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Review of 2009: Author-ised
29.01.10 | Tom Tivnan & Philip Stone
"That's the one thing I hate about Sunnyvale, too many damn vampires."
The sentiment from the last line from the cult 1980s film "The Lost Boys", will probably not be echoed in the halls of UK publishing houses anytime soon. The boom in vampire literature has been one of the main stories of 2009, responsible for some of the biggest chart successes, and it shows little sign of abating.
Stephenie Meyer, of course, is chiefly responsible for the most recent vamp-lit phenomenon. Aided in part by the film adaptations of her Twilight books, she had numbers two to five of the top selling books of last year, and sits atop our authors of 2009 chart by some margin, shifting a jaw-dropping £29.4m in value sales through Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market (TCM). That is the biggest single year total by anyone not named J K Rowling since BookScan records began in 1998—the Harry Potter author sold £41.3m, £37.2m and £45.3m in 2007, 2005 and 2003 respectively. Dan Brown is the only writer to come close, selling £28.1m in 2005.
It was not an overnight success for Meyer, with the paranormal teen romance genre building slowly here on the back of its US success. In 2006, when the Twilight hb was released it took just over £20,000 through the TCM. In 2007 three titles in the series were available and sales built to £427,340, followed by the break-through year of 2008, when Meyer took in £6.1m.
The current vampire craze begins, but certainly does not end with Meyer. Two authors that are new to the Top 50 appear thanks to blood-suckers, both aided by tie-ins. The HBO adaptation of "True Blood", Charlaine Harris' sexy Southern Gothic/vampire tales, gave a tremendous boost to Orion after being shown in the UK on FX and Channel 4. After not having one title in the TCM Top 5,000 bestseller list in 2008, Harris had 12 in 2009 for value sales of just over £3.1m. The film version of Darren Shan's kid-friendly Cirque du Freak received mixed reviews, but it still enabled HarperCollins to experience an overall uplift in the Irish author's backlist, to put him in 48th place.
Further down the list are Meyer manqués P C and Kristin Cast whose House of Night series (also published by Meyer's L,B imprint Atom), brought in £2.2m through the TCM, good enough for 61st place. The American mother/daughter team sold £11,000 worth of books in 2008 (admittedly on nine less ISBN counts). L J Smith's Night World series (Hodder Children's) churned out £1.2m last year, to make Smith the 129th bestselling author. Meanwhile Morganville Vampire's Rachel Caine (£367,000) and The Immortals' Alyson Noel (£258,000) also had decent sales.
Conspiracy and consistency
In another year, Dan Brown's massive The Lost Symbol-powered success may have seen him comfortably sitting atop the chart. His £15.8m in value sales beat the total for the 2008 author number one, Jamie Oliver, by some £3.7m. Still, like Meyer, Brown is responsible for a raft of, er, "homage" publishing, with other conspiracy theory novelists riding the Brown boom. Chris Kuzneski's The Prophecy (Penguin) was cannily published about the same time as The Lost Symbol, helping the American author to just under £819,000 in total sales. Other authors experiencing a Brown bounce from conspiracy theory fans included Andy McDermott (£738,000), Scott Mariani (£475,000), Steve Berry (£387,000) and Raymond Khoury (£360,000).
While Brown returns to the Top 50 after a few years in the wilderness, James Patterson is once again Mr Consistency. He and his co-writers have hovered between the £9.3m to £10.3m mark, and in the second or third place, since 2006. He is down this year by 5%, due to a slight dip in hardback sales and because only three mass market thrillers were released in 2009, compared to six in 2008. Formerly consistent Jamie Oliver slipped in 2009, although you know you are doing well when being the fourth bestselling author of the year is a slump. Jamie's America sold 240,000 copies last year, 304,000 less than Jamie's Ministry of Food (both Michael Joseph) in 2008. Oliver had his lowest total through the TCM in five years.
