Erotica continues to dominate charts

Eight of the top 10 bestselling novels in the UK last week were works of erotica, with E L James' iron grip over the market continuing.

Although sales of James' Fifty Shades trilogy fell by more than a quarter week-on-week last week, the three books in her trilogy secure positions one-through-three in the Official UK Top 50 by a comfortable margin. Fifty Shades of Grey (Arrow) takes top spot with a sale of 112,669 copies in the seven days to 18th August—just ahead of sequels Fifty Shades Darker (111,702 copies sold) and Fifty Shades Freed (109,503).

Sylvia Day's Bared to You (Penguin) retains fourth position with a 54,525 sale, while the mass-market edition of Lee Child's Jack Reacher thriller The Affair (Bantam Books) joins the chart as the highest new entry, in fifth.

Erotic novels Eighty Days Yellow by Vina Jackson (Orion); Destined to Play by Indigo Bloome (Harper); In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa (Virgin); and The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell (Fourth Estate) all sold more than 10,000 copies last week, earning them top 10 places in this week's Paperback Fiction chart.

It is a remarkable turnaround for a genre that, until E L James' trailblazer, few publishers and booksellers took seriously—perhaps at no surprise given the lack of thirst from readers. A year ago, for example, not a single work of erotica earned a place in Nielsen BookScan’s top 5,000 chart, let alone in the fiction bestseller lists.

The success of erotica, however, is appearing to come at a cost. Non-erotic novels earn numerous positions in the bestseller lists this week (14 crime thrillers take places in the Official UK Top 50 this week, for example), but there remains clear evidence that the public’s new fondness for erotica is cannibalising the rest of the book market.

Despite new books by the likes of Peter Robinson, Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen hitting shelves last week, for example, total spending on crime novels in the seven days to 18th August was down 20% year on year last week, according to an analysis of BookScan’s top 5,000 chart. There were also declines in the science fiction and fantasy (-25%), horror (-30%) and “general” fiction sectors (-20%).

Even the non-fiction sector appears to be suffering, with sales of hardbacks down 16% year on year last week, and sales of paperbacks down 8%, while not even a new novel from children’s mega-seller Jacqueline Wilson (Four Children and It) could help the children’s market grow year on year (down 2%).

There were some bright spots, though, with sales of food and drink titles boosted by a new Lorraine Pascale series and cookbook (Fast, Fresh and Easy), while the sport sector is continuing to enjoy an Olympics uplift.

Booksellers, though, will have been largely disappointed that predictions of an immediate post-Olympics “feel-good factor” uplift for retailers have thus far proved wide of the mark. BookScan data reported that printed book sales last week were down year on year for a fourth consecutive week—by 7% (£1.8m) to a 10-week low of £24.4m.