Chip MacGregor

April 2, 2008

Good Grief — Why Don’t You Update This Thing?


Some new information has come out on the bestselling books of 2007, and it’s fascinating stuff…

First, there were nine novels that sold a million copies last year, according to Publishers Weekly (in fact, all the numbers in this column will be based on the most recent issue of PW): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Playing for Pizza, Double Cross, The Choice, Lean Mean Thirteen, Plum Lovin, Eclipse, and Book of the Dead. I don’t know how many of those you read but I can tell you it was a great year for Janet Evanovich, and that Pizza is one of Grisham’s clunkers. Ugh.

Second, there were sort-of seven nonfiction hardcover books that sold a million copies last year: The Secret, The Dangerous Book for Boys, Decelptively Delicious, You: Staying Young, I Am America (and so can you), Become a Better You, and, apparently, The Daring Book for Girls. My reason for saying there were "sort of" seven books is because the recorded sales for that last book was exactly one million copies… which would have been an amazing coincidence. (On an honest note, You: On a Diet came in less than 2000 copies short of a million.)

Third, there were eleven trade paperback titles that hit the magic mark: Eat Pray Love, The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, The Road, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Pillars of the Earth, Love in the Time of Cholera, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Jeusalem Countdown, Middlesex, and Measure of a Man. And no, I’m not kidding… John Hagee’s Jerusalem really did sell more than a million copies. Unbelievable.

Fourth, there were sixteen mass market novels that sold a million copies. I won’t list them all by title, but Nora Roberts held places #1 and #3, and James Patterson held #2, 4, 5, and 6.

Fifth, the only children’s book to pass the million mark was Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, though it first released ten years ago. James Patterson, who apparently has cloned himself in order to write in every genre, fell 250 copies short of a million with Maximum Ride: School’s Out Forever.

Some interesting facts:

-Of the more than four million books in print last year, 44 hit the million mark.

-Of the 250,000 NEW books published last year, 17 of them sold a million copies. (That would be .00006.) 

-If we assume selling 200,000 copies is the mark of a breakout book, there were 62 hardcover novels, 63 hardcover nonfiction titles, and 71 trade paperbacks that hit the big time.

-If we assume selling 500,000 is the bar for making it big in mass market, there were 90 titles that made it.

-It was nice to see some literary fiction do well, particularly in the trade papers. The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, The Road, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and Love in the Time of Cholera are not your fast commercial reads.

-Some things just keep selling. Love in the Time of Cholera was released in 1985 (nice to see what Oprah can do for you, isn’t it?). Pillars of the Earth was released in 1989.

-Readers continue to fall in love with novelists and stay with them. I can’t count the number of James Patterson titles on all these lists. Similarly we see a lot of Nicholas Sparks, Janet Evanovich, David Baldacci, Nora Roberts, Mary Higgins Clark, and Debbie Macomber.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the bestselling book of all last year, selling more than thirteen million copies. That’s now the bestselling fiction series of all time.

The Secret was the next bestselling book. Booksellers moved 4,590,000 copies, just outpacing the trade paperback edition of Eat, Pray, Love. The only other books to pass the two million mark were Kite Runner, Thousand Splended Suns, and Blood Brothers.

Joel Osteen must live a charmed life. His Become a Better You sold 1,181,173 copies, which is amazing.

-The bestselling Christian book last year belonged to my good buddy Cec Murphey, whose 90 Minutes in Heaven sold 1,273,000 in trade paper — not bad for a book that came out back in 2006.

-It’s amazing to see how many good Christian books sold 100,000 copies or more. Thomas Nelson is all over the list with titles from Emerson Eggerichs, Beth Moore, Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Robin McGraw, Chip Davis, John Maxwell, Deborah Norville, Bill Cosby, John MacArthur, and Dave Ramsey. Mike Hyatt, the Prez at Thomas Nelson, deserves a parade. I don’t know if there is a better-run company in publishing.

-Tyndale also had several titles on the >100,000 list, by authors like Karen Kingsbury and Joel Rosenberg. (And it should be noted that Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strength sold 820,124 copies in hardcover.)

-It’s always nice to see small books do well — Deborah Rodriguez’s The Kabul Beauty School sold 102,000 copies. A.J. Jacob’s The Year of Living Biblically sold 113,000 copies.

-It’s always nice to see old friends do well — Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five sold 125,000 copies, 38 years after its release. And Horton Hatches teh Egg sold more than a quarter million copies 67 years after its first release. (Hop on Pop passed the half million mark last year, and The Cat in the Hat came close to that.)

-It’s always nice to see a jerk fall on his face. For all the hoopla John Dean got, the publicity-seeking ex-con who turned on his friends in order to cut a deal had plenty of media, but tepid sales. Ditto famous nutjob atheist Richard Dawkins — for all the press the guy gets, his book barely topped the 100,000 mark.

-Sometimes there’s just no telling… United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s book My Grandfather’s Son sold 283,000 copies. So did Jeff Foxworthy’s Redneck Dictionary III. My guess is they weren’t bought by the same people.

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