For most published authors, landing on the national bestseller charts is a fantasy. The number of books published in 2005 is estimated to be close to 200,000, and that includes everything—adult and children's books, professional books and textbooks, paperbacks and hardcovers. The 442 new adult trade titles that made it onto PW's four weekly lists last year represent a mere 0.2% of that annual title output.
And even when the privileged few land on the national charts, it's short stays for most these days. About 57% of the fiction bestsellers that debuted on the 2005 hardcover lists had runs of less than a month. In mass market, the number was 45%; in hardcover nonfiction, it was 37%; and in trade paperback, it was 33%.
On the hardcover fiction list, 20 new books hit #1; 17 of those 20 made it to the top after their first week in the stores, but eight of the 17 stayed only a single week in the lead position. Clearly, one-day laydowns are key for megaselling authors who are likely to achieve a #1 landing.
Getting to #1 on the trade paperback list was an almost impossible feat in 2005. Khaled Hosseini's debut fiction, The Kite Runner, had a record-setting run at the top: 49 consecutive weeks (39 of them in 2005). The humorous and informative Why Do Men Have Nipples? had a one-time shot at the lead before the Oprah-anointed A Million Little Pieces by James Frey grabbed the top spot for the last 11 weeks of the year. Still, once a book does get on the trade paper list, it has the best chance at longevity; on our list of the longest-running bestsellers (see page 24), 15 were trade paperbacks that made 15 or more appearances on the weekly charts.
Less Is Less
In nonfiction hardcover, 16 books landed in the #1 spot, but the only one with a double-digit run was Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About; it led the charts for 13 weeks. The book was self-published and surrounded by controversy; nevertheless, the millions Trudeau spent on infomercials worked—the book had more than four million copies in print by the end of the year. In mass market, 16 titles made it to the top, but the one that did the best was Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, with 11 #1 landings in 2005. A year earlier, the book's stats were even more impressive: 34 #1 landings. John Grisham's The Last Juror came in second, heading up the mass market list nine times in 2005.
For the last three years, debut fiction has fared well. In 2004, nine first-time novelists took up about 14% of all available slots on the weekly hardcover fiction lists. In 2005, first fiction was down to 10%: seven newcomers plus two first fiction titles from the previous year. Kudos to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, a book about vampires that made it to #1 after less than a week in the stores; it racked up about one million copies in print. It stayed on the hardcover charts for 18 weeks, longer than many veteran bestsellers, including Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham.
Speaking of veteran fiction players, almost all were back in 2005 with one or more new books. The prolific James Patterson placed five books on the adult charts and one on the children's lists. Danielle Steel and Dean Koontz each had three hardcover winners, while Nicholas Sparks had two. And while a book by a veteran bestselling author will pretty much always land on the charts, long tenures cannot be counted on. These days, most don't get double-digit runs, including Steel (five weeks for Impossible, her longest-running title) and Koontz (six weeks for Velocity, his longest tenure). Back in 1980, when we first started compiling these longest-running lists, 22 fiction titles boasted bestseller tenures of 15 weeks or more; 25 years later, there are only six. Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent had a 43-week hardcover bestseller presence over two years (1987 and 1988); in 2005, his Ordinary Heroes was on the weekly charts for just five weeks. Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities had a 55-week run in 1987 and 1988; his latest bestseller, I Am Charlotte Simmons, was on the weekly charts for 14 weeks.
Politics was not the leading subject in nonfiction after the presidential elections, though critical commentary about Bush still sold. The how-to category, especially in the areas of health, cooking and gender relationships, showed growth. Five of the longest-running hardcover nonfiction bestsellers are on these subjects. And memoirs and biographies also saw increased play on the charts; there were many weeks when one-third of the top 15 bestsellers were biographical. The cult of celebrity was also prevalent—during one week in May, Goldie Hawn, Jane Fonda and Brooke Shields were all on the list. Blink, Freakonomics and The World Is Flat—all well-written books that offer provocative and curious perspectives on politics, psychology and intuitive thinking—proved popular; their combined stays on the 2005 charts took up almost 15% of the available weekly nonfiction hardcover slots.
Mass market in 2005 continued to showcase popular fiction, and it remains the list where genre fiction—romance, mystery and science fiction—shines. Nonfiction mass markets, except for strong brands like South Beach, never sell in numbers large enough to get a spot among the top 15. In trade paper, nonfiction takes up a little more than 50% of the available weekly spots. The sudoku craze landed four titles on the trade charts—about 7% of that list's bestselling real estate.
As usual, the five largest publishing conglomerates—Random House, HarperCollins, Time Warner, Penguin USA and Simon & Schuster—dominated the bestseller charts. In hardcover, those five controlled about 82% of the bestseller real estate; in paperback, the same five controlled 77.6%. If you add the five other publishing groups (see chart, p. 22), just 10 publishing entities command 96.7% of the hardcover slots. On the paperback side, nine publishers hold 88.6% of all available slots. Three other publishers—Workman, Overlook and Wiley—had six paperback bestsellers with a combined 66-week run, making for a 4.3% share. That adds up to 12 publishing entities controlling about 93% of all available paperback slots. Last year, we noted that these high percentages didn't leave much wiggle room for the rest of the industry. The comment still holds true.
