The Long Tail of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

From The New York Times:

In the summer of 2018, Putnam published an unusual debut novel by a retired wildlife biologist named Delia Owens. The book, which had an odd title and didn’t fit neatly into any genre, hardly seemed destined to be a blockbuster, so Putnam printed about 28,000 copies.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

A year and a half later, the novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” an absorbing, atmospheric tale about a lonely girl’s coming-of-age in the marshes of North Carolina, has sold more than four and a half million copies. It’s an astonishing trajectory for any debut novelist, much less for a reclusive, 70-year-old scientist, whose previous published works chronicled the decades she spent in the deserts and valleys of Botswana and Zambia, where she studied hyenas, lions and elephants.

As the end of 2019 approaches, “Crawdads” has sold more print copies than any other adult title this year — fiction or nonfiction — according to NPD BookScan, blowing away the combined print sales of new novels by John Grisham, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King. Putnam has returned to the printers nearly 40 times to feed a seemingly bottomless demand for the book. Foreign rights have sold in 41 countries.

. . . .

Industry analysts have struggled to explain the novel’s staying power, particularly at a moment when fiction sales over all are flagging, and most blockbuster novels drop off the best-seller list after a few weeks.

. . . .

For the past several years, adult fiction sales have steadily fallen — in 2019, adult fiction sales through early December totaled around 116 million units, down from nearly 144 million in 2015, according to NPD BookScan. In a tough retail environment for fiction, publishers and agents frequently complain that it has become harder and harder for even established novelists to break through the noise of the news cycle.

“Crawdads” seems to be the lone exception. After a burst of holiday sales, it landed back at No. 1 on The Times’s latest fiction best-seller list, where it has held a spot for 67 weeks, with 30 weeks at No. 1.

“This book has defied the new laws of gravity,” said Peter Hildick-Smith, the president of the Codex Group, which analyzes the book industry. “It’s managed to hold its position in a much more consistent way than just about anything.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

A Ray of Japanese Sunlight on China’s Bestseller List

From Publishing Perspectives:

Once again, we see a words-to-screen connection behind a major hit in our China bestsellers, but this time it’s words-and-pictures-t0-screen.

Makato Shinkai, the Japanese manga artist and filmmaker behind the 2016 film hit Your Name, has landed on Beijing Openbook’s November bestseller charts at an impressive No. 13, with his new title Weathering With You, published by Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House. Expect to see this one climb up the list next month.

Like Your Name, this work is both a film and a book. And the film in China is doing what our OpenBook associates call “breathtaking box office.”

In the book and the film, a boy named Hodaka runs away to Tokyo during his first high-school summer and meets Hina. Her superpower is the ability to make rain stop and sunshine take over with a single prayer. Of course, “her power comes at a price,” as the blurb will tell you, and we won’t spoil things for you here.

. . . .

Of course, it’s no surprise to Publishing Perspectives readers to learn that a work of Japanese fiction is gaining fast traction in the Chinese market. You’ll find author Higashino Keigo on the OpenBook overall fiction list six times this month and seven times on the foreign-author bestsellers. And Shinkai’s work has the added draw of anime and of carefully timed film releases.

. . . .

The new Weathering With You is said to have been written concurrently with the creation of its anime film. That show was released in July in Japan, and in mainland China on November 1. According to our information, that first weekend gross in China alone was the equivalent of US$22.1 million. Boom. The book is on the November bestseller list, having been published in September so that it would be readily available when the fans walked out of the cinemas.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

 

Tales of Two Markets: USA and UK Amazon Charts’ Year-Enders

From Publishing Perspectives:

The arrival in July of Amazon Charts in the UK is providing an interesting point of year-end comparison. As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the States had had Amazon Charts since mid-May of 2017.

And while it’s good to remember that the 2019 summary for the UK doesn’t cover a full year, the contrasts in popularity and sales patterns are interesting.

The Amazon Charts, updated weekly, list the Top 20 digital titles in fiction and nonfiction by “most read” and “most sold,” which creates some interesting discrepancies in itself.

. . . .

As the Amazon UK country director in books Simon Johnson recently said to The Bookseller’s Kiera O’Brien, the Charts’ “This Year in Books” reports provide the most comprehensive look at what their relevant markets have been “reading and loving in 2019” because the charts “take into account ebooks read on Kindle and audiobooks from Audio.”

It’s of course Amazon’s digital access, of course, that makes it possible for the Amazon Charts to reveal not only what’s being sold (in all formats), but also what’s actually being read, in digital formats.

. . . .

