First quarter sales spotlight

First quarter sales spotlight

Though the first quarter’s overall results are still being calculated, we can draw some early conclusions for the first 12 weeks of 2014. Physical books sales registered at 20,803,246 through BookScan’s TCM Top 5,000 list, down 3.5% on last year’s Q1, when that number exceeded 21.5 million.

At this point last year, eight titles—including three World Book Day books—had sold more than 100,000 copies. So far just four have achieved this feat in 2014, and only two—Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (Black Swan, 163,003 copies) and Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller (Hodder, 104,815 copies)—both mass market paperbacks—were published this year.
The value decline of the Top 5,000 at this point is in line with and, at 6.3%, just under 2013’s overall value decline of 6.5%. The value of the top 10 authors took a substantial tumble, however—£14.8m in 2013 versus £12.8m in 2014 (-14%).

Julia Donaldson, James Patterson, Jeff Kinney, The Hairy Bikers and Jacqueline Wilson all rank in the top 10 for both years’ Q1 figures, but all had year-on-year declines. Donaldson’s was marginal (–0.06%), but with the exception of Patterson, the rest suffered declines of at least 24%. Patterson’s Top 5,000 value shrank by £242,000 (-12%) alone primarily due to the sheer numberof titles (42) the author had in rotation last year in comparison to this year (29). Si King and Dave Myers were unable to compete with their runaway hit Hairy Dieters (Weidenfeld), which sold £1.54m in 2013’s Q1. The follow-up, Eat for Life (Weidenfeld), has been worth more than £1m less to booksellers
over the same period in 2014.

Excellent performances from David Walliams, Mary Berry, John Green and Kate Atkinson—who combined to contribute £4.56m—helped offset declines elsewhere. Suzanne Collins also made an impressive rebound; she’s the 11th-ranked in 2014 to date, with a 31% sales increase year-on-year, selling £685,000 worth of her Hunger Games titles.

Other notable children’s writers who grew sales for Q1 within the Top 5,000 included J K Rowling, whose books generated an impressive £634,000, including over £350,000 on Harry Potter backlist. Veronica Roth’s sales went through the roof year on year; she has sold over £500,000 worth of her Divergent series so far this year.

Backlist once again proves its importance to the industry. Stripping out titles published from April 2013 onwards, £43.2m of backlist has been sold in 2014 to date. This accounts for 39% of Q1’s Top 5,000 value.

A comparison with 2013’s first quarter (stripping out all titles published from April 2012 onwards) reveals that backlist accounted for 33.5% of the £119m the Top 5,000 was worth last year. Sales may be down, then, but the value of older titles is increasingly making its presence felt, the growing significance of which should not be underestimated.

Blankety Blank

Julia Donaldson currently reigns at the top of the author rankings for Q1; she was worth £2.67m. There is, however, one author who makes Donaldson’s sales pale into insignificance, but they are rarely mentioned in these pages: (blank). That is, the “author” assigned to all the titles with no author listed at all.

Sales for these books are lumped together and then frequently ignored. Perhaps they shouldn’t be. Top 5,000 data for Q1 reveals sales of these titles are on the rise—up 16% year on year, and worth £16.2m. Wade through the heavily discounted titles and there is some real gold: Collins’ Calorie Counter, for example, is worth £10,000 alone this year!