Top Fiction Sales in 2009

I downloaded the 2009 list of top selling fiction from Publishers Weekly and displayed it in a spreadsheet, under the headings of Fiction Title, Author, Publisher, Number Sold and Genre.
Remember, I live in Australia so most of these hard cover books did not reach the bookshelves here until 2010 (a year later) and some are probably still not displayed in our stores. The paperback copies take another 6 to 12 months before they arrive. Also, remember, that in Australia there is at least a 100% mark up on the US price.

So, it follows that I have not heard of most of the authors, and the ones I have heard of I was not sure what genre they wrote. To fill out the empty genre column, I spent quite a few hours Googling each title and reading the blurb in Amazon to locate what genre the book slotted into, then entered my best guess in the genre column.

I found the first 40 in the list, before I ran out of time and energy.

However, what I found was interesting.

Quite a few of the titles gave the name then a colon and the words โ€œA Novelโ€. Interesting. Is there a move or a comic book or a song with the same title? I mean, it is a list of fiction and non fiction published in 2009. Books. Not poetry or movies or โ€ฆ just fiction and non fiction. I tried to ignore the non fiction list and kept looking at the top 40 in the fiction list.

I sorted by author and found repeat authors.

Danielle Steel had three top sellers, all selling over 300,000 copies, one a thriller, one a romance and one a drama.

James Patterson had five novels, all selling over 500,000 copies, three thrillers and two murder mysteries.

There were other prolific writers also listed.

Of the top 40 in the list (remember, that is all the genres I have found so far) the follow displayed.

Crime 1
Detective 1
Drama 1
Family drama 1
Fantasy 2
General 2
High seas / pirates 1
Historical 2
Murder mystery 3
Mystery 1
Mystery/humour 1
Police procedural 1
Romance 2
Sifi / mystery / thriller 2
Sifi / thriller 1
Short story collection 1
Supernatural 1
Suspense / aliens 1
Thriller 12
YA Fantasy 1

Obviously, the best selling genre in 2009 in USA was thrillers, and if you add similar genres such as suspense, detective, who done it, how done it, murder mysteries, etc, it comes to 21 of the top 40 best sellers for 2009.

I also noticed that a lot of the titles in the list had many sites on the first Google search page before the Amazon listing. In fact, two had Amazon listing on the second page and one had Amazon listing on the third page. That is the first time I have searched for books and found Amazon moved from the first page. Interesting but not relevant.

I will keep looking for the genres for each of the fiction titles as I get free time so I can get an understanding of all the genres actually published both hard cover and paperback, the count, the percentages, look for patterns, series, stand alone, etc. but most importantly group by genre to find the reader count of each genre.

Anyone else undertaken this type of research? If so, did you find anything interesting? Do you know how many novels sold in 2009 in the genre you write?

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9 comments so far

  1. Jane on

    I read that Google recently changed their search algorithms (causing a bit of grief for small businesses) so local results appear earlier. Maybe that’s why the Amazon results weren’t on the first page?

    • djmills on

      Probably the reason, or else being best sellers lots of links to fan sites discussing the novels.

  2. ekcarmel on

    Not terribly surprising, really, that thriller, mystery, suspense, etc. get the lion’s share. They are extremely popular here in the states. Kind of discouraging that my genre, fantasy, gets only 3, 4 if you add supernatural to it. Oh well.

    Interesting analysis. Very time-consuming, though, the way you are forced to do it. Will knowing this change the way you write or market, etc. or is it simply curiosity?

    Personally, I don’t go looking for this kind of info. At least not yet. I’m focused on getting my novel written.

    • djmills on

      Knowing the results will help me realise how many readers in each genre. Good to know what to expect before I work 6 months on a novel. Also, I can read some of each genre before I try writing a novel in that genre, if I like reading that genre. Another reason to study market is that I totally disagree with some of the advice given to authors. Such as, “give MC flaws”. My answer is why? I do not read novels where MC is flawed. Harry Potter does not have flaws. James Bond does not have flaws.

