In PW's retrospective of the top sellers of 2003, the star players were Dan Brown, Mitch Albom and Rick Warren. The top categories in nonfiction were diet, politics and biography. The trade paperback list was dominated by literary fiction. And in mass market, bestseller reprints and category fiction were the books that commandeered almost all of the slots. A year later, as we reflect on the books that were in the 2004 winners' circle—meaning books that made PW's national weekly charts—very little has changed.

As for that bestselling winners' circle—it represents a very small percentage of the books published. Less than one-half of one percent of the 175,000 books published annually makes it on a national chart for even one week; for new fiction, the percentage goes up a tiny bit to about three-quarters of one percent. The competition for a bestseller landing is fierce, and 2004 presented even more hurdles than usual.

No Brown-Out

Last year was a stellar year for Dan Brown (as was 2003). He topped the fiction charts with The Da Vinci Code for 31 out of the 51 weeks. All of the other 13 titles that reached the #1 spot in the course of the year were on for just one or two weeks, except for Stephen King's The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, which had a three-week run at the top. Brown's backlist bestseller Angels & Demons was on the 2004 hardcover list for 40 weeks. The two Brown books had a total of 91 weeks last year, giving the author close to 12% of all available hardcover fiction slots. Brown's performance on the mass market list was even more spectacular. Angels & Demons didn't miss a week in 2004, nor did Deception Point; his first book, Digital Fortress, had a 50-week run in mass market last year. The bar for bestseller performance for an author goes even higher, as Angels & Demons topped the mass market charts for 34 weeks (Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook came in second, with eight weeks at #1). The combined total of Brown's backlist on the weekly paperback charts was 152 weeks, almost 20% of the year's available slots.

The second bestselling fiction hardcover in 2003 was Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven. That was true again in 2004; Five People was on our weekly charts 51 times and, with the help of a TV movie that aired twice before Christmas, Albom's first novel was the bestselling fiction book during the busy holiday selling season.

Here's another trend that continued in 2004: more first novels making the charts. Nine fiction debuts landed on the weekly charts and two of them, The Rule of Four and Bergdorf Blondes, were among the six longest-running hardcover fiction titles in 2004. If you add up the total 2004 weeks for those nine debut novels plus Albom's 2003 first novel, first fiction took up about 14% of all the available slots on the weekly hardcover fiction lists. This continues a three-year trend of debut novels shining on the charts.

Some of the seasoned veterans on the fiction charts fared less well in terms of their number of appearances and their length of time in the #1 spot. John Grisham's 2004 bestseller, The King of Torts, was on the charts for just 15 weeks and in the #1 spot for just two weeks. His first bestseller, The Firm, back in 1991, had a 41-week run and was #1 four of those weeks; his later books had runs at the top of up to nine weeks. Yet Grisham was the only veteran author to even have a 15-week run in 2004. On the 1991 longest-running hardcover bestseller list, veteran players such as Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Danielle Steel, Sidney Sheldon and Clive Cussler all had runs of 15 or more weeks. These days, many of them don't even get double-digit tenure on the lists.

Politics Was the Game

In nonfiction, politics was the most popular category, and the nation's contentious divide between conservatives and liberals played out strongly on the weekly charts. This trend began in 2003, as we noted in our wrap-up feature last year. The first hardcover nonfiction list in 2004 had three political titles among the top 15—Who's Looking Out for You?; Dude, Where's My Country?; and Lies: And the Lying Liars Who TellThem. Their respective authors, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Moore and Al Franken, were visible through most of 2004 with these books and other bestsellers they penned. Close to 35 new political titles made it onto the weekly nonfiction bestseller lists in 2004, representing about 36% of the total new hardcover nonfiction bestsellers. There were many weeks prior to the presidential election where at least 40% of the books on the weekly charts were about politics. The bestselling book of the holiday season was America (The Book): ACitizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin and David Javerbaum. The appeal of this democratic lampoon was universal, crossing all age lines.

Of the 14 nonfiction hardcover books to hit the #1 spot last year, eight had politics as their main agenda. Two, Bill Clinton's My Life and Tommy Franks's American Soldier, could also be counted in the second most popular category in 2004—biography and memoir (again, these were also strong 2003 categories). Clinton's book stayed on the charts for 17 weeks in 2004, one week more than Hillary Clinton's Living History. Other well-known people whose bios spent time on the charts include Bob Dylan, Brett Favre, Clay Aiken, Tatum O'Neal, Paris Hilton, Jane Pauley and Jenna Jameson.

Pastoral Front Runners

The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren was on our list every week in 2004 and was among the top five for 31 weeks. It led PW's monthly hardcover religion list almost the entire year. That book has sold nearly 20 million copies (approximately eight million in 2004). It once again is the lead nonfiction bestseller of the year. Religion and inspirational books continued to be popular last year; one of the top five holiday sellers was Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now.

