Magical book

Magical book

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What sells books? Kids and movies

If you think Patterson, Evanovich, Galbraith/Rowling, King and Koontz dominate the U.S. bestseller lists these days, you’re not looking in the right place.
The real action is on the Young Adult/Children’s list.
According to Nielsen BookScan (which counts sales at 80% of retail outlets, including Amazon), Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis, which sits atop the hardcover fiction bestseller list right now, sold 35,777 copies during the week of June 30-July 6. By contrast, the current number one children’s/teen fiction book, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, sold 75,327 copies the same week — and has sold 1,167,232 copies so far this year. Green’s book came out in 2012, but it was propelled into the stratosphere in 2014 by a hit movie.

YA and children’s books have been outselling adult books all year. Recently Publishers Weekly combined bestsellers across all categories of fiction and nonfiction to show the top 20 sellers in print (as reported by BookScan) and for the Kindle. Books for young people, especially those with movie tie-ins, ruled the print list and took the top slots on the Kindle list. (See the charts here.) 

The number one print seller for January through June : Divergent by Veronica Roth, another YA book that’s been made into a film. The other books in the trilogy, Insurgent and Allegiant, occupied the third and fourth slots. The paperback of The Fault in Our Stars was second, the hardcover was fifth and the movie tie-in edition was sixth. (With a boost in sales since the movie’s June release, Fault has zoomed past Divergent.)

Fault and the Roth books also took the top four slots on the list of bestselling Kindle titles for the first six months of 2014, and The Divergent Series Complete Collection was number 10. The rest of the Amazon Kindle Top 20 list, as reported in Publishers Weekly, was populated by adult books such as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, and John Grisham’s Sycamore Row.  

The print list, though, left little room for adult books — or books of any kind that don’t have movie versions out or in the works. Five print spinoffs of the film Frozen were among the bestselling books for January-June. John Green’s Looking for Alaska, first published in 2005, is now a hit book (number seven for the first half of the year) and will follow The Fault in Our Stars to the big screen and no doubt even greater sales. Both the original Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo and the movie tie-in version made the print bestsellers list (11 and 14). The only nonfiction book among the top 20 was a devotional title, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young (number nine), first published a decade ago and still going strong in various editions. Another perennial bestseller is Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (number 12). Two Scholastic guides to the Minecraft game were the number 16 and 17 bestsellers.

Looking a little lonely on the January-June print bestseller list is Tartt’s The Goldfinch, at number 20. The 2013 release is still high on the hardcover fiction list, and BookScan reported 2014 sales of 304,100 copies as of July 6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn fell out of the top 20 print sellers at last but held on to number 11 on the Kindle list.

Purists may wince at the heavy cross pollination between books and movies, but honestly, how can anyone complain if movies are inspiring young people to read more? Granted, a lot of  YA fiction is purchased and read by adults, but most is being read by teens — and in the case of the two John Green novels, at least, the subject matter is serious, realistic, and thought-provoking for that age group.

The big question is whether these young readers will continue to buy and enjoy books as they grow older and take on the responsibilities of adulthood. They hold the future of the book business in their hands, so we have to hope that the pleasures of the written word, whether in print or digital form, will keep drawing them back — when they aren’t at the movies.