighteen nonfiction hardcovers made it to the top spot, more than double the seven books that did the same in 2001. That year, three books—The Prayer of Jabez, Who Moved My Cheese and The No Spin Zone—monopolized about 85% of the spots. As noted earlier, Self Matters enjoyed the most time at the top this year, 13 weeks, followed by five weeks for Rudolph Giuliani's Leadership. Ten of the 18 had only one- or two-week stays at first place.

In mass market, 20 books made it to #1, and Grisham's A Painted House was, as noted earlier, the only one with a double-digit #1 run, 10 weeks in total. Ten mass market toppers had one- or two-week tenures, and 13 hit the top spot in their first week on the racks. In trade paper, there were 14 books that did time at the top. Two, A Beautiful Mind and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, had eight-week runs; White Oleander had a seven-week run; and Fall on Your Knees and Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution were on top for six weeks each.

What trends will continue in 2003? It would be great if the first fiction boom continues, since that is one of the few areas where publishing magic can still happen. No wise publisher will give up on brand-name authors, as that is still the area where big money is made. One safe bet: trade paperbacks will continue to have their bestseller longevity. The self-help category, which benefits from strong media attention, will continue to be a nonfiction mainstay. Business books, especially those focusing on personal investments and retirement planning, will be of greater interest as baby boomers keep getting older. Election 2004 will make political topics a hot subject. That's all for now: our crystal ball seems to be clouding over.

Bestsellers by Corporation
How the large companies fared on PW's 2002 charts

Company # of bks # of wks *share +/- from '01 # of bks # of wks *share +/- from '01
Hardcover Paperback
Random House Inc. 64 385 25.2% -4.8% 63 405 26.5% +0.1%
Penguin Putnam Inc. 41 228 14.9 -3.1 48 194 12.7 -11.6
Simon & Schuster 29 199 13.0 +0.9 28 170 11.1 +2.1
Time Warner 30 195 12.7 +3.2 19 249 16.3 +6.3
HarperCollins 22 177 11.6 +1.8 30 198 12.9 +1.0
Von Holtzbrinck 18 115 7.5 +4.2 12 68 4.4 +1.4
Hyperion 15 92 6.1 +1.7 5 29 1.9 -2.6
Regnery 4 30 2.0 +1.0
Tyndale 3 24 1.6 +0.9 1 7 0.5 -0.1
Multnomah 2 14 0.9 -3.7
Silhouette 12 48 3.1 +1.0
Health Communications 7 29 1.9 +1.0
This figure represents the publisher's share of the 1,530 hardcover and the 1,530 paperback bestseller positions of 2002.

PW's 2002 Longest-Running Bestsellers

These titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2002 presence on PW's bestseller list.
Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the book was PW's list prior to 2002.
Hardcover # Wks. on 2002 list
*The Nanny Diaries. Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. St. Martin's 32
*The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold. Little, Brown 25
*The Summons. John Grisham. Doubleday 21
*Skipping Christmas. John Grisham. Doubleday (6) 17
*The Beach House. James Patterson and Peter de Jonge. Little, Brown 16
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson. Putnam (103) 51
*Self Matters. Phillip C. McGraw. Simon & Schuster (4) 44
*Body for Life. Bill Phillips and Michael D'Orso. HarperCollins (122) 36
*Stupid White Men... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation. Michael Moore. ReganBooks 31
A Mind at a Time. Mel Levine. Simon & Schuster 22
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Jim Collins. HarperBusiness 22
*The Wisdom of Menopause. Christiane Northrup, M.D. Bantam (8) 19
*Get with the Program! Bob Greene. Simon & Schuster 18
*John Adams. David McCullough. Simon & Schuster (30) 18
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Bernard Goldberg. Regnery 17
Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. Ann Coulter. Crown 15
Paperback # Wks. on 2002 list
*Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. Avon (210) 43
*A Painted House. John Grisham. Dell 26
Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert Kiyosaki with Sharon Lechter Warner (78) 51
*Empire Falls. Richard Russo. Vintage 35
The Last Time They Met. Anita Shreve. Little, Brown/Back Bay 33
Good in Bed. Jennifer Weiner. Washington Sq. Press 33
Bel Canto. Ann Patchett. Perennial 29
Retire Young, Retire Rich. Robert Kiyosaki with Sharon Lechter. Warner 27
The Wrinkle Cure. Nicholas Perricone, M.D. Warner (2) 25
Seabiscuit: An American Legend. Laura Hillenbrand. Ballantine Reader's Circle 25
The Four Agreements. Don Miguel Ruiz. Amber-Allen (85) 21
*A Beautiful Mind. Sylvia Nasar. S&S/Touchstone 20
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas. James Patterson. Warner 20
What to Expect When You're Expecting. H. Murkoff et al. Workman (175) 18
*Fall on Your Knees. Anne-Marie MacDonald, Scribner 18
*Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Rebecca Wells. Perennial (86) 17
The Red Tent. Anita Diamant. Picador (70) 16
Founding Brothers. Joseph J. Ellis. Vintage 16
A Child Called "It." Dave Pelzer. HCI (60) 15
*Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. Quill 15
*John Adams. David McCullough. S&S/Touchstone 15