      Jason Bourne did not have flaws, although he had brain damage (amnesia) and I skipped the boring parts where he tried to remember things. I just finished rereading the three Borune novels, and still think they are much better than the movies.

      So, reading the top 40 or so novels will help me analyse how many MC’s have flaws. ๐Ÿ™‚ If the answer is less than 50% then I will understand the advise is, well, flawed. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • ekcarmel on

        I guess I’m just coming at this from a different direction. For me, doing that kind of extensive research into the markets would probably kill my muse.

        I really have to disagree with you about flaws in characters. Flaws don’t have to be huge, they just need to cause problems for the character reaching his goals. It makes for an interesting plot.

        Harry Potter was hot-headed and impulsive and that got him into trouble and set him back on numerous occasions.

        James Bond’s liasons with women often got him into trouble too. It’s been a while since I read the books and I may be remembering the movies instead, but a couple times the women he slept with turned on him.

        I never read the Bourne novels, just saw the movies. As far as his expertise with weapons and ability to improvise ways to escape, you’re right, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws. I assumed the filmmakers crafted the movies that way. He underestimated his adversaries, though, and that’s why his girlfriend was killed.

        I truly admire your tenacity and drive in analyzing the markets. It’s just not something I could ever see myself going to such lengths to do. However, I wish you well in your quest, and have to admit, I’m curious about what you do find out.

      • djmills on

        Interesting comments. I looked up the meaning of “flaw” and my dictionary states “a crack, a defect, a weak point as in an argument”. Then I searched Google for USA meaning of flaw. Found “an imperfection in an object or machine”. Same meaning. Looked further. Found “defect or weakness in a person’s character; “he had his flaws, but he was great nonetheless” This is a “character flaw”. The last time I looked there was no person on this planet that was perfect, all have character flaws, but they are not devective. That is what makes humans unique. I guess this is the meaning when relating to writing.

        So, Harry Potter was hot-headed and impulsive. That is also what saved him on numerous occasions. To my way of thinking, not a defect or flaw, just a personality trait. James Bond slept with beautiful women. Not a flaw, a natural urge for man to populate the world, hard wired into the brain. Not knowing what a psycho will do is not a flaw in anyone, male or female. The flaw is in the psycho, incorrect wiring in his/her brain. Now, that is a flaw, “a defect” in the brain of the psycho.

        I believe character traits can add conflict to scenes, and conflict is what makes a good story but character traits are not defects. I guess I will agree to disagree with the advice “Write flaws in your characters”, and keep researching the business of writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. ekcarmel on

    Touche! Re: Harry Potter and James Bond – you’re right, depending on how you look at it, those traits can be seen as flaws or advantageous character traits.

    Funny thing, I didn’t think of flaws as actual “defects” per se, just a quirk in a character’s personality that caused them problems and made for an interesting plot and character growth. Just depends on your point of view, I guess. That’s what makes every writer and book different.

    Happy reading all those bestsellers!

    • djmills on

      Yes, that is the correct word. “Quirk” ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess my knowledge of Myers-Briggs characteristics was confusing the issue.

      That makes more sense to me then “flaw”. Not negative. I would read a book based on a person with a quirk such as over exagerated personality trait, pedantic or peremptory, etc. In real life, both annoy me, but I could associate those traits with building conflict for the Protag. Better than trying to create a flaw (negative) traited person.

      I have been trying all week to create a list of what could be a negative flaw but each item I came up with would create a story I would not read, even if the book was given to me. Which is the reason I got into writing in the first place; to write ordinary characters in unusual situations and forced to use their brains to escape the situation.

  4. Angela/Curiocat on

    Interesting discussion. I think I prefer quirk to flaw, too. I struggle with the concept of my characters having a flaw, my protags should have quirks. In my mind the flaws should belong to the antagonist. ๐Ÿ™‚


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