Sunday, April 26, 2009

Genre Bestsellers of 2008

Once again -- I did this exercise last year in this space, and have the vague feeling that I did it before then somewhere else (maybe rec.arts.sf.written) without being able to actually trace earlier iterations -- here are the genre books that made Publishers Weekly's round-up of the best-selling books of 2008. (From the March 23rd issue; I'm running a month late this year.) As always, I think it's important to be clear-eyed about what people are actually buying, reading, and enjoying, and lists like this help that.

I try to be expansive in my definition of "genre" when putting these lists together, including paranormal romances, mainstream alternate histories, and other books that I know have fantastic elements. However, I don't know what every single book is, so I've almost certainly left out something that sold very well and had some genre element in it.

There will probably be some commentary, but I'll try to keep that to a minimum, since this will already be a series of very long lists.

Adult Hardcovers
The very top-selling fiction book, according to PW, was John Grisham's The Appeal, whose numbers are secret. (But it's somewhere north of #2, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, at 1,320,000.) Genre titles start with
  • #3 The Host, Stephenie Meyer, 1,240,005
  • #9 Your Heart Belongs to Me, Dean Koontz, 784,645
  • #20 Just After Sunset, Stephen King, 565,000
PW stops counting after #30, but they keep listing.
  • Strangers in Death, J.D. Robb, 403,000
  • Odd Hours, Dean Koontz, 401,522
  • Salvation in Death, J.D. Robb, 378,500
  • A Lion Among Men, Gregory Maguire, 377,458
  • Acheron, Sherrilyn Kenyon, 232,027
  • Blood Noir, Laurell K. Hamilton, 216,121 -- the first book published in-genre
  • Dark Curse, Christine Feehan, 172,258
  • Swallowing Darkness, Laurell K. Hamilton, 167,958
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson, 157,215 -- the first genre SF novel on the list
  • From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris, 145,000
  • Small Favor, Jim Butcher, 124,188
  • Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, Anne Rice, 112,000
  • The Outlaw Demon Wails, Kim Harrison, 108,528
  • Ender in Exile, Orson Scott Card, 107,792
  • The Gypsy Morph, Terry Brooks, 105,838
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Sean Williams, 103,232
  • Days of Infamy, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, 101,288
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars by Karen Traviss, 101,146
  • Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Invincible, Troy Denning, 101,034
  • The Widows of Eastwick, John Updike, 101,000
I didn't see anything on the hardcover non-fiction list of direct interest to the SF/Fantasy world. The top seller there was Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, at 4,388,137.

Mass-Market Paperbacks
This list, and the trade paperback list that follows, incorporates both fiction and non-fiction, but I won't mention any of the latter.

