Regular readers of The Bookseller will be aware of the three trends driving the print renaissance: adult colouring books, clean eating titles and psychological thrillers. Thus far in 2015, total sales are up 6% year on year through Nielsen BookScan, with a good deal of that down to 2015 breakout stars such as Paula Hawkins, “Deliciously” Ella Woodward and Johanna Basford.
Yet there has been more than a few surging categories. There have also been many micro-trends underpinning the market’s success. Therefore, we have decided to salute 10 “sleeper hits” that are slightly under-the-radar (though collectively they have earned £7.4m through the TCM), or which represent key themes of 2015.
Former police inspector Clare Mackintosh benefitted from the psychological thriller trend, yet is singled out here as a star in the making. Her début, I Let You Go (Sphere), was included in both the Richard & Judy and “Loose Women” book clubs, and is one of just 10 novels to earn more than £1m through the TCM in 2015.
Graphic novels have also been strong in 2015. At the time of going to press, the sector is 25.1% up on 2014, which was its best year on record. A driver is Joe Sugg’s Username: Evie (Hodder). In just nine weeks, the vlogger’s book has become the third-bestselling graphic novel since records began—a stat that would undoubtedly engender screams of anguish from fanboys/girls if uttered in any comics shop.
Yet Sugg’s success is a continuation of the vlogger wave started by his sister “Zoella” and Alfie Deyes last year. It is tempting to over-analyse YouTube as a step-change in how we consume media—but it really is just the latest platform where “memoirable” celebs can be found. But it is interesting just how strong that market has been. Of the top 10 2015 books in BookScan’s Autobiography: The Arts category, five are by YouTubers. For example, Dan Howell and Phil Lester’s The Amazing Book is Not on Fire (Ebury) is winning the celebrity Christmas race. Dan and Phil (as they are known to fans) were published on Super Thursday and have given “traditional” celebrities released on the same day a beating, outselling Sir Tom Jones’ Over the Top and Back (Michael Joseph) by a two-to-one margin; Sue Perkins’ Spectacles (Penguin) by three-to-one; and Steve Coogan’s Easily Distracted (Century) by five-to one.
Unsurprisingly, given it was an election year, Nielsen’s Politics & Government category has been strong: its value (£8.7m) is 26% up on this point in 2014. Surprisingly, given the outcome of the election, Owen Jones’ progressive muckraker The Establishment (Penguin) is by far the biggest-selling politics title of the year.
Another non-fiction trend has been the “gut health” phenomenon led, rather oddly, by a translated title from a 25-year-old German gastroenterologist. Giulia Enders’ Gut (Scribe) earned over £500,000 through the TCM and has the distinction of being one of the few books whose German title (Darm mit Charme) sounds more mellifluous than the English.
In fiction, reclusive Italian author Elena Ferrante’s five books have earned £1.6m this year through BookScan, 1,254% up on her sales in 2014, representing 99% of publisher Europa Editions’ TCM Top 5,000 total. Meanwhile, the late Lionel Davidson’s Kolymsky Heights is the Stoner of 2015. Davidson’s spy thrillers were both commercial and critical successes in the 1960s and ‘70s. Most had gone out of print by the start of this century, but they have been resurrected in recent years by the Faber Finds’ print on demand programme. Faber traditionally published Kolymsky Heights this year, selling an impressive 66,000 copies on an upswell of support from authors such as Philip Pullman and retailer backing—particularly Waterstones.