Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Still Pottered After All These Years

Last Friday, the first business day of 2015, Publishers Weekly released the list of the top-selling books of 2014.  There are the usual number of movie tie-ins and celebrity books in the Top 10 Print Bestsellers, but what is remarkable about the list is that 8 of the 10 are books for young readers. 

Top 3 Books of 2014
Top-Selling Books of 2014
And you have to get down to position number 5 on the list before you even find an adult book -- Killing Patton by professional gadfly Bill O'Reilly, which is the only adult book on the list that sold more than one million copies. Young adult author John Green sold more than twice as many books as O'Reilly with a book that was published back in January 2012.
The print sales statistics Publishers Weekly uses are are kept by Nielsen BookScan, a more reliable and realistic record than the New York Times Best Seller list. Unlike the New York Times, Nielsen BookScan doesn't subcategorize print titles by fiction or nonfiction, hardcover or paperback, adult or children's, series or stand-alone.  (For example, John Green's The Fault in Our Stars appears in the Nielsen Top 10 three times -- in trade paper, movie tie-in, and hardcover.) What you see is a simple, unadulterated list of the ten best-selling books of the year, in sales order.

The New York Times didn't separate out children's fiction from adult fiction until 2000, when they made the controversial decision to do this owing to the popularity of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter.  The first three books in the series had occupied spots 1, 2, and 3, and didn't show any signs of being knocked off or even down the list, except inevitably by the forthcoming volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Best-selling adult authors being kept of the list by the young wizard were said to have been "pottered." The New York Times decided to fix that by taking children's books off the best-sellers list all together, no matter how many copies they sold.

Today it's clear that adult authors are still being pottered, but now it's by the likes of John Green, Jeff Kinney, and Veronica Roth. The children's authors on the list have changed in the past decade but what stays the same is that children's books are far outselling adult books, at least in print editions.

Potter on!

No comments:

Post a Comment