The evergreens: next gen

<p>It's probably no newsflash for you booksellers that you need to never run out of the Harry Potter series. But did you know that there are seven Julia Donaldson titles that you must have? Or three Sophie Kinsellas? Or two Trudi Canavans? And that former drug dealer Howard Marks and his holiness the Dalai Lama share something in common by being on the same privileged list?&nbsp;</p>
<p>In 2008, <i>The Bookseller</i> revealed arguably its most exclusive chart ever: the Evergreens, or the list of just 12 titles (out of over 1.8 million ISBNs) that had never fallen&shy; out of the Top 5,000 chart since Nielsen BookScan began tracking records in 1995.&nbsp;</p>
<p>That original list was not the all-time top sellers, but rather hardy perennials, books that continue to sell in sufficient numbers long after they fell away from the very top of the charts. The All-Time Evergreen chart was perhaps a trifle surprising, with many well-loved titles not on the list. This is partly to do with the hard and fast criteria of the chart , but also because these books have managed to have enduring appeal long after other books came and went.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img width="445" height="191" alt="" src="/userfiles/image/all%20time%20chartweb.jpg" /></p>
<p>Alas, there have been some casualties among our All-Timers, and the originally Terrific 12 are now the Noble Nine. Nelson Mandela sadly stuttered on his <i>Long Walk to Freedom</i> (Abacus), his memoir falling off the Top 5,000 in January of this year (ironically a couple of weeks before the Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman starring &ldquo;Invictus&rdquo; was released in cinemas), in the same week as M Scott Peck's <i>The Road Less Traveled</i> (Arrow) also fell out. All-Time Evergreen king Terry Pratchett now only has two books on the list; <i>Mort</i> (Corgi) slipped out of the chart just two weeks ago.</p>
<p>Of course, the All-Time Evergreen list is made up of books published before 1995. So we have decided to update the list, looking at the newer generation of Evergreens, those published between 1995 and 2005. For the sake of clarity, we are splitting the list into 1998&ndash;2000, and 2000&ndash;05, and treating children's separately. <br />
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<b>The criteria </b><br />
A word about how we selected the titles. Actually, far more than a word because it is a trifle complicated; look away now non-stats anoraks! The most important thing to remember is that this is a list linked to ISBNs. Thus a book might drop out of the Top 5,000 because of a new ISBN issued by a publisher due to such things as a movie tie-in or a series rejacket. There may be multiple versions, which might affect a title's ability to stay in&nbsp; the Top 5,000. This is particularly an issue in &shy;children's where a title might be in say, a novelty edition, a board book, a paperback picture book, hardback, etc. The version of the <i>We're Going On a Bear Hunt </i>(Walker) in the All-Time Evergreens is the paperback &pound;5 version which has life sales of 393,000. Life sales of all . . . Bear Hunt editions are just under 793,000 for &pound;4.3m.&nbsp; <br />
Out of copyright classics with multiple publishers obviously fall foul of this as well. Almost 482,000 copies of Jane Eyre have sold since records began in January 1998, an average of 713 per week. But no single edition has remained in the top 5,000 since it was incorporated.</p>
<p>A clarification, too, on &ldquo;since records began&rdquo;. Nielsen has recorded a Top 5,000 chart since 1995, but actual sales figures date back to 1998, when the TCM precursor the General Retail Market was created. Nielsen does not issue sales data from 1995&ndash;98 as the pool of retailers it collected data from was expanding weekly.</p>
<p>The basic formula used to determine an Evergreen on the surface seems relatively straightforward. Subtract the number of weeks in the Top 5,000 chart from weeks since publication and if the difference is relatively low, it is just a matter of drilling down into the sales data on a week-by-week basis to see if the title has remained in the Top 5,000. We have used a pretty broad criteria to account for slow-burning titles that entered the Top 5,000 a while after publication. Still, there have been a few titles that have not come up because the difference between weeks in the chart versus weeks since publication has been, and here we use a technical phrase, a bit squirrelly. Basically, this is because publishers have changed their BookScan bibliographic data (perhaps because of new &shy;edition, but with the same ISBN) and have altered &shy;pub&shy;lication dates. These titles are quite rare, but there is one major children's title which is absent because of the discrepancy of between pub date and its weeks in the chart.&nbsp;</p>