In the States, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Group / GP Putnam’s Sons, 2018) had the longest streak–16 weeks–of any book at No. 1 on both the most sold and most read fiction lists in 2019.

In the United Kingdom, we see a split, and a striking one.

In the UK, the most sold work of fiction per the Amazon Charts was Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Bonnier / Zaffre, 2018).

And in terms of most read work of fiction on the British Amazon Charts, our British friends are still just wild about You Know Who: JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Bloomsbury, 2003) topped the most read fiction chart, though it was originally published 16 years ago.

In fact, four of the Top Five most read works of fiction on the UK’s Amazon Charts are Rowling’s: Phoenix (No. 1), Philosopher’s Stone (No. 3), Goblet of Fire (No. 4), and Deathly Hallows. At No. 2, Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth is the one non-Rowling most read fiction entry, but it’s interesting to note that all five of the top titles in this category are in the young readers’ and YA sector.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG is embedding PDF screenshots some of Amazon’s UK Charts. At the bottom, you should see a navigation bar that permits you to go through the entire list.

These are large files. He’ll apologize in advance if you have problems seeing them. You can access the US version of Amazon Charts here, and the UK version here.

Most Sold – UK – 2019 – Fiction

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Most Read – UK – 2019 – Fiction

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a1 Most Read Fiction _ Amazon Charts

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Most Sold – UK – 2019 – Non-Fiction

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a1 Most Read Nonfiction _ Amazon Charts

Amazon Announces the Best Books of 2019

From The Amazon Press Center:

Today, Amazon announced its selections for the Best Books of 2019, naming Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments – the sequel to her dystopian masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale – the Best Book of 2019. The annual list features the Top 100 books of the year plus Top 20 lists across various categories ranging from literary fiction, mystery and thriller, biography, children’s and young adult, making it the go-to list for holiday reading and gift giving. All lists are hand-selected by Amazon’s team of editors – first by choosing the best books of every month, and then, finally, the best books of the year.

. . . .

“The Books Editorial team reads thousands of new releases every year, all with the goal of recommending the very best to our customers,” said Sarah Gelman, Editorial Director, Amazon Books. “This year there were so many great books from various genres. Our top 100 Best Books list includes books with clever satire, heartwarming memoirs and psychological thrillers. But as soon as we read it, it was clear that Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments was the book of the year. The sequel to the modern classic The Handmaid’s Tale enraptured our editorial team and readers across the globe with a dramatic continuation of goings-on in the dystopian Republic of Gilead. It’s so exciting to witness literary history being made, and Atwood has done just that with this deeply moving book.”

“I’m Canadian, where modesty is a requirement. So I’m mildly embarrassed, though absolutely delighted, to hear that the Amazon editorial team has chosen The Testaments as their book of the year,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments. “While I’m no prophet, we seem doomed to live in stressful times. A tale of hope and courage narrated by three strong female voices appears to have connected to this crucial 2019 moment.”

. . . .

8 . They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker: George Takei’s vivid graphic memoir reveals the story of his family’s incarceration during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, beginning when Takei was only five years old. Even as the memories depicted range from unsettling to infuriating, They Called Us Enemy inspires readers to insist that our country treats fellow human beings with fairness and dignity.

9. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: In this psychological thriller, a couple seems to have it all until the wife is convicted of shooting her husband in the face. But she will say nothing about the crime—or anything else, for that matter. After a criminal psychologist obsessed with the case comes on the scene, dark twists and delightful turns follow, secrets (and a diary) are revealed, and you will likely find yourself racing to the end of this year’s must-read thriller.

10. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb: What happens when a celebrated psychotherapist finds herself on the other side of the couch? Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is an entertaining, relatable, moving homage to therapy—and just being human.

The top pick in the children’s category is the middle grade novel:

  1. Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy: Bestselling author Julie Murphy makes her middle-grade debut with a smart, funny novel that tween readers will quickly embrace. Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco is a seventh grader dealing with a wide range of emotions and change, including recently divorced parents and friendships in transition. Dear Sweet Pea is a warmhearted read that is at once reassuring, wise, and utterly relatable.

During 2019, the Amazon Books editorial team read thousands of pages to help customers discover their next great read. Here are some interesting facts about this year’s Best Books of the Year list:

  • Most highlighted quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, our number one pick, is: “You don’t believe the sky is falling until a chunk of it falls on you.”
  • Customers’ Most Wished For titles in our top 100: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Top three best of the year selections that readers have used both Audible and Kindle interchangeably throughout are: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner.
  • Alex Michaelides’s The Silent Patient, our ninth pick, is the number one most popular book on Goodreads this year, added to Goodreads shelves by more than 380K members; especially impressive since it’s a debut novel!
  • Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (#10 on our list) is the number one most popular nonfiction book on Goodreads this year, followed closely by Three Women (#19).

