News

Assange misses chart as September slump continues

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's controversial memoir failed to make the charts after three days on sale, as printed books continue their September struggle.

According to Nielsen BookScan data, sales were down 9% year-on-year. In total, £29.5m was spent on physical books at UK booksellers last week, up 3.2% (£900,000) on the previous week, but down £2.9m on on the same week last year.

Nielsen BookScan's Top 5,000 bestseller list for the seven days to 24th September period reveals that spending on hardback books was down 30% on last year, with paperback sales down 6%. Just one hardback book, Guinness World Records 2012, sold more than 10,000 copies at UK booksellers last week, in comparison to seven in the same week last year.

David Nicholls' One Day (Hodder) was once again the bestselling book at UK bookshops, but as the majority of its sales are split between its two high-selling mass-market editions—the film tie-in version sold 17,458 copies while the original mass-market edition sold 16,243—it is Jeffrey Archer who tops this week's Official UK Top 50.

His Only Time Will Tell (Pan), the first book in a five-part Bristol-based saga, sold 25,118 copies in its first full week in UK bookshops. Tom Clancy and Grant Blackwood's Dead or Alive (Penguin) takes second place in this week's Official UK Top 50, ahead of the two editions of One Day. Guinness World Records 2012 climbs 12 places week-on-week and takes fifth place with sales of 15,455 copies.

However, perhaps the most talked-about book of the week, Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography (Canongate), fails to make the chart. The controversial memoir, released on Thursday (22nd September), scored modest sales of 644 copies in its three days on sale last week. It was only the 50th bestselling hardback non-fiction book of the week, and only the 537th bestselling book overall, sitting directly behind Julia Donaldson's Freddie and the Fairy (Macmillan) and Sharon Kendrick's Satisfaction (Mills & Boon), a £6.99 collection of three short stories featuring "three of her sexiest, most intense Greek heroes and glamorous heroines".

Canongate publishing director Nick Davies said the book's performance was "a marathon and not a sprint" and said Canongate had signed seven international rights deals since the book was published. He said: "We never made any big predictions about the sales of the Assange book – particularly on the first three days of sale. There was no build up for the trade, the media or with the reading public. But we’re proud of the way we handled what has been a difficult and unusual launch, and we are extremely proud of the book.

"Fortunately, the conversation now seems to be moving away from the “publishing story” and focusing on the quality of the book itself. The early reviews – with the exception of a predictable whitewash in the Guardian – have been very positive, particularly in the Times and Independent with many more lead reviews lined up for this weekend. And the early customer reviews on Amazon are extremely positive too."

New entries into the Official UK Top 50 include Peter Kay's The Book That's More Than Just a Book Book (Hodder), Pam Ayres' memoir The Necessary Aptitude (Ebury), and, thanks to its eight-hour dramatisation on BBC Radio Four, Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate (Vintage). Karl Pilkington's An Idiot Abroad (Canongate) re-enters the Top 50 ahead of a second series of "An Idiot Abroad" beginning on Sky1.

James Patterson's Kill Alex Cross (Century) is the new number one in Original Fiction this week, which scores the US novelist his seventh Original Fiction number one of 2011. Philippa Gregory's The Lady of the Rivers (Simon & Schuster) falls one place to second position but, with her The Women of the Cousins' War (Simon & Schuster) also charting in this week's Top 20 Hardback Non-fiction list, she scores the incredibly rare feat of earning bestseller status across both The Bookseller's Original Fiction and Hardback Non-fiction charts. The last person to achieve the feat was Andy McNab with Exit Wound and Spoken From the Front in 2009.

Guinness World Records 2012 was the bestselling hardback non-fiction book last week and tops a Top 20 Hardback Non-fiction chart that welcomes three new entries. Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder's memoir Twisting My Melon (Bantam Press), débuts in 10th position, while Adam Macqueen's Private Eye: The First 50 Years (Private Eye) and Billy Connolly's Route 66 (Sphere) join the Top 20 in 15th and 16th place respectively.