<p>For these new Evergreens, we have picked titles published between 1995 and 2005 (though, again, actual sales data only goes back to 1st January 1998); the thinking is that a book needs at least four years on the Top 5,000 to become a true Evergreen.<br />
We told you it was &shy;complicated.</p>
<p><b>Adult evergreens: 1998&ndash;2000</b></p>
<p>Ah, the late 1990s. Remember those halcyon years? Bill Clinton was in the White House, Tony Blair in his pomp, Britannia was still cool and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were just a far off gleam in Dick Cheney's beady little eyes.</p>
<p>In books, of course, the story was the burgeoning popularity of J K Rowling's Harry Potter series. But on the adult side, perhaps the biggest publishing splash in the late 1990s was the transplanted bearded Iowan who first captured Britain's attention with his genial and perceptive musings on his adopted homeland. The paperback of Bill Bryson's <i>Notes from a Small Island </i>(Black Swan) was published in 1996 and it has shifted over 885,000 copies since 1998, an impressive average of 1,391 a week. In all, Bryson has four titles in the new Evergreens; only Donaldson and Rowling have more entries. Three of his books are ones a travel section cannot afford to run out of&mdash; <i>. . . Small Island, Neither Here nor There and Down Under</i>&mdash;while his most popular book <i>A Short History of Nearly Everything</i> (1.3 million copies for &pound;9.7m) is the only Evergreen science title.</p>
<p>Paolo Coelho's <i>The Alchemist </i>(Thorsons) is an example of ongoing word-of-mouth success. The Brazilian's uplifting, new agey novel sold over 29,000 copies in 1998. By 2005, it was shifting 61,000 copies, and last year&mdash;some 11 years after the paperback was originally published&mdash;it still sold just under 39,000 copies.</p>
<p>It is heartening that some quality can last. Margaret Atwood's <i>The Handmaid's Tale</i>&mdash;Vintage's 1998 version of the book originally published in 1986&mdash;has certainly benefited from its modern classic reputation, inclusion onto many university reading lists and the author's five Man Booker nominations and one win. Both of Ian McEwan's Evergreen titles, <i>Enduring Love </i>and 2002's <i>Atonement </i>(both Vintage), were rapturously received by critics, though their ongoing popularity has undoubtedly been boosted by two film adaptations in recent years.&nbsp; Arundhati Roy's <i>The God of Small Things </i>(Flamingo) is the only Man Booker Prize winning book (but not author) on the list.</p>
<p>There is a strong thread through the entire next generation of Evergreens which we can broadly put into the self-help, MBS or spirituality camp&mdash;which arguably would include <i>The Alchemist </i>and Steven Covey's business tome <i>The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People</i> (Simon &amp; Schuster). But surely the most surprising book here is the appearance of the Dalai Lama's <i>The Art of Happiness</i>, a sort of gentle intro to Tibetan Buddhism for Westerners. The book is not a bestseller, but just slowly but surely ticks over. In the 546 weeks it has been in the chart, it has only hit four figures in volume sales six times. And there are not many lists where you would see a man who was said to once control 10% of the world's hashish trade sitting next to the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. But Howard Marks' <i>Mr Nice </i>(Minerva) can be counted on to knock out about 500 copies a week, a figure sure to rise when the Rhys Ifans-starring biopic is released laster this year.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img width="612" height="249" src="/userfiles/image/adultevergreensweb.jpg" alt="" /></p>
<p><b>Kids evergreens&nbsp;</b></p>
<p>The first book in J K Rowling's seven-strong wizardly series, <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone</i> (Bloomsbury), is currently selling around 650 copies per week. Not bad for a book published almost 13 years ago, but then this is Harry Potter we're talking about, and he's far from ordinary. Thus far in 2010, the original paperback edition of Harry's first adventures at Hogwarts has sold 6,775 copies, up 18% year on year, so the chances of it falling out of BookScan's weekly Top 5,000 bestseller list anytime soon are incredibly remote.</p>