Link to the rest at The Amazon Press Center

And here’s a link to all the best books

Is Publishing Too Top-Heavy?

From Publishers Weekly:

Book publishing has long been a hits-driven business. The bestsellers, the logic went, paid for the flops. And it was the authors of those in the middle—the so-called midlist—that publishers hoped to build into the next crop of bestsellers. But midlist sales have faltered enough in recent years that there is a growing concern among publishers and agents about how the business can create new hits when the field they once turned to is, well, disappearing.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy, during a discussion of the company’s second-quarter results, pointed to generating interest in midlist books as one of the biggest challenges facing all publishers.

Though the hits-driven nature of publishing has not changed in recent years, the nature of those hits has. Due to a number of coalescing factors—including a shrinking physical retail market and an increase in competing entertainment driven by the proliferation of streaming TV platforms—book publishing has watched as a handful of megaselling titles have begun to command an ever-larger share of its sales.

According to NPD BookScan, which tracks an estimated 80% of unit sales of print books, sales of the 100 bestselling adult titles increased 23% in 2018 compared to 2017. All other titles ranked below that top tier either fell or remained flat. On a 52-week rolling basis through Oct. 5, 2019, the sales of the top 100 books rose another 6% over the comparable 52-week period ending in 2018, while, again, all other sales levels either fared worse or stayed flat. Taken together, sales of the 100 bestselling print books rose nearly 30% over a period of about two years, while books that ranked between 101 and 10,000 saw their total print unit sales fall 16%. Books that ranked below 10,000 remained flat in the period.

. . . .

The cycle that creates this system is a frustratingly circular one. “The top books—[which are] most often [earning] the highest advances—require serious capital and resources to push them into the top slots,” McLean explained. And publishers, she added, “are under serious pressure to recoup their investment” on their most expensive acquisitions. The situation, she went on, “is amplified by the need for books to earn their shelf space in mass market retail—big books are a better bet” for those types of outlets.

A publisher at a major house agreed that, to an extent, publishers have contributed to the gap between the top sellers and those below. With social media offering a variety of ways to promote titles that are selling, publishers usually put more resources behind books that are succeeding in order to maintain momentum. As these books get the lion’s share of the houses’ focus, other titles are left to find audiences on their own.

. . . .

As one Big Five editor who specializes in commercial and literary fiction said of his category, “There used to be a lot more books that could sell 40,000–50,000 copies. Now more sell fewer than 10,000 copies.” It seems, he said, that “it’s either feast or famine.”

Those suffering from the famine are, to an extent, a group once known as the midlist. Ironically, if you ask most editors or literary agents to define the term, you’re unlikely to get a specific answer. Few can say, for example, how many books one needs to sell to be considered midlist. The only thing sources agreed on is the fact that the term is negative.

“You want to be debut, literary, or bestselling; you don’t want to be midlist,” one literary agent said. “The midlist is like the middle class; it’s the group that gets squeezed. They don’t get the support from their publishers. They don’t get their due [as writers]. They don’t get the attention they deserve from reviewers. Everybody wants to break out of the midlist.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG notes that an indie author can support a reasonably good standard of living by selling 40-50,000 of his/her books. 10,000 copies also works if the author can indie publish 2-3 books per year.

The other point PG will note is that a midlist book that is released by a publisher is left to sink beneath the waves while many indie authors tend to pursue strategies that will help sell both new and old books.

The Panorama Project

PG has just discovered The Panorama Project.

In recent years, market research has confirmed that public libraries remain an important driver of reading activity, and that borrowers are also buyers, but surveys can only tell half the story. Surprisingly, there’s never been a collaborative analysis of public library circulation data to understand the actual impact they have, positive or negative—until the Panorama Project.

Using data to measure the impact more than 16,000 public libraries in the United States have on developing readers, driving book discovery, and generating book sales in their local communities and beyond is particularly timely as there’s fierce competition for every reader’s attention and discretionary spending. Publishers need to understand the complex dynamics of book discovery and sales, and where public libraries fit in their readers’ lives.

The Panorama Project is a cross-industry, collaborative research initiative committed to aggregating and analyzing data from publishers, distributors, booksellers, public libraries, library service providers, search sites, social sites and other relevant data sources, and identify ways publishers and libraries can continue to support their intrinsically related missions while delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.