The South Beach Diet enjoyed a second year on the charts; it stayed on the list all year, except for one week in December, and it led the charts for 16 weeks (Stewart's America came in second, with 10 weeks at #1). A related hardcover, The South Beach Diet Cookbook, had a 22-week run. And, in trade paper, The South Beach Diet GoodFats/Good Carbs Guide had a 46-week run and was in the #1 spot for more weeks (18) than any other trade paperback. In previous years, Atkins ruled the bestseller charts. In 2003, four Atkins diet books commandeered 160 weeks on the charts. This year, two titles had a total of 17 weeks on the charts.

Paper Trails

As noted earlier, it was Dan Brown's year on the mass market bestseller list—he took three of the six longest-running slots. Yet another diet book, The Ultimate Weight Solution Food Guide by Dr. Phil McGraw, had a 15-week run. Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) and John Grisham (The King of Torts) were the other two longest-running bestsellers. Sparks's book benefited from the movie version, which hit theaters in June; as a result, the mass market and trade paper editions each had runs of 22 weeks last year.

In trade paperback, fiction continued strong but nonfiction made a comeback. In fact, about half of the new 2004 trade paperback bestsellers were nonfiction, and many of them mirrored the strong hardcover categories—politics, memoirs and diet books. The longest-running titles on our trade paper list are still fiction; in both 2004 and 2003, only six of the 17 longest-running titles were nonfiction.

Leaders of the Pack

The big five conglomerates—Random House Inc., Simon & Schuster, Penguin USA, HarperCollins, Time Warner—still control the majority of bestseller real estate. In 2004, they controlled 79.3% of all hardcover slots and 75.2% of all paperback slots. If you add in five more publishers from the Bestsellers by Corporation table, these 10 houses control 95.6% of all hardcover slots. Three other publishers—Hay House, Tyndale and Bloomsbury—had four hardcover bestsellers in 2004, with a combined total of 37 weeks, adding another 2.4%. Add it all up, and you have 13 publishing entities controlling 98% of the hardcover bestseller real estate. For paperbacks, adding five more houses from the chart shows 10 publishers controlling 93.6% of all slots. When you add three more publishers to the paperback group—Workman, Norton and Zebra—you have nine more paperback bestsellers with a combined 60 weeks for 2004 and an additional 3.9%. These 13 paperback entities controlled 97.5% of the paperback slots. Not much wiggle room for the rest of the industry.

Simon & Schuster, Rodale and HarperCollins picked up the most slots on the hardcover charts. S&S's triumphs included Dan Brown's backlist hardcover Angels & Demons; three Stephen King novels with a combined total of 21 weeks on the charts; half a dozen political bestsellers; and three titles by Dr. Phil with 36 weeks on the lists. Simon & Schuster was the second strongest conglomerate on the hardcover bestseller list, moving ahead of Penguin USA. Rodale's gains can be summarized in two words: South Beach. Political bestsellers gave HarperCollins an advantage, as did The Purpose-Driven Life. Dr. Laura Schlessinger's 27-week run with The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands was also a booster. Still, Big Random is the leader, with a bestseller percentage that's almost double any of the other conglomerates.

The Von Holtzbrinck group of publishers had the biggest loss in paperback real estate with a 3.8% drop of bestseller share. A good portion of that drop was due to no Atkins activity on the St. Martin's list; in 2003, Atkins for Life had a 40-week run. In paperback, HarperCollins and Random House had the biggest percentage losses: 7.6% and 3.8%, respectively. HC, too, was affected by Atkins. In 2003, three Atkins bestsellers accounted for 120 bestseller appearances; in 2004, two Atkins books had a total of just 17 weeks on the charts. For Big Random, the almost 4% drop in paperback bestseller tenure can be ascribed to a number of factors, including a lesser performance by Anchor. In 2003, it had four trade paperbacks among the longest-running bestsellers, chalking up 105 weeks in all; last year, three of its titles accounted for a 30-week total. Also, Ballantine's two movie tie-ins for Seabiscuit racked up 59 bestseller appearances in 2003 and only two weeks in 2004.

Assessing the Numbers

In 2004, 421 books hit the charts for the first time, just one more than in 2003. The record number of new books to hit the bestseller lists still stands: 433 in 2002. Last year was also the first time ever that the number of first-timers on the hardcover fiction list was larger than the number of new players on the mass market chart—136 vs. 134. The mass market number is the lowest in five years; the record of 164 books, set in 2001, still stands. Blame Dan Brown for the lower mass market number: his three backlist titles dominated. The 96 new titles that landed on the 2004 hardcover nonfiction charts breaks the record set in 2002, when 90 made a first landing. In trade paper, there were 55 new titles, three more than in 2003 but still short of the 1993 record of 60 new titles.