Julia Donaldson's The Highway Rat (Alison Green) remains the bestselling children's title in the UK, thanks to sales of 5,221 copies. Sales of annuals are beginning to climb ahead of Christmas but the Beano Annual (D C Thomson) and the Doctor Who Annual (BBC), traditionally the bestselling annuals in the UK, have stiff competition this year. Moshi Monsters: The Official Annual (Sunbird) was the bestseller at UK bookshops last week, with sales of 2,691 copies, almost 300 more than Beano and some 913 copies more than Doctor Who.

Comments: Scroll down for the latest comments and to have your say

By posting on this website you agree to the Bookseller comments policy. Comments go direct to live please be relevant, brief and definitely not abusive. Report any "unsuitable comments by clicking the links"

Just goes to show how much more discerning readers are becoming in regards to their purchases. Bad press is, officially,now worse than no press at all.

Well duh. Who'd want to fork out £20 for utter tosh. A third of the book was just reprinted wikileaks stuff. Even the Kindle edition is a rip off at 6.74p

I think there is a bigger story here that we might be missing. For the past few years Publishers have priced the new titles with the expectation that Waterstone's and others would then aggressively discount them.

With JD now in charge at Waterstone's the discount levels have fallen dramatically which means prices to readers have gone up. My store is not in central London we are very much suburbia and the prices in the store are eye watering. Average hard back selling prices are now over £15 and many are at £20 - why would anybody pay this for fairly run of the mill titles. We are all concerned that the new approach might work for the stores in the wealthy areas but our customers just can't / wont pay these prices. It seems to me that Publishers have been caught out by the about turn in discounting and that's at least part of the reason for the terrible hardback sales.

How many of the other authors on this list of yours have released video evidence of US armed forces committing war crimes?

This just goes to reinforce how desperately eBook sales need reporting alongside physical.

This is just a percentage of the market now - obviously the biggest percentage - but if eBooks really are 10% of the market then a 9% decrease in physical sales isn't quite as bad as it seems. And Assange is a prime book for digital sales - the market for it are fully digitised and it's not a book you'd want to keep and treasure. I know the revenue generated is different and if you're not selling ebooks your sales are down all the same but this is a disingenuous picture.

It actually just reinforce that publishers should tell retailers about books they're releasing before the day they decide to publish them...

Each week The Bookseller publishes at least one story saying the same thing, physical book sales are dropping and eBook sales are increasing. A new kindle is on the way, as is a Waterstone's eReader, (which JD has already hinted is the future of the business) and I for one can't see how this trend is going to change.

Not only has the way people purchase books changed, but the kind of books people still want in physical form is decreasing. For example travel titles, fiction, (both historically big departments of any book store) and many academic subjects.

For big chains like Waterstone's the question must now be when to close many of the large under performing stores and what to put in the shrinking space once occupied by large, big selling sections (yes I know, apart from coffee shops and Related Product..)

Must me missing something- why would anybody buy a scissors and paste story of someone who was famous- ish for 5 minutes,weeks ago and if a strawpoll was held,probably 1 in 10 people have heard of?

Here's the impetus to get everyone back into libraries. Whilst the public won't pay £15+ for a hardback, those libraries with decent enough budgets (and there are still plenty) are buying dozens of copies because of the massive discounts they get from their suppliers. We get almost 50% discount from our supplier, so we can get the latest hardbacks, and plenty of copies of the paperbacks too.

I do think the Guinness World Records should be reconsidered though. Surely this can be a paperback now, how much of it really changes every year? It should go the same way as Guinness Hit Singles and become a once-every-two-year publication.

Provided our suppliers can get their new titles to us quickly, come to your local library as Mad Thursday (or whatever it's called!) really benefits us.

As an aside, does Nielsen Bookscan include sales to library suppliers/libraries?

I really think the publishers have a lot to answer regarding their pricing strategies. hardbacks
are getting more and more expensive with some mass market fiction costing £19. I would dearly like to know how they can justify such price rises. They are shooting themselves and bookshops in the foot.

I think some interesting points being made - if JD is taking the big W down the 'quality' route then the big discounters this year will be the supermarkets and WHSmith. If the supermarkets, by all accounts, are reducing their buying levels, then it will be interesting to see how aggressive WHS go this Xmas to get the punters in. Mind you, with some of the tosh about to hit the shelves on 'Super' Thursday most retailers need as much discount as possible to shift the rubbish. James Corden, Jason Manford, Dannii Minogue, Alan Sugar.... I mean please, publishers, do something better for the public or start to write your own obituaries (or better still, get them penned by z-list celebs and sell them next Xmas as an e-book....)

