Monday, March 28, 2011

Subject: Re: sales ot bestselling novelists
From: pinkfreud-ga on 26 Jan 2004 12:43 PST
I have not been able to find the statistics you need, but I wanted to
point you toward a resource that you may find very useful. This is a
93-page paper entitled "Best and Worst of Times: The Changing Business
of Trade Books, 1975-2002." It contains numerous observations about
the increasing influence of "brand name" authors in the book market.
Below are some excerpts, with a link to the paper itself (in pdf

"Consolidation has occurred in every sector or role of the book
business: retail, wholesale, distribution, publishing and libraries
(e.g., the budgetary emphasis on aggregated databases as opposed to
individual book purchases). The only exception is in the role of the
author. Consolidation in the publishing function is visible in the
bestseller list. In 2000, 83.5 percent of the best-selling titles on
the weekly lists of Publishers Weekly were from only five companies.

[ . . . }

"The overwhelming majority of spaces on the annual fiction bestseller
list are taken up by brand names. The phenomenon has become much more
pronounced during the last two decades."

[ . . . ]

"The book business today is highly consolidated on every front, save
that of the author and the book itself - just recall the 122,108
individual titles published in 2000. Thousands of small publishers and
self-publishers are responsible for producing many of them, but the
titles populating the bestseller lists tell a very different story. Of
the books appearing on PW?s weekly bestseller lists during the year
2000, 83.5 percent were published by only five companies - Random
House, PenguinPutnam, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, AOL Time

[ . . . ]

"The pattern was set: a handful of fiction writers would reappear on
the list year after year and dominate it."

[ . . . ]

"Seven publishers - Random House Inc., Bantam Doubleday Dell, S&S,
HarperCollins, Time Warner, Putnam Berkley, Penguin and Hearst -
accounted for 87 percent of the hardcover bestseller slots and 82
percent of the paperback slots in 1995.82 Since then, Random and BDD
have combined, as have Penguin and Putnam. (Recently Putnam was
'combined' even more - it was eliminated as part of the corporate
name, although it still e xists as an imprint.) PW?s comment that ?one
can clearly see how few opportunities are left for midsize and smaller
publishing firms? [to make the bestseller list] is even truer now."

[ . . . ]

"In 2000, five companies - Random House, PenguinPutnam, HarperCollins, Simon
& Schuster and AOL Time Warner - accounted for 83.5 percent of slots
on the weekly hardcover bestseller lists and 78.9 percent on the
weekly paperback lists."

[ . . . ]

"The huge inequity between the select few - books by brand-name
authors and books that have been 'anointed' to be 'made' -  and all
the rest is very troubling. If one could do the impossible - a study
of how money, in terms of advances and marketing budgets, is allocated
to each book on a publisher?s list in any given year - it would speak
volumes about the distortions of today?s business."

[ . . . ]

"Brand names clog the bestseller list, but many more people are buying
those books than had bought their equivalents twenty-five years ago."

National Arts Journalism Program
Best and Worst of Times: The Changing Business of Trade Books, 1975-2002


Here's a quote from another article that might be of interest:

"Consider the following: Between 1986 and 1996, 63 of the top 100
best-sellers in the United States were written by just six authors:
Clancy, Grisham, King, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, and Danielle
Steele. During this same period, the top 30 best-sellers doubled their
share of the total of books sold in this country, so the fortunes of
American publishing have been riding largely on the sales of just a
few authors. If these authors were to join forces, their combined
sales would dwarf those of most publishing houses."

The American Prospect Online: Bibliosophy
Subject: Re: sales ot bestselling novelists
From: poe-ga on 27 Jan 2004 02:53 PST

This doesn't answer your question in the slightest but does offer a
little insight into how bestseller culture has affected the publishing

A friend of mine is a writer of long standing. He has over a hundred
books to his name and all have sold well, though his only 'bestseller'
was a pulp novel that sold a couple of hundred thousand copies in the
summer of 1976. He is what is known as a b-list author, a solid one
but b-list nonetheless, and was thus mostly ignored by the publishers
who were increasingly only interested in the next big bestseller.

This state of affairs deteriorated rapidly. When he sold all his own
copies of one of his children's books at the launch party, he asked
the publisher for more, only to be told that they'd already sold out.
Naturally he was very happy that the entire print run should sell out
in a couple of weeks, so he asked when the book would be reprinted.
The answer was that it wouldn't.

In short his solid track record of selling out print runs, albeit much
lower ones than the big names attract, meant nothing. The publishers
were only interested in big budget blockbusters with high risks but
potentially high returns. The numbers people have mentioned above
explain why they should think that way, but the end result is that the
bread and butter stuff doesn't matter any more.

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