Getting on the charts is a big deal, but staying on them for many weeks keeps getting harder. Of the 136 fiction titles that had a first landing in 2004, only 11 had double-digit runs. There were 84 books that stayed on the list for four weeks or less; 23 of them made only a single appearance. On the hardcover fiction list, tenure is getting to be more like that of mass market titles. Nine of the 134 mass market first-timers had double-digit runs, while 87 had runs of four weeks or less and 19 of those were on for only one week. Looking at the percentages, more than 60% of the books in fiction hardcover and in mass market stayed on the list for less than a month.

In nonfiction, 15 of the 96 new books were on for 10 weeks or more; 47 had runs of four weeks or less; and 16 made it on for just one week. Trade paperback is the chart with the best chances for longevity; here, 17 books had double-digit runs, while eight others that appeared on the trade charts in 2003 or earlier also had double-digit runs. Twenty-six new books were on for four weeks or less and eight of those made a single appearance.

The biggest prize on the weekly charts and the most difficult to attain is the #1 spot. These days, just about the only way to land a fiction hardcover in the top spot is the one-day laydown. Every one of the 12 new books and the two from 2003—Da Vinci and Five People—got to the top of the ladder in their first week out. Compare that to nonfiction, where five of the 14 books that hit #1 did so after the initial week in the stores. In fact, Who's Looking Out for You? got to #1 only once—but did it after 12 weeks on the charts. It took The South Beach Diet five weeks to get to #1. Eight of the #1 nonfiction books fell into the political category, where one-day laydowns with carefully coordinated media made that possible.

Forecasting the big bestseller players is always a gamble. For 2004, we predicted that for diet books, having Atkins in the title will help (duh). We certainly did not foresee that the 2003 top sellers—books by Brown, Albom and Warren—would still be there a year later (we're guessing they won't be at the end of 2005). And we're willing to predict that getting on the charts will continue to be a major challenge. Here's another sure bet: the top five conglomerates will continue to enjoy bestseller dominance and Random House Inc. will have the largest percentage of bestseller real estate in 2005. What will be the leading bestsellers for 2005? We're looking forward to that answer, too.

Bestsellers by Corporation
How the large companies fared on PW's '04 charts

Hardcover Paperback
Random House Inc. 75 434 28.4% 0.0% 58 384 25.1% -3.9%
Simon & Schuster 36 226 14.8 +4.1 24 194 12.7 +0.2
Penguin USA 49 203 13.3 -1.8 51 270 17.6 +3.5
HarperCollins 34 196 12.8 +2.1 20 91 5.9 -7.6
Time Warner 26 153 10.0 -0.7 21 213 13.9 +4.2
Hyperion 7 93 6.1 0.0 1 1
Rodale 4 80 5.2 +2.8 1 46 3.0 +3.0
Von Holtzbrinck 13 50 3.3 -3.8 15 107 7.0 +0.8
Houghton Mifflin 2 14 0.9 +0.4 2 22 1.4 +1.4
Regnery 2 13 0.8 -0.6
Harcourt -0.7 2 70 4.6 +1.1
Harlequin 1 1 12 37 2.4 -0.9
*This figure represents the publisher's share of the 1,530 hardcover or 1,530 paperback bestseller positions during 2004.