With some of the UK's most enduring writing brands, children's authors were heavily represented in the author chart, occupying 13 of the top 50 places (that includes test prep guru Richard Parsons). They account for 33% (£80.5m of £242.2m) of the top authors' revenue, although a good chunk of that comes from Meyer. Julia Donaldson has even more reason to celebrate 2009 than The Gruffalo's 10th anniversary as she cracks into the top five. There were strong hb sales for Tabby McTat, Stick Man (both Alison Green) hit almost 101,000 copies in paperback, plus a Christmas BBC TV adaptation of the Gruffalo. Donaldson's TCM value sales have increased 20% for three years running.
Paying the price?
Not a stellar year for a couple of commercial women's stars. Cecelia Ahern slid 45% from 2008's total, with hardback sales for The Book of Tomorrow down 20% from the previous year's The Gift, though the main reason for the slump was more to do with lower mass market sales because of 2008's PS I Love You (all HC) film tie-in. "Any publicity is good publicity" has probably been Katie Price's motto in the past, but has her break-up with Peter Andre, and the two camps' subsequent tabloid and glossy mag propaganda war, been deleterious to book sales? Price is 41% down year on year in value terms, at any rate. Her fashion guide Standing Out took just over £1m in 2009, but memoir number three, Pushed to the Limit, took just shy of £2.5m in 2008, while novel Sapphire was down 17% on 2008's Angel Uncovered (Century). Perhaps its time to get back with Peter: and alert the media.
But it was an excellent year for Stieg Larsson (or rather the late author's heirs), who with £6.7m rung up through the tills becomes by far the biggest selling translated author in a single year since records began. Carlos Ruiz Zafón was the previous highest, bringing in £3.9m in his R&J year of 2005. A win for literature, as well. The biggest Top 50 gainer percentage-wise was Hilary Mantel, shooting up 7,484% to £2.8m on the back of her Man Booker Prize win for Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate), climbing 5,345 places from the 2008 chart.
Overall, there was a decline in publishing's "rich list" this year, with 165 authors earning £1m or above through the TCM (Meyer to Alison Weir) totalling £423.6m, compared to 177 the previous year (£448.2m). Consistent with the past few years, a small number of authors in 2009 contributed a hefty chunk of sales: the top 500 authors are responsible for 35.3% of last year's £1.752bn books market.
Three of the Top 10 fiction authors were helped by adaptations. The tie-in for Jodi Picoult's weepie My Sister's Keeper brought in £1.8m in 2009, but her 52% uplift was also boosted by hardbacks Picture Perfect (first published way back in 1995) and Change of Heart (all Hodder), which both sold more than 40,000 copies. Similarly, the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" film helped raise Sophie Kinsella's sales by 6%. Meanwhile, the Sky TV dramatisation of Martina Cole's The Take, plus a 30% year-on-year rise in hardback sales, saw her sales jump by 10%.
Michael Joseph's decision to publish Marian Keyes in hardback over Christmas worked a treat. The Brightest Star shifted 95,000 last year, compared to the hardback for This Charming Man (78,000), which came out in April 2008. The This Charming Man mass market edition was the biggest selling paperback published in 2009.
Terry Pratchett took a 10% hit, despite having his highest ever hb sales (238,000) for Unseen Academicals (Doubleday). His backlist was down considerably—just three mass market paperbacks selling more than 10,000 copies in 2009, compared to 15 the previous year—that presumably owing to the excitement around the Discworld 25th anniversary in 2008.
Outside the top 10 there were huge gains for Audrey Niffenegger (number 50 overall), up 507% to £2.6m on the back of the film-boosted Time Traveler's Wife (which took almost £2m of her total) and the new hardback novel, Her Fearful Symmetry (both Cape). Chris Cleave was 2008's 4,131st bestselling author, but he rockets up 4,377% to 65th and £2.2m, powered by his book club-friendly The Other Hand (Sceptre).
Non-Fiction and Celebrity
That the Non-Fiction and Celebrity top 10 charts are nearly identical perhaps says much about either the public's appetite for what it wants (or the safe option for what to buy that tricky relative for Christmas), or publishing's belief in what it thinks the public wants.
As celebrity can be a somewhat imprecise term, we were rather arbitrary on whom we deemed to be one. The leader of the free world a "celebrity"? Well, he is very famous. Paul McKenna? Too Z-list, was the consensus in the office. However we sliced it, it still was not a bumper year for celebrities.