. . . .

Public libraries and librarians use many approaches to connect readers at all skill levels and ages with books and authors. For decades public librarians have honed their skills in what is known in the library world as Readers’ Advisory Service—an umbrella term for the many activities that librarians use to aid readers in finding books that they will enjoy reading. Readers’ Advisory Service is basic to public libraries, even though its impact on the publishing industry has generally been ignored.

. . . .

Panorama Picks provides local booksellers with quarterly lists of under-the-radar fiction, nonfiction, and young adult backlist titles library patrons are waiting to borrow—optimized for local interest via regional groupings aligned with the American Booksellers Association’s (ABA) regional associations.

Link to the rest at The Panorama Project

 

Here are the Top Ten Panorama Picks for California in Q3:

The Rosie Result Graeme Simsion
The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer
American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Other Americans Laila Lalami
The Priory of the Orange Tree Samantha Shannon
The Night Tiger Yangsze Choo
A Woman Is No Man Etaf Rum
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict

 

And the Top Ten Picks for the Midwest during the same time period:

The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer
The Secret Orphan Glynis Peters
The Rosie Result Graeme Simsion
American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
A Woman Is No Man Etaf Rum
The Cliff House RaeAnne Thayne
My Lovely Wife Samantha Downing
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The River Peter Heller

 

And the Top Ten Picks for the Southeast in Q3:

The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer
American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
A Woman Is No Man Etaf Rum
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict
My Lovely Wife Samantha Downing
The Priory of the Orange Tree Samantha Shannon
The Night Tiger Yangsze Choo
My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Favorite Half-Night Stand Christina Lauren

 

And, finally, the Top Ten Picks for Hawaii in Q3:

American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
Stone Cold Heart Laura Griffin
Polaris Rising Jessie Mihalik
The River Peter Heller
In Her Sights Katie Ruggle
Any Man of Mine: A 2-in-1 Collection Diana Palmer
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict
The Raven Tower Ann Leckie
Bad Bachelors Bundle Stefanie London
Deep Harbor Fern Michaels

 

‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again

From Publishers Weekly:

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the Times‘ Best Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

The Times has already cut back its print lists on the combined print/e-book and print hardcover lists to 10 titles, from 15, although the online lists will continue to show 15 titles. A representative of the paper said that the change “was made for design reasons, specifically to improve the readability of the lists in print.”

. . . .

The return of the mass market and a new graphic books lists will likely be of great relief to Times readers and publishers. The decision to cut the lists two years ago caused consternation among the comics industry in particular. The Times said that reader interest was central to its calculus for bringing back the lists.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Physical books still outsell e-books — and here’s why

From CNBC:

Do you prefer reading an e-book or a physical version? It might be a surprise, but for most people, old school print on paper still wins.

Publishers of books in all formats made almost $26 billion in revenue last year in the U.S., with print making up $22.6 billion and e-books taking $2.04 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers’ annual report 2019. Those figures include trade and educational books, as well as fiction.

While digital media has disrupted other industries such as news publishing and the music business, people still love to own physical books, according to Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers’ Association in the U.K.

“I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects,” she told CNBC.

People love to display what they’ve read, she added. “The book lover loves to have a record of what they’ve read, and it’s about signaling to the rest of the world. It’s about decorating your home, it’s about collecting, I guess, because people are completists aren’t they, they want to have that to indicate about themselves.”

. . . .

It’s more than a decade since Amazon launched the Kindle, and for Halls, there is also a hunger for information and a desire to escape the screen. “It’s partly the political landscape, people are looking for escape, but they are also looking for information. So, they are coming to print for a whole, quite a complex mess of reasons and I think … it’s harder to have an emotional relationship with what you’re reading if it’s on an e-reader.”

. . . .

Sixty-three percent of physical book sales in the U.K. are to people under the age of 44, while 52% of e-book sales are to those over 45, according to Nielsen.

It’s a similar picture in the U.S., where 75% of people aged 18 to 29 claimed to have read a physical book in 2017, higher than the average of 67%, according to Pew Research.

Link to the rest at CNBC

With data from the Association of American Publishers and the Booksellers Association in the UK, PG notes a distinct lack of information in the OP regarding how many ebooks Amazon sells in the US and UK. Unless he is much mistaken, the statistics quoted in the OP don’t include sales of ebooks by Amazon Publishing and indie ebooks via KDP.

When PG last checked, in addition to not collecting ebook sales information, Nielsen (now NPD) Bookscan figures didn’t include printed or POD books that weren’t registered with Ingram.