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A tough 2010: snow joke
13.01.11 | Philip Stone
Seventy-six books took more than £1m through the tills. Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 30-minute Meals (Michael Joseph) became, in just three months, the bestselling hardback non-fiction book since Nielsen BookScan records began in 1998. Three titles by Stieg Larsson sold more than one million copies, becoming only the second author on record to achieve the feat. Richard and Judy returned. Celebrities bounced back. And yet 2010 turned out to be an annus horribilis for the trade as printed book sales shrank by a horrific £56m, or 3.2% year on year— the heaviest year-on-year slump since records began in 1998.
There has been much speculation as to the reasons behind the decline, the weather being the biggest target of bookseller and publisher wrath. It seems an almost pathetic excuse, but the statistics are hard to argue against. Two of the worst weeks for the trade in 2010 came in periods of adverse weather: sales were down 15% (£4.4m) year-on-year one snowy week in January, and were down 18% (£11.4m) in the "big freeze" week ending 4th December.
With the snowed-in public restricted to all but the most essential of journeys (e.g. grocery shopping) online booksellers and supermarket book retailers may have enjoyed sales boosts in these weeks, but their sales alone were nowhere near high enough to make up for the high street shortfall, and the missing sales just didn't appear in subsequent weeks.
In addition to the weather—and for travel publishers, strikes, ash clouds and the weak pound—was the uncertain economic climate, which no doubt will have kept the wallets of some (in particular, light book-buyers) firmly closed. Then there was the collapse of Borders in late 2009. Borders' share of all book sales in the UK was estimated to be around the 2% mark, of which a significant proportion would have been passing trade, perhaps lost forever.
Meanwhile, it is also very easy to imagine that another factor in declining book sales is readers transferring to digital. If estimates as to the size of the e-book market are to be believed (around 1%–2%), then it could account for as much as £34m of the missing £56m.
So, in a tough year for printed books, the value of Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market panel of some 6,500 UK booksellers closed on £1.696bn—down 3.2% on 2009, and down 5.7% on the 2007 peak of £1.799bn. Volume sales fell 4.3% year on year, to 225.5 million, while average selling prices enjoyed a slight increase (eight pence or 1.1%) to £7.52, the first rise in four years.
Up in the air
The bestselling title of 2010 is, somewhat awkwardly, open to debate. The impatient among you will notice that 2010's Official UK Top 50 is topped by pukka TV chef Jamie Oliver's 12th hardback cookbook with a record-smashing 1,167,457 sale. But there was, in fact, one book that bettered that, so deserves to take the "bestselling book" title: Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Quercus). All editions of the late Swede's début novel sold a terrific 1,224,135 copies last year, taking £6.6m through bookshop tills. Two editions of the book (the original English-language mass-market edition and the more recent film tie-in) take spots four and 10 in the Top 50.
Stephen Fry ended the year as the author of the bestselling celebrity memoir. His second memoir, The Fry Chronicles (Michael Joseph), sold 372,054 copies in hardback plus another 15,318 copies for the export edition. Meanwhile, Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn ended 2010 as the bestselling children's book of the year, its 596,200 sales split across numerous editions. She dominates the Top 20 Children's chart , despite the fact her total book sales in 2010 were down 43% on a massive 2009.
Two of the most talked about memoirs of 2010 earn Top 50 status: the TV meerkat Aleksandr Orlov's (19th place), and former PM Tony Blair's (27th). But one doesn't have to be an annoying chap off the telly to sell books; a couple of novels in 2010 deserve special mention for enjoying word-of-mouth acclaim. The mass-market edition of David Nicholls' award-winning One Day (Hodder) sold a tremendous 503,931 copies in 2010 thanks to high praise from both professional and amateur critics alike, while Hans Fallada's long-forgotten, recently rediscovered Alone in Berlin (Penguin) sold a highly respectable 205,352. Now we will consider the six sector top 20s in turn.
Martina Cole's 17th thriller, The Family, sales of which were down around 20% on her previous book, Hard Girls, was the only hardback novel to sell more than 150,000 copies in 2010—a feat achieved by five books in 2009 (see page 22). Two celebs make the Top 20: one (Dawn French) with a début, the other (Katie Price) with her fifth novel.
Three books that made the Man Booker longlist also chart, with Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap (Tuskar Rock) proving more popular than the eventual winner Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)—no doubt helped by the fact it was released earlier in the year and at a cheaper price point. Still, there's no escaping the fact that the 2009 winner, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate) ended 2009 with a sale more than twice the size (201,714 versus 79,798) of Jacobson's.