The Top 10 celeb authors in 2008—with monster years from Jamie, Delia, Nigella, Dawn French, Paul O'Grady—churned out £64m. This year the top 10 scrapes by with £37.5m, affected by down years from Jamie, Delia, Jeremy Clarkson and Katie Price (who, incidentally, is not on the Non-Fiction chart because a good chunk of her total comes from fiction).
Still, Ant and Dec fly the flag, but at £3.2m through the TCM, perhaps do not just yet live up to Michael Joseph's expectations for the around £2m advance it shelled out.
Frankie Boyle's My Shit Life So Far (HC) is probably the surprise celeb hit, and it might cheer fans of the caustic Scottish comedian that he outsold far more mainstream folk like Chris Evans (£1.8m, 86th overall), Coleen Nolan of "Loose Women" (£1m, 164th), Jack Dee (£742,000, 240th) and Justin Lee Collins (£375,000, 493rd). Boyle's "Mock the Week" co-star's Dara O'Briain's Tickling the English (Michael Joseph) didn't do so; his sales were just over £463,000, for 399th on the list.
A mixed bag for our celeb cooks. As stated above, Jamie and Delia are both down, but to be fair they were operating from great heights; Jamie was the number one overall in 2008, and Delia had one of the bestselling titles of that year, with Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking. Still, Delia's Happy Christmas (both BBC Books) sold incredibly well in the last quarter of 2009 (254,000). New TV series led to big gains for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (64th overall) and Rick Stein (up 86% to £2m), while Nigel Slater's memoir of his vegetable patch, Tender (Fourth Estate), sold incredibly well, lifting him up to £2.1m and 67th place.
It is impressive that Nigella Lawson managed to shift almost £2m without a new book, but has Gordon Ramsay's star waned? Just as in 2008 he had two new books out in 2009: Great British Pub Food (HC) and World Kitchen (Quadrille). Sales for 2009 pale in comparison to the previous year, when he brought out Healthy Appetite (Quadrille) and Cooking for Friends (HC), and the sweary chef tumbles down 51 places to number 72, from £4.8m in 2008 to £2m.
Antony Beevor is the first "non-celebrity" on the Non-Fiction list, adding £2.4m through the TCM to 2008's total. Guess how much his summer hit D-Day (Viking) sold? That's right, £2.4m. It was the 18th bestseller in value terms of the year. Z-list yes, but Paul McKenna was up 23% by value to £2.4m and 58th place. The self-help guru's I Can Make You Thin (first published in 2007) sold 77,000 copies, I Can Make You Sleep (both Bantam) sold 69,000, and he had nine other titles on the TCM Top 5,000.
Without a new book Bill Bryson fell from 33rd to 91st on the chart, but still took in £1.7m. Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth (Bantam) did not have the same impact that The God Delusion had a few years ago, but the hb did take in £846,000, lifting the botherer of God-botherers up 57 places to 94th overall and £1.7m.
The big gains for the top children's authors were for Meyer, Donaldson and "Adam Blade", the pseudonym of four authors who write the Beast Quest series. Incidentally, the "bio" for Blade on the Working Partners-backed website is a hoot; Blade supposedly is a twenty-something from Kent with two exotic pets—Ziggy the tarantula and Omar the Capuchin monkey. The series sells strongly across the board—35 titles in the Top 5,000—plus Blade co-authored a World Book Day title that sold 169,000 copies.
Francesca Simon and Jacqueline Wilson are joined at the hip for the second year in a row. They both lost about 24% year on year in value terms, but remain in 14th and 15th place respectively overall. Sales of the Horrid Henry Annual were up for Simon, but nothing matched the success of 2008's Horrid Henry Robs the Bank (Orion Children's), which hifted 157,000 copies. For Wilson, her 2009 hardbacks—the memoir My Secret Diary (65,000) and the Victorian kids' novel Hetty Feather (115,330)—did not sell as well as the more straightforward 2008 offerings My Sister Jodie (134,000) and Cookie (144,000).