Ranking the Houses
How the divisions and imprints competed in 2004

Adult Hardcover
Putnam 28 115
Random House 16 67
Little, Brown 14 84
Morrow 13 39
Simon & Schuster 12 59
Warner Books 11 60
HarperCollins 11 55
Doubleday 8 99
Knopf 8 62
Dutton 8 40
Ballantine 8 26
Bantam 8 23
Atria 7 64
ReganBooks 7 30
St. Martin's 7 24
Viking 6 25
Delacorte 6 15
Free Press 5 50
Broadway 5 29
Rodale 4 80
Hyperion 4 67
Dial 4 36
Scribner 4 10
Miramax 3 26
Scribner/Grant 3 21
Pantheon 3 14
Houghton Mifflin 2 14
Penguin 2 14
Regnery 2 13
Tor 2 13
Tyndale 2 13
Clarkson Potter 2 11
Crown Forum 2 9
Berkley 2 6
Del Rey 2 5
Guinness 2 4
Zondervan 1 51
Gotham 1 29
HarperBusiness 1 17
Hay House 1 14
SimonSpotlight 1 12
Bloomsbury 1 10
Crown 1 9
Warner Faith 1 9
Brassey's 1 7
Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1 5
S&S/Fireside 1 4
HarperEntertainment 1 4
Wizards of the Coast 1 4
WND 1 4
Pocket/WWE 1 4
High Point Media 1 3
Holt 1 3
Andrews McMeel 1 2
DaCapo 1 2
CDS 1 2
Baen 1 1
Carroll & Graf 1 1
DK 1 1
Harlequin/HQN 1 1
MacAdam/Cage 1 1
NAL 1 1
Norton 1 1
Penguin/Sentinel 1 1
Riverhead 1 1
Rugged Land 1 1
St. Martin's/Dunne 1 1
Time Inc. Home Ent. 1 1
Touchstone 1 1
Mass Market
Bantam 19 72
Berkley 16 65
Jove 16 65
Pocket 10 143
Warner 10 79
Avon 10 43
St. Martin's 9 75
Dell 9 63
Pocket Star 8 28
Signet 7 20
Ballantine 7 19
Silhouette 6 22
HarperTorch 5 21
Zebra 4 10
Tor 3 5
Warner Vision 2 15
Mira 2 6
Fawcett 1 5
Bantam Spectra 1 3
Leisure 1 2
NAL 1 2
Del Rey 1 1
Harlequin 1 1
Warner 5 82
Penguin 5 79
Broadway 5 33
Vintage 4 77
Random House 3 63
LB/Back Bay 3 36
Anchor 3 30
Norton 3 21
Lake Isle Press 3 8
Silhouette 3 8
Harcourt/Harvest 2 70
Workman 2 29
Picador 2 25
HM/Mariner 2 22
Riverhead 2 17
Ballantine 2 13
Plume 2 13
Berkley 2 9
World Almanac 2 9
ReganBooks 2 3
Rodale 1 46
Harper Perennial 1 16
M. Evans 1 8
WSP 1 8
Da Capo 1 7
Amistad 1 6
Scribner 1 6
Free Press 1 3
Ballantine Reader's Circle 1 2
HarperResource 1 2
Pocket 1 2
St. Martin's/Griffin 1 2
Simon & Schuster 1 2
S&S/Touchstone 1 2
Villard 1 2
Hyperion 1 1
Knopf 1 1
Old Farmer's Almanac 1 1
Time Warner Home Ent. 1 1

PW's 2004 Longest-Running Bestsellers

*The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown. Doubleday (39) 51
*The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Mitch Albom. Hyperion (12) 51
Angels & Demons. Dan Brown. Atria 40
The Rule of Four. Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. Dial 22
*The Last Juror. John Grisham. Doubleday 15
Bergdorf Blondes. Plum Sykes. Miramax 15
The Purpose-Driven Life. Rick Warren. Zondervan 51
*The South Beach Diet. Arthur Agatston, M.D. Rodale (36) 51
Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Lynne Truss. Gotham 29
The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands. Dr. Laura Schlessinger. HarperCollins 27
The South Beach Diet Cookbook. Arthur Agatston, M.D. Rodale 22
The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom. Dr. Phil McGraw. Free Press (14) 21
The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich. David Bach. Broadway 21
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Jim Collins. HarperBusiness (45) 17
*My Life. Bill Clinton. Knopf 17
Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.... Al Franken. Dutton (17) 15
*These titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2004 presence on PW's bestseller list. Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the book was on PW's list prior to 2004.

PW's 2004 Longest-Running Bestsellers

Mass Market
Angels & Demons. Dan Brown. Pocket (36) 51
Deception Point. Dan Brown. Pocket (16) 51
Digital Fortress. Dan Brown. St. Martin's 50
*The Notebook. Nicholas Sparks. Warner 22
*The King of Torts. John Grisham. Dell 18
The Ultimate Weight Solution Food Guide. Dr. Phil McGraw. Pocket 15
*The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd. Penguin (46) 51
Reading Lolita in Tehran. Azar Nafisi. Random House 48
The South Beach Diet Good Fats/Good Carbs Guide. Arthur Agatston, M.D. Rodale 46
Life of Pi. Yann Martel. Harcourt/Harvest (35) 41
Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert Kiyosaki with Sharon Lechter. Warner (159) 39
The Devil in the White City. Erik Larson. Vintage 31
*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon. Vintage 30
The Time Traveler's Wife. Audrey Niffenegger. Harcourt/Harvest 29
The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold. Little, Brown/Back Bay 24
Middlesex. Jeffrey Eugenides. Picador (17) 23
The Devil Wears Prada. Lauren Weisberger. Broadway 22
*The Wedding. Nicholas Sparks. Warner 22
What to Expect When You're Expecting. H. Murkoff et al. Workman. (220) 18
*The 9/11 Commission Report. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks. Norton 17
*One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel García Márquez. Perennial 16
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Alexander McCall Smith. Anchor 15
*The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini. Riverhead 15
*These titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2004 presence on PW's bestseller list.
Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the book was on PW's list prior to 2004.