Ranking the Houses How the divisions and imprints competed in 2002

Publisher # of Books # of Weeks
Adult Hardcover
Putnam 24 163
Simon & Schuster 18 108
Warner Books 18 102
Random House 12 45
Little, Brown 11 89
Hyperion 11 60
Bantam 11 50
Doubleday 9 76
Knopf 9 73
HarperCollins 9 70
St. Martin's 9 65
Dutton 8 28
Delacorte 7 28
Morrow 7 27
Ballantine 6 21
Crown 5 50
Viking 5 25
Regnery 4 30
Scribner 4 24
Harcourt 4 16
ReganBooks 3 43
Farrar, Straus & Giroux 3 30
Tyndale 3 24
Del Rey/Lucas Books 3 13
S & S/Source 2 45
HarperBusiness 2 26
VSP Books 2 18
Harmony 2 17
Multnomah 2 14
Talk Miramax 2 14
Guinness 2 9
Riverhead 2 9
Tor 2 8
Pantheon 2 4
Pocket Books 2 4
Wizards of the Coast 2 4
Atria 1 14
HarperResource 1 11
John M. Hardy 1 8
DK Publishing 1 7
Holt 1 7
Atlantic Monthly 1 6
Del Rey 1 5
OUP 1 4
Rutledge Hill 1 4
WarnerBusiness 1 4
Broadway 1 3
Houghton Mifflin 1 3
New World Library 1 3
Wiley 1 3
American Express 1 2
Baen Books 1 2
Broadman & Holman 1 2
Free Press 1 2
Viking Studio 1 2
Andrews McMeel 1 1
Berkley 1 1
Forge 1 1
Hay House 1 1
McGraw-Hill 1 1
Rodale 1 1
Mass Market
Pocket Books 21 74
Bantam 17 76
Berkley 16 64
Avon 15 80
Dell 12 78
Jove 12 43
Del Rey 10 66
Ballantine 10 43
Signet 10 36
HarperTorch 9 36
Warner 6 46
Warner Vision 6 39
Zebra 6 16
St. Martin's 5 26
Silhouette 3 19
Harlequin 3 6
Mira 3 4
Tor 2 5
Hyperion 1 4
Pocket Star 1 2
Bantam Spectra 1 1
Onyx 1 1
Health Comm. 7 29
Warner 4 106
Perennial 4 64
Houghton Mifflin 4 29
Vintage 3 59
LB/Back Bay 3 58
Ballantine 3 41
S&S/Touchstone 3 37
Picador 3 31
Broadway 3 18
Plume 3 18
Riverhead 3 16
Scribner 2 24
Anchor 2 15
Hyperion 2 15
Harlequin 2 12
Berkley 2 11
World Almanac 2 9
Chronicle Books 2 2
WSP 1 33
Workman 1 27
Amber-Allen 1 21
Quill 1 15
Grove 1 14
VSP 1 9
Good Books 1 7
Silhouette 1 7
Tyndale 1 7
Delta 1 6
Penguin 1 5
Avon 1 3
Princess Books 1 3
Holt/Owl 1 3
St. Martin's/Griffin 1 3
Three Rivers Press 1 2
M. Evans 1 2
Mountain Movers Press 1 2
Hyperion/Theia 1 1
Yankee 1 1