Physical book sales slump £12m in October

Printed book sales in October slumped 8% year-on-year, due largely to poor sales within the paperback fiction and biographies/memoirs sectors, Nielsen BookScan data has revealed.

In total, £144.7m was spent on physical books in the four weeks to 29th October, a rise of £14m, or 12%, on the previous four-week period, but down £12.3m on October 2010.

According to an analysis of Nielsen BookScan's Top 5,000 bestseller list, sales within the paperback fiction sector were down 15% year-on-year in October, while sales within the biographies/memoirs genre were down a dire 43% year-on-year, due largely to poor sales of celebrity memoirs.

Eighteen celebrity memoirs took more than £100,000 through bookshop tills in October last year, with titles by Michael McIntyre, Stephen Fry, Paul O'Grady, Alan Sugar, Russell Brand, Michael Caine, Dannii Minogue, Cheryl Cole, Keith Richards and Gok Wan all selling more than 20,000 copies. In October 2011, just six celebrity memoirs have generated more than £100,000 in sales, while only three (by Lee Evans, James Corden and One Direction) have sold in excess of 20,000 copies.

Due in part to the migration from print to digital, sales within the fiction sector were down 13% in the month of October, due principally to a 15% drop in sales of paperbacks. Despite the record-breaking success of Terry Pratchett's latest novel, Snuff (Doubleday), which became the fastest-selling hardback novel by a British writer upon release, sales of hardback fiction were also down by a shallower 7% year-on-year.

Sales within the food and drink sector were also down year-on-year, by 40%, due largely to the huge success of Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 30-minute Meals (Michael Joseph) last year. The cookbook sold 241,230 copies, taking more than £3m through the tills in October 2010. However, Oliver's new cookbook, Jamie's Great Britain (Michael Joseph), has thus far struggled to match those record-breaking sales, selling 61,786 copies (£800,000) over the comparative period.

Humour and history are two of few non-fiction sectors that enjoyed sales growth year-on-year. Thanks to the popularity of Alan Partridge's I, Partridge (HarperCollins); The Inbetweeners Yearbook (Century); and Karl Pilkington's An Idiot Abroad (Canongate), sales within the humour sector were up 30% in October, while the history sector received a similar boost helped by the success of works by Sir Max Hastings and Sinclair McKay.

Sales of children's books, meanwhile, were marginally up in the month of October, with growth in the non-fiction and pre-school sectors offsetting a decline in the young-adult fiction genre caused by the tumbling popularity of dark romance novels. Julia Donaldson was comfortably the bestselling children's author in October. Her many books took £990,000 through bookshop tills over the four-week period, up 20% (£165,000) year-on-year.

Top five titles:
1) Terry Pratchett's Snuff (Doubelday) 106,300 copies sold
2) Guinness World Records (Guinness) 77,600
3) James Patterson and Howard Roughan's Don't Blink (Arrow) 76,600
4) Peter James' Dead Man's Grip (Pan) 72,800
5) Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Great Britain (Michael Joseph) 61,800

Top five authors:
1) Terry Pratchett: £1,165,000 (up 158% year-on-year)
2) Julia Donaldson: £990,000 (up 20%)
3) Jamie Oliver: £970,000 (down 69%)
4) Lee Child: £850,000 (down 13%)
5) James Patterson: £765,000 (up 25%)