<p>For the other books in the series, it is a different matter. No doubt because book number one is the logical place to begin, sales of the other tomes in the scarred-one's series are lower than Harry's d&eacute;but. The book most at risk of falling out of the weekly Top 5,000 is <i>Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire</i>, Harry's fourth outing. Sales of the children's paperback edition in 2010 stand at 3,169 copies, down 3.3% year on year, and lower than the 2010 sales of <i>Azkaban</i> (3,398) and <i>Order of the Phoenix</i> (3,459). Given that a sale of approximately 110 copies is required to stay in the weekly Top 5,000, at the same 3.3% rate of decline, one can expect <i>Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire</i> to fall out of the chart in approximately 53 years. A headline to watch out for, Bookseller readers of the future.</p>
<p>Talking of instances where the first book in a series sells better than any follow-up,<i> Ruby the Red Fairy</i>, by the four-strong team of writers known as &ldquo;Daisy Meadows&rdquo; is the perfect example. The total number of books in the hugely popular Rainbow Magic now numbers almost a gazillion (roughly), but the very first book in the series has yet to fall out of the weekly Top 5,000 (tragedy struck number two, <i>Amber the Orange Fair</i><i>y</i>, in June last year).</p>
<p>Behind only Roger Hargreaves and his massive Mr Men/Little Miss canon as the bestselling pre-school author of the Noughties, is London-born Julia Donaldson. First published in a paperback flat format in 2004, her story of an unlikely friendship, <i>The Snail and the Whale</i> (Macmillan), has enjoyed an average weekly sale 1,431 copies since it hit shelves, and had a small boost in summer 2007 when Gordon Brown picked it as one of his five &ldquo;all-time favourite books&rdquo; on Radio 4's &ldquo;Open Book&rdquo;.</p>
<p>It has yet to fall out of the weekly top 5,000 in its five years and six months since publication. An impressive feat, but bettered by her <i>A Squash and a Squeeze</i> (five years and 10 months), <i>The Smartest Giant in Town </i>(six years and six months), <i>Room on the Broom </i>(seven years and six months) and <i>Monkey Puzzle</i> (nine years and seven months)&mdash;all of which are published by Macmillan. Thanks to promotional support at Waterstone's in particular of late, all five of her books listed are still selling well over 900 copies per week.</p>
<p>Reverend W Awdry's Thomas and Friends title, <i>Thomas' Big Race: Sound Book</i> (Heinemann) has not sold more than 1,000 copies in a single week in more than three years, and its strongest weekly sale since publication almost 10 years ago was just 1,815. But despite coming close on numerous occasions, it has yet to drop out of the Top 5,000 since entering&shy;&mdash;perhaps because that choo-chooing chuffa-&shy;chuffa push-button on the front is just too irresistible.</p>
<p>Maurice Sendak's <i>Where the Wild Things Are </i>(Red Fox) enjoyed a sales boost last year courtesy of Spike Jonze's silver-screen adaptation. Life sales of the May 2000-published paperback total 367,750 copies to date, and it is still selling comfortably into four figures.</p>
<p>Francesca Simon was one of the top-selling UK authors of the Noughties, and her 2002 publications, <i>Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb </i>and <i>Horrid Henry and the Bogey Babysitter</i>, have never dropped out of the weekly top 5,000 chart. Her subsequent publication, 2003's <i>Horrid Henry's Underpants</i> (all Orion), sadly fell out of the top 5,000 for the first time just a few weeks ago.&nbsp; The 2004 edition of Michael Morpurgo's award-winning <i>Private Peaceful </i>(HarperCollins) has yet to fall out of the Top 5,000 since entering, despite the fact an adult edition was published in 2006, while the 2000-published paperback edition of Louis Sachar's <i>Holes</i> (Bloomsbury) managed to stay in the charts despite a film tie-in edition hitting shelves in September 2003.</p>
<p>A silver-screen adaptation of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl has long been mooted. And if Colfer wants to remain an evergreen, he best keep his fingers crossed. The 2002 edition of Puffin's paperback reached an all-time low of just 143 during the second week in January.</p>