Top book is John Grisham's The Appeal, at 2,185,722. (By comparison, the best-selling movie of the year, The Dark Knight, sold an estimated 22.37 million admissions -- roughly ten times as many. It's useful to remember this issue of magnitude when thinking about the book world: it's about a tenth as popular as movies.)
  • The Hollow, Nora Roberts, 1,912,349
  • The Pagan Stone, Nora Roberts, 1,838,137
  • The Darkest Evening of the Year, Dean Koontz, 1,060,474
  • The Good Guy, Dean Koontz, 940,235
  • Creation in Death, J.D. Robb, 828,045
  • Dream Chase, Sherrilyn Kenyon, 750,000
  • Strangers in Death, J.D. Robb, 735,321
  • Three in Death, J.D. Robb, 636,422
  • Devil May Cry, Sherrilyn Kenyon, 520,000
  • One Silent Night, Sherrilyn Kenyon, 510,000
  • Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris, 502,456 -- first genre title
  • Turbulent Sea, Christine Feehan, 500,059
  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill, 500,000
Trade Paperbacks
Top seller here is Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, at 5,298,355. Note that this is twice the highest-selling mass-market book and well above even The Last Lecture. Trade paperbacks are clearly the dominant format at the moment in the US market, at least on the top end.
  • Duma Key, Stephen King, 871,000
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy, 750,467
  • Marked, P.C. Cast, 400,000
  • Untamed, P.C. Cast, 330,000
  • Chosen, P.C. Cast, 315,000
  • Betrayed, P.C. Cast, 300,000
  • The Children of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkien, 191,435
  • The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold, 184,923
  • Halo, Tobias S. Buckell, 176,435
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon, 150,000
  • Bakugan Battle Brawlers, no author listed, 140,124
  • World War Z, Max Brooks, 106,305
New Children's Hardcover
The kid's side is a much more backlist-driven business (think of all those copies sold of Winnie-the-Pooh and Where The Wild Things Are and Dr. Seuss every year), so it's broken down into more sub-sections. Genre books make very strong showings here; much more so than on the adult lists. First is frontlist hardcovers:
  • #1 Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer, 6,051,981
  • #2 The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling, 3,577,183
  • #3 Brisingr, Christopher Paolini, 2,604,642
  • #6 The Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan, 1,000,000
  • #11 The Final Warning, James Patterson, 519,444
  • #12 The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, James Patterson, 517,918
  • #14 Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, Eoin Colfer, 406,687
  • #15 Eclipse (Special Edition), Stephenie Meyer, 345,669
  • #16 The 39 Clues 1: The Maze of Bones, Rick Riordan, 321,054
  • #20 The 39 Clues 2: One False Note, Gordon Korman, 255,832
  • #21 Dark Day in the Deep Sea, Mary Pope Osborne, 254,699
  • #23 Inkdeath, Cornelia Funke, 254,176
  • #24 Eve of the Emperor Penguin, Mary Pope Osborne, 225,765
  • #30 Wall-E, no author listed, 184,813
  • #33 Warriors: Power of Three #3: Outcast, Erin Hunter, 159,893
  • #34 Seekers #1: The Quest Begins, Erin Hunter, 159,893
  • #37 Septimus Heap 4: Queste, Angie Sage, 155,002
  • #39 The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, 150,873
  • #45 Warriors: Power of Three #4: Eclipse, Erin Hunter, 136,949
  • #48 Warriors: Power of Three #5: Long Shadows, Erin Hunter, 132,938
  • #53 A Giant Problem, Holly Black, 128,872
  • #59 The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, 122,559
  • #61 Twilight (Collector's Edition), Stephenie Meyer, 120,435
  • #62 The Nixie's Song, Holly Black, 115,953
  • #66 Warriors: Cats of the Clans, Erin Hunter, 109,918
  • #68 The Magician, Michael Scott, 107,522
  • #71 The Diamond of Darkhold, Jeanne DuPrau, 105,142
  • #74 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Anniversary Edition), J.K. Rowling, 103,450
Backlist Children's Hardcover
  • #1 Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer, 4,525,238
  • #2 New Moon, Stephenie Meyer, 1,430,167
  • #4 Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, 1,138,588
  • #79 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling, 113,376
  • #94 Eldest, Christopher Paolini, 102,882
  • #96 Eragon, Christopher Paolini, 100,744
New Children's Paperback
  • #1 New Moon, Stephenie Meyer, 5,309,229
  • #2 Twilight (mass market), Stephenie Meyer, 1,872, 408
  • #3 Twilight (media tie-in edition), Stephenie Meyer, 982,034
  • #4 Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, James Patterson, 799,631
  • #8 Twilight: the Complete Illustrated Movie Companion, Mark Cotta Vaz, 442,361
  • #12 Prince Caspian (movie tie-in edition), C.S. Lewis, 364,864
  • #13 The Titan's Curse, Rick Riordan, 341,192
  • #35 Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Tracey West, 190,700
  • #36 Inheritance Cycle Omnibus: Eregon and Eldest, Christopher Paolini, 188,613
  • #37 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Battle at Teth, Kirsten Mayer, 186,282
  • #39 Revenge of the Living Dummy, R.L. Stine, 184,669
  • #47 Creep from the Deep, R.L. Stine, 165,933
  • #50 Dragon of the Dawn, Mary Pope Osborne, 157,695
  • #55 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The New Padawan, Eric Stevens, 152,661
  • #67 The Scream of the Haunted Mast, R.L. Stine, 135,016
  • #77 The Lost Colony, Eoin Colfer, 123,943
  • #80 Warriors: Power of Three #1: The Sight, Erin Hunter, 121,389
  • #83 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Intergalactic Adventure: Activity Book, no author listed, 119,621
  • #85 Night World #1, L.J. Smith, 116,488
  • #87 Shadow Kiss, Richelle Mead, 116,125
  • #88 The Alchemyst, Michael Scott, 115,422
  • #94 Warriors Super Edition: Firestar's Quest, Erin Hunter, 112,755
  • #105 Warriors: Tigerstar and Sasha #1: Into the Woods, Erin Hunter, 108,186
  • #117 Star Wars Fandex, Christopher Cerasi, 103,191
  • #120 Septimus Heap 3: Physik, Angie Sage, 101,837
  • #126 Frostbite, Richelle Mead, 100,476
On this list, I left off a lot of movie tie-in books that I suspect are 4x4s or other less text-heavy formats. But there are several dozen more vaguely SFnal or fantastic books based on media properties here.