Just goes to show how much more discerning readers are becoming in regards to their purchases. Bad press is, officially,now worse than no press at all.

Well duh. Who'd want to fork out £20 for utter tosh. A third of the book was just reprinted wikileaks stuff. Even the Kindle edition is a rip off at 6.74p

I think there is a bigger story here that we might be missing. For the past few years Publishers have priced the new titles with the expectation that Waterstone's and others would then aggressively discount them.

With JD now in charge at Waterstone's the discount levels have fallen dramatically which means prices to readers have gone up. My store is not in central London we are very much suburbia and the prices in the store are eye watering. Average hard back selling prices are now over £15 and many are at £20 - why would anybody pay this for fairly run of the mill titles. We are all concerned that the new approach might work for the stores in the wealthy areas but our customers just can't / wont pay these prices. It seems to me that Publishers have been caught out by the about turn in discounting and that's at least part of the reason for the terrible hardback sales.

How many of the other authors on this list of yours have released video evidence of US armed forces committing war crimes?

This just goes to reinforce how desperately eBook sales need reporting alongside physical.

This is just a percentage of the market now - obviously the biggest percentage - but if eBooks really are 10% of the market then a 9% decrease in physical sales isn't quite as bad as it seems. And Assange is a prime book for digital sales - the market for it are fully digitised and it's not a book you'd want to keep and treasure. I know the revenue generated is different and if you're not selling ebooks your sales are down all the same but this is a disingenuous picture.

It actually just reinforce that publishers should tell retailers about books they're releasing before the day they decide to publish them...

Each week The Bookseller publishes at least one story saying the same thing, physical book sales are dropping and eBook sales are increasing. A new kindle is on the way, as is a Waterstone's eReader, (which JD has already hinted is the future of the business) and I for one can't see how this trend is going to change.

Not only has the way people purchase books changed, but the kind of books people still want in physical form is decreasing. For example travel titles, fiction, (both historically big departments of any book store) and many academic subjects.

For big chains like Waterstone's the question must now be when to close many of the large under performing stores and what to put in the shrinking space once occupied by large, big selling sections (yes I know, apart from coffee shops and Related Product..)

Must me missing something- why would anybody buy a scissors and paste story of someone who was famous- ish for 5 minutes,weeks ago and if a strawpoll was held,probably 1 in 10 people have heard of?

Here's the impetus to get everyone back into libraries. Whilst the public won't pay £15+ for a hardback, those libraries with decent enough budgets (and there are still plenty) are buying dozens of copies because of the massive discounts they get from their suppliers. We get almost 50% discount from our supplier, so we can get the latest hardbacks, and plenty of copies of the paperbacks too.

I do think the Guinness World Records should be reconsidered though. Surely this can be a paperback now, how much of it really changes every year? It should go the same way as Guinness Hit Singles and become a once-every-two-year publication.

Provided our suppliers can get their new titles to us quickly, come to your local library as Mad Thursday (or whatever it's called!) really benefits us.

As an aside, does Nielsen Bookscan include sales to library suppliers/libraries?

I really think the publishers have a lot to answer regarding their pricing strategies. hardbacks
are getting more and more expensive with some mass market fiction costing £19. I would dearly like to know how they can justify such price rises. They are shooting themselves and bookshops in the foot.

I think some interesting points being made - if JD is taking the big W down the 'quality' route then the big discounters this year will be the supermarkets and WHSmith. If the supermarkets, by all accounts, are reducing their buying levels, then it will be interesting to see how aggressive WHS go this Xmas to get the punters in. Mind you, with some of the tosh about to hit the shelves on 'Super' Thursday most retailers need as much discount as possible to shift the rubbish. James Corden, Jason Manford, Dannii Minogue, Alan Sugar.... I mean please, publishers, do something better for the public or start to write your own obituaries (or better still, get them penned by z-list celebs and sell them next Xmas as an e-book....)