But even among the dominant players, there are ups and downs. In hardcover, big Random and Simon & Schuster both had decreases, while HarperCollins and Time Warner enjoyed gains. In paperback, the changes were not as significant. So what caused the hardcover shifts? It's the longevity issue. In fact, the number of bestselling titles was almost the same in 2004 and 2005 for both Random and S&S, but the number of weeks on the charts dropped significantly. A look at the longest-running charts in 2004 and 2005 offers proof. In 2004, RH had five books with a combined 126 weeks on the charts; in 2005, three titles got 90 weeks. In 2004, S&S had three titles with 90 weeks, compared with two titles, 53 weeks, in 2005.
Despite the dominance of a handful of large corporate entities, we have to keep in mind that we are still talking about less than 1% of overall book title output. Bestsellers may be the sexy slice, but it's the rest of the pie that makes for a vital and healthy publishing business.
At The Top*
|Dan Brown||Nora Roberts||James Patterson|
|* These authors enjoyed many weeks on the charts with multiple titles. |
|Hardcovers on List||3||5||5|
|# of Weeks||63||13||42|
|Weeks at #1||6||-||15|
|Paperbacks on List||3||15||4|
|# of Weeks||116||76||26|
|Weeks at #1||11||5||3|
|*Record high; the high for trade paperbacks (60 new titles) was set in 1993 |
All the numbers reflect first-time landings on the bestseller lists during a given year. The record number of bestseller landings on the hardcover charts is due to the record number of books with less than one month's tenure on the charts. In hardcover fiction, 94 books were on the weekly lists for four weeks or less; in hardcover nonfiction, there were 66 such books.
Bestsellers by Corporation//How the large companies fared on PW's '05 charts
|*This figure represents the publisher's share of the 1,530 hardcover or 1,530 paperback bestseller positions during 2005. |
|COMPANY||# OF BKS||# OF WKS||*SHARE||+/- FROM '04||# OF BKS||# OF WKS||*SHARE||+/- FROM '04|
|Random House Inc.||72||344||22.5%||-5.9%||63||380||24.8%||-0.3%|
|Simon & Schuster||38||171||11.2||-3.6||30||234||15.3||+2.6|
Ranking the Houses///How the Divisions and Imprints Competed in 2005
|PUBLISHER||# of Bks||# of Wks|
|Simon & Schuster||16||89|
|Farrar, Straus & Giroux||5||56|
|Princeton Univ. Press||1||11|
|Harper San Francisco||1||6|
|Seven Stories Press||1||2|
|Wizards of the Coast||1||2|
|Black Dog & Leventhal||1||1|
|Hard Case Crime||1||8|
|Wizards of the Coast||1||1|
|Three Rivers Press||2||23|
|Lake Isle Press||2||2|
PW's 2005 Longest-Running Bestsellers
|*These titles achieved the #1 spot during their 2005 presence on PW's bestseller list. |
Numbers in parentheses show how many weeks the book was on PW's list prior to 2005.
|# weeks on 2005 list||FICTION|
|51||*The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown. Doubleday (90)|
|32||*The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Mitch Albom. Hyperion (63)|
|24||*The Mermaid Chair. Sue Monk Kidd. Viking|
|18||*The Historian. Elizabeth Kostova. Little, Brown|
|16||*True Believer. Nicholas Sparks, Warner|
|15||*The Broker. John Grisham. Doubleday|
|47||*The Purpose-Driven Life. Rick Warren. Zondervan (97)|
|47||*Your Best Life Now. Joel Osteen. Warner Faith (9)|
|41||*Blink. Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown|
|36||*The World Is Flat. Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Straus & Giroux|
|35||Freakonomics. Steven D. Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Morrow|
|29||*You: The Ownerz's Manual. Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D. HarperResource|
|28||He's Just Not That into You. Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo. Simon Spotlight Entertainment (12)|
|25||*1776. David McCullough. Simon & Schuster|
|25||*Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About.Kevin Trudeau. Alliance Publishing|
|24||*French Women Don't Get Fat. Mireille Guiliano. Knopf|
|15||The South Beach Diet. Arthur Agatston, M.D. Rodale (87)|
|# weeks on 2005 list||MASS MARKET|
|51||*Angels & Demons. Dan Brown. Pocket (87)|
|40||Deception Point. Dan Brown. Pocket (67)|
|25||Digital Fortress. Dan Brown. St. Martin's (50)|
|18||*The Last Juror. John Grisham. Dell|
|51||*The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini. Riverhead (15)|
|48||The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd. Penguin (97)|
|43||The Tipping Point. Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown/Back Bay|
|42||The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon. Vintage (30)|
|38||My Sister's Keeper. Jodi Picoult. Washington Square Press|
|30||Wicked. Gregory Maguire. Regan Books (2)|
|29||Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert Kiyosaki with Sharon Lechter. Warner (198)|
|27||The Devil in the White City. Erik Larson. Vintage (31)|
|25||The South Beach Diet. Arthur Agatston, M.D. St. Martin's|
|24||Reading Lolita in Tehran. Azar Nafisi. Random House (48)|
|21||The Time Traveler's Wife. Audrey Niffenegger. Harcourt/Harvest (29)|
|18||Sudoko Easy to Hard. Will Shortz. St. Martin's/Griffin|
|17||The Book of Sudoku. Michael Mepham. Overlook Press|
|17||Why Do Men Have Nipples. Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D. Three Rivers Press|
|16||Su Doku for Dummies. Andrew Heron and Edmund Jones. Wiley|