Backlist Children's Paperback
  • #1 Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, 5,698,941
  • #2 The Tale of Desperaux, Kate DiCamillo, 507,054
  • #3 The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan, 503,372
  • #5 Dinosaurs Before Dark, Mary Pope Osborne, 396,008
  • #6 Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis, 393,405
  • #7 Eldest, Christopher Paolini, 369,546
  • #9 The City of Ember, Jeanne Du Prau, 349,038
  • #11 The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan, 336,895
  • #15 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, 311,413
  • #22 Eragon, Christopher Paolini, 289,521
  • #23 Mummies in the Morning, Mary Pope Osborne, 265,730
  • #25 The Night at Dawn, Mary Pope Osborne, 261,812
  • #26 Pirates Past Noon, Mary Pope Osborne,256,431
  • #29 The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis, 247,034
  • #37 A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle, 223,625
  • #41 The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis, 206,672
  • #44 Night of the Ninjas, Mary Pope Osborne,201,150
  • #45 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis, 197,407
  • #48 The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis, 190,467
  • #50 The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis, 189,101
  • #56 Afternoon on the Amazon, Mary Pope Osborne, 177,542
  • #57 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling, 177,133
  • #60 Midnight on the Moon, Mary Pope Osborne, 176,363
  • #61 Dolphins at Daybreak, Mary Pope Osborne, 175,492
  • #66 Polar Bears Past Bedtime, Mary Pope Osborne, 171,942
  • #68 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling, 171,680
  • #74 Blizzard of the Blue Moon, Mary Pope Osborne, 159,662
  • #77 Sunset of the Sabertooth, Mary Pope Osborne, 158,020
  • #79 Ghost Town at Sundown, Mary Pope Osborne, 155,113
  • #82 Vacation Under the Volcano, Mary Pope Osborne, 151,813
  • #83 Warriors #1: Into the Wild, Erin Hunter, 150,637
If you noticed, Stephenie Meyer had the #1 book on all four children's lists, and it looks like every edition of everything she's written so far made it onto these lists. She's definitely one face of fantasy to today's audience...but don't forget Mary Pope Osborne (the "Magic Treehouse" series, all early chapter books for grade-schoolers) and Erin Hunter (the "Warriors" talking-cats books, for slightly older kids), who sell, in aggregate, nearly as many books as Meyer does.

One last note -- these lists purport to cover all books sold through bookstores in 2008, but there's one major blind spot: comics and manga. The trade paperback of Watchmen sold at least 300,000 copies last year, which would have put it solidly in the middle of that list. There may be other books in that area -- some volumes of Naruto, maybe -- that also sold enough copies to be included on the lists. So there may be other categories suppressed; it would be difficult to tell what those are unless you already know the sales of particular books.

4 comments:

Brad Holden said...

No Junot Diaz? He did sell 250,000 copies. (yea, the SF elements are thin, the golden mongoose and the man with no face are rare and show up in situations where the protags are not in good shape.)

Brenda Cooper said...

Edgar Sawtelle is genre too - it is a fantasy/ghost story at its very heart of hearts. And a bit of a mystery. Even if it does pretend to be a literary novel.

Hagelrat said...

which proves the best books don't always sell best. some of those are good books though, just not all, by a long way.

darkened_jade said...

Great information to have, shame about fantasy and sf not doing so well (except for Twilight which is YA and only fantasy if you don't read fantasy). Thanks for the blog.

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