While sales of hardback novels may have been down in 2010, sales of mass-market fiction were up. Five mass-market novels enjoyed sales in 2010 that were higher than the bestseller in the sector the previous year (Marian Keyes' This Charming Man on 491,000).
Stieg Larsson takes four places on the list, while "the next Stieg Larsson" (Jo Nesbø) charts in 15th with his Harry Hole thriller, The Snowman (Vintage). The latter is one of two members of the W H Smith-exclusive Richard and Judy Book Club picks to chart (the other being Rosamund Lupton's Sister), while one Channel Four's "TV Book Club" selection makes the list: Kathryn Stockett's US smash hit, The Help (Penguin). R&J's club proved the most popular of the high-profile book clubs, its titles enjoying an average sale of 126,840 copies by year-end—in comparison to figures of 79,764 (winter) and 103,648 (summer) for the two TV Book Clubs.
Rosie Alison's Orange Prize shortlisted The Very Thought of You (Alma) tops the 2010 Heatseekers list—a ranking of the bestselling novels by authors who have yet to crack The Bookseller's Official UK Top 50. Emma Donoghue's Man Booker-shortlisted Room (Picador) charts in fourth place, behind book club favourite Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Gallic) and Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram—fast becoming a cult classic.
Anthony Riches' début novel, Wounds of Honour (Hodder), the first instalment in his Empire series, takes eighth place—one behind Lorrie Moore's Orange-nominated A Gate at the Stairs (Faber), and one ahead of Delphine de Vigan's R&J pick, No and Me (Bloomsbury).
Two modern classics chart: John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (Penguin) and William Golding's Lord of the Flies (Faber), the latter being one of seven débuts to make the Top 20—though LOTF initially appeared 56 years ago.
Jamie's 30-minute Meals (Michael Joseph), comfortably charts atop the Top 20 Hardback Non-fiction chart thanks to a record-breaking 1,167,457 sale—clocked up in just three months. In comparison, last year's Jamie's America (Michael Joseph) has sold 272,000 copies in 15 months. Guinness World Records takes second position on the chart, despite the fact its sales fell by 80,000 year on year, while Nigella Lawson's eighth hardback cookbook takes third place.
Stephen Fry's The Fry Chronicles (Michael Joseph) ended 2010 as the bestselling celebrity memoir and was one of seven (if we include the meerkat and by "celebrity" we mean "famous person") to sell more than 250,000 copies in hardback—up from just one (Ant and Dec's Ooh! What a Lovely Pair) in 2009.
Non-celebrity Bill Bryson's "short history of private life", At Home (Doubleday), charts in 18th while one of the independent bookshop big hits of Christmas narrowly misses out on a place in the list: Neil MacGregor's BBC Radio Four spin-off, A History of the World in 100 Objects (Allen Lane).
Boringly, The Official Highway Code (TSO) tops the Top 20 Paperback Non-fiction chart, but only because the 348,172 sales scored by Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love (Bloomsbury) were split between two paperback editions. Those two titles were the only two to enjoy sales of more than 200,000 copies in 2010, compared to six in 2009.
Eat, Pray, Love aside, 2010 suffered from the lack of a big hit, as in 2009, of the size of a Barack Obama, Jade Goody or Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.
Interestingly, and unlike 2009, a misery-memoir earns a place in the Top 20: Dana Fowley's How Could She? (Arrow), while two books from the fledgling nursing/midwifery-memoir genre (Edith Cotterill's Nurse on Call and Jennifer Craig's Yes Sister, No Sister), also chart.
Her sales may have fallen £12.5m (43%) year on year, but Stephenie Meyer nonetheless dominates the Top 20 Children's chart. Five of Meyer's Twilight titles, split across seven editions, make the top 20 while US web designer Jeff Kinney also sees five of his titles earn bestseller status. Sales of his latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid instalment, The Ugly Truth (Puffin) are up three-fold on sales of the previous instalment, Dog Days.
Thomas to the Rescue (Egmont) and Darcey Bussell/Anna Wilson's Magic Ballerina/Kitten Chaos (HarperCollins/Macmillan) are the only World Book Day £1 books to chart in the Top 20. Total sales of the 2010 selections measured 712,092 copies by the end of the year, down 13% on the 815,131 sales of the 2009 selections, and down 31% on 2008's pre-flip-book days. Children's annuals also suffered from a dip in popularity year on year: Beano Annual (D C Thomson) was the only one to sell more than 150,000 in 2010, a feat achieved by four in 2009.