<p><img width="611" height="340" src="/userfiles/image/kidsevergreensweb.jpg" alt="" /></p>
<p><b>Adult evergreens 2000-2005</b></p>
<p>Consumer research has consistently shown that women buy and read more than men, and this is perhaps reflected in Evergreen fiction. Twelve of the 19 adult fiction 2000&ndash;05 titles are written by women, and arguably there are a &shy;couple more&mdash;Alexander McCall Smith's No 1 Detective Agency and McEwan's <i>Atonement</i>&mdash;which are broadly more appealing to women. Overall, chick-lit queens Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes have five books between them. Kinsella's three titles in Transworld's Shopaholic series have sold just under 1.5 million &shy;copies, and the first in the series, <i>Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic</i>, only fell out of the Top 5,000 in November 2009, after nine years.</p>
<p>Conn Iggulden flies a &shy;lonely flag for manly-man lit with two of his sand and sandals Emperor series. This perhaps has much to do with early Noughties trends; big boys fiction from the likes of Wilbur Smith, Clive Cussler and Ken Follett was slightly on the wane with commercial &shy;women's fiction in the ascendancy.<br />
There are only two &ldquo;Richard &amp; Judy&rdquo; titles: Alice Sebold's <i>The Lovely Bones</i> and &Aring;sne Seierstad's non-fiction title, <i>The Bookseller of Kabul </i>(though Monica Ali's <i>Brick Lane </i>just dropped out in October after 302 consecutive weeks in the Top 5,000). Hardly surprising given that the club started in 2004. The guess here is that an Evergreen list in five years time will have a welter of R&amp;J picks.</p>
<p>Quite a few books have benefited from film adaptations to help give another boost to sales. All three of Kinsella's books had about a 33% year on year rise in value sales in 2009, thanks to the &ldquo;Confessions of a Shopaholic&rdquo; rom-com. <i>The Lovely Bones</i> not only benefited from R&amp;J; backed by the recent Peter Jackson helmed film, it shifted 10,119 copies four weeks ago, its biggest single weekly total since the final trading week of 2004 (10,853).</p>
<p><i>Pride and Prejudice</i> would be perhaps an expected answer if you asked members of the public what book a shop could not do without. Given our criteria, it did not make the original Evergreen list, nor did any other classics, but it does appear here, along with three oth er classics, because of the shorter time frame simply&shy; means that the publishers (in these cases Penguin and Virago) did not revamp the list and change ISBNs. It perhaps underscores its position as the most visible classics publisher that three of the four titles (<i>P&amp;P, Of Mice and Men</i>, and <i>Ninety Eighty-four</i>) are Penguin. As might be expected, sales are heavily geared towards reading lists with peaks in September and October.</p>
<p><img width="167" height="237" alt="" src="/userfiles/image/newevergreen.jpg" />And again, a surprise. If one were to ask even experienced booksellers to name a fantasy author they would expect to see not once but twice on this list, I doubt Trudi Canavan would come tripping off the tongue.&nbsp; The Aussie writer is an example of slow and steady winning the race. <i>The Novice</i>, in her Black Magic trilogy, is the only title of any of the Evergreens not to sell more than 1,000 copies in a single week.</p>
<p>What makes an enduring sports story? To paraphrase Lance Armstrong: it's not about the wins or losses. Sure, the seven-time Tour de France winner's memoir talks about his cycling, but the human story of his famous battle with cancer takes centre stage. Long after other memoirs bit the dust, Armstrong's book has pedaled along (in a minority sport, mind), selling just under 26,000 copies in 2009, eight years after its publication. Booksellers should at least ensure that they stock <i>It's Not About the Bike </i>in the summer; Armstrong receives a yearly boost averaging around 40% in sales during the three weeks of the Tour de France.</p>
<p>Similarly, several titles at the self-help end of the market are helped annually by the &ldquo;new year, new you&rdquo; phenomenon. In 2009, Paul McKenna's <i>You Can Change Your Life in Seven Days</i> (Bantam), had almost half its sales (14,645 out of 32,513) in the first nine weeks of the year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
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