Last year's 40th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Puffin)—one of BookScan's "Evergreens", the elite list of now just nine books that have never fallen out of the TCM top 5,000—helped boost Eric Carle's sales 92% to £2.5m, and vault him 74 places up the overall list to 54th.
Sadly, we have some new names on our list of top dead authors. Larsson, famously, died in 2004 before seeing any of his books in print. Jade Goody's popularity meant her very public death last spring led to some very good book sales, with hits for John Blake (Jade: Fighting to the End) and HarperCollins (Forever in my Heart). A book from another celebrity cancer victim, Patrick Swayze, was also a hit, with Simon & Schuster releasing his Hollywood memoir just days after his death last autumn.
But most of the dead are long enduring, cherished brands and classic authors who pop up on school and university reading lists. Blyton was our top dead author last year, but she suffers a hit on a general backlist decline: 28 of her books made the 2009 Top 5,000, compared to 35 in 2008. This perhaps begs the question of whether the nostalgia boom of the past few years is going bust. Publishers take note.
Walking guide guru Alfred Wainwright gets a boost, aided in part by the recessionary "staycation" phenomenon. Agatha Christie, pushed just out of the top 10 by the new faces, had a big drop, down 43%, to £1.2m and 134th overall. Like Blyton, she suffered a backlist malaise.
Further along, the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet film version of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road helped Vintage sell almost 169,000 copies in all editions, propelling him up 706 places to 138th, and £1.2m. The next two spaces behind Yates are occupied by George Orwell and Charles Dickens (both £1.2m). J R R Tolkien took a 65% fall, tumbling from 80th overall to 149th and £1.1m.
For the literary prize authors top 10 we have limited ourselves to the top adult British and American awards (Booker, Costa, Orange, Pulitzer, etc). As seen on previous pages, Mantel cracks the overall top 50 with outstanding growth on the back of this year's Booker win, while 2008 winner Aravind Adiga continued to sell extremely well. Sebastian Barry's Costa-winning The Secret Scripture (Faber) saw him rocket from £208,000 in 2008 to almost £2m last year. The paperback edition of Marilynne Robinson's Orange Prize-winning Home (Virago) accounted for almost 70% of her TCM value total.
Ian McEwan, with no new book understandably slumped—he took in £4.1m last year and was 31st overall—but his backlist proved resilient. Cormac McCarthy had the No Country for Old Men tie-in in 2008. With the film version of The Road (both Picador) just recently released in cinemas, this total may pick up in 2010. Past Costa winner William Boyd and Booker winner Margaret Atwood returned with new hardbacks.
Carol Ann Duffy's massive increase has nothing to do with her 2005 T S Eliot Prize win and all to do with her becoming the Poet Laureate. The first woman in the post has proved a breath of fresh air after unctuous Andrew Motion, and the reading public have responded.
With Stieg Larsson shattering the single year record for an author in translation, is the UK ready to fully embrace foreign language literature? Well, maybe not, but 2009 was one of the better years for this category.
It would have been difficult for Carlos Ruiz Zafón to reach the heights of Richard & Judy-boosted The Shadow of the Wind, but Weidenfeld are probably content with the totals he took in, largely from Angel's Game. Bernhard Schlink's sales were helped by The Reader film tie-in, while Henning Mankell saw a rise off the back of "Wallander", the Kenneth Brannagh-starring BBC TV mini-series. Old reliable Paulo Coelho—he sold £15.4m worth of books in the Noughties—exceeded the £1m mark.
There are a couple of non-household names on the list. Michele Giuttari is the former head of Florence's police whose gritty Abacus-published Italian noirs are gaining in popularity. Never heard of Masashi Kishimoto? Plenty of spotty comics-obsessed kids have. He is the Japanese manga artist and creator of the Naruto series.
Just missing out on the translated top 10 is Roberto Bolaño, the cult Chilean novelist who died in 2003. The publication of his 2666 to rapturous critical acclaim was one of the literary highlights of the year. He shifted almost £541,000, not bad for a translated high-end literary fiction. Picador has 10 other previously untranslated into English Bolaños in the pipeline.