French and Watson lead strong first half for debuts

French and Watson lead strong first half for debuts

Dawn French and S J Watson are the most successful debut novelists of the year so far across paperback and hardback, with debut novels generally having a more successful year than 2010.

According to Nielsen BookScan data, Hachette has seven books in the top 10 hardback and paperback debut fiction charts. Headline was its most successful imprint across both charts with four debuts. Sarah Winman's Richard and Judy pick When God was a Rabbit features in both the hardback and paperback charts, selling 12,377 and 166,516 copies respectively. Daisy Goodwin's My Last Duchess (101,086 copies sold in paperback) and Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches (17,591 copies sold in hardback) are its other titles.

Penguin was the next most successful publisher according to figures from Nielsen BookScan, within both Top Tens, with four books across both charts, including the bestselling paperback debut by Dawn French. The comedian's A Tiny Bit Marvellous has sold 246,102 copies in little over two months. The bestselling hardback is Transworld's, with SJ Watson's Before I Go to Sleep (Doubleday) selling 22,728 copies since publication in April.

HarperCollins landed three debuts in the debut hardback top 10. Fern Britton's New Beginnings (20,571), Simon Toyne's Sanctus (12,273) and Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist (11,767).

Debuts appear to be having a more successful year compared to 2010. Only four debut novels in hardback had sold more than 5,000 in the first seven months of last year, compared to 10 so far in 2011.

Sally Johnson, co-owner of Caxton Books in Frinton on Sea in Essex, said she felt the likes of "The TV Book Club" and endorsement from Richard and Judy, whose book club runs in W H Smith, were helping indies this year. She said: "They both helped in particular with a book like The Help. They go from nowhere to something people have to read." She said debuts picked for the shop's book club fared well, citing When God was a Rabbit as well as The Help.

Vivian Archer of the Newham Bookshop in east London said there was a greater quality in debuts published this year. She said: "It's been title-driven rather than publicity-driven this year I feel. If it's a title that you can get behind then that makes the difference." She said Téa Obrecht's The Tiger's Wife, Jamil Ahmad's The Wandering Falcon (Hamish Hamilton) and When God was a Rabbit were among the shops' bestselling debuts.

Meanwhile, more than three years after publication, Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo continues to be a powerhouse for publisher Quercus. It was the second bestselling debut paperback of 2011, notching up 178,338 sales.

Bestselling paperback debut novels of 2011 (copies sold)

A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French Penguin 246,102
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson Quercus 178,338
When God Was a Rabbit Sarah Winman Headline Review 166,516
The Help Kathryn Stockett Penguin 124,716
My Last Duchess Daisy Goodwin Headline Review 101,086
The Tiger's Wife Téa Obreht Phoenix 86,125
The Tennis Party Madeleine Wickham Black Swan 78,121
Angelology Danielle Trusson Penguin 78,088
The Passage Justin Cronin Orion 65,277
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Helen Simonson Bloomsbury 62,847

Bestselling hardback debut novels of 2011 (copies sold)

Before I Go to Sleep S J Watson Doubleday 22,728
New Beginnings Fern Britton HarperCollins 20,571
A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness Headline 17,591
When God Was a Rabbit Sarah Winman Headline 12,377
Sanctus Simon Toyne HarperCollins 12,273
The Hypnotist Lars Kepler Blue Door 11,767
A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French Michael Joseph 10,142
The Tiger's Wife Téa Obreht Weidenfeld 9,008
Vespasian Robert Fabbri Corvus 7,024
Snowdrops A J Miller Atlantic 5,663