Bookseller Briefing 1/19 – week ending 4 January 2019

The Bookseller

Man Booker Prize 2019 opens for entries

The submissions for the 2019 Man Booker Prize are now open.

The award goes to a long-form work of fiction, published in the UK and Ireland, with last year’s going to Anna Burns’ Milkman (Faber) leading to a significant spike in sales.

Each shortlisted author receives £2,500 and a designer bound copy of his or her book with the winner scooping a further £50,000. The work must be published in the UK or Ireland between 1st October 2018 and 30th September 2019. The form should be sent to Four Colman Getty by 8th March and eight copies of each work by 14th June 2019, with more details on submission here.

It was revealed last month that the judging panel for 2019 will be chaired by Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival, with fellow judges including former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder, novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch and pianist and composer Joanna MacGregor. The ‘Booker Dozen’, a longlist of 12 or 13 books will be announced in July and the shortlist of six books in September. The winner of the prize, sponsored by Man Group, will be announced in October.

Last year the prize was opened up to Irish publishers for the first time and in September some of the judges’ remarks attracted controversy such as suggestions that submissions “needed more editing”.

Review of 2018 Part I: The Bestsellers

At the end of 2017, Waterstones boss James Daunt bemoaned that too few of that year’s books were blow-the-doors off bestsellers that “packed a wallop”. That all changed in 2018, with many titles showing impressive punching power.

Indeed, one of the reasons the UK print books market was able to notch up its fourth consecutive year of value growth is down to the very top of the table. The Official UK Top 100 of 2018 (by units sold) generated just under £130m through Nielsen BookScan’s Total Consumer Market, 11.3% up on what the top 100 shifted in 2017. Forty-nine titles earned £1m or more through the TCM last year, a 22.5% jump on the number of “BookScan millionaires” of 2017. Yet, we see the reverse a little further down the list: 71 books sold between £500,000 and £999,999 last year, against a whopping 133 titles which were in that bracket in 2017. In short, if 2017 was about spread betting, in 2018 you should have put your money on the front-runners.

The big hits included a former first lady, a début Scottish author, a doctor-turned-comedian-turned-memoirist and a from-fat-to-fit celeb chef. But first, let us turn our attentions toward the big beast of the Top 100, a 100,000-year-old woolly mammoth.

David Walliams’ The Ice Monster (HCCB) was in second place in the overall top 100 and was by far (260,000 units) the bestselling children’s title of the year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg: the kids’ book Walliams beat to number one was his own The World’s Worst Children 3 and he has a further eight books in the top 100. J K Rowling/Robert Galbraith, with five spots, is the only author within shouting distance of Walliams in terms of multiple entries.

But Walliams is not the true king of the 2018 top 100. No, that crown should go to his long-time collaborator and illustrator, Tony Ross. In addition to the 10 top 100 titles he worked on with Walliams, Ross also created the art for Clare Balding’s World Book Day release, The Girl Who Thought She was a Dog (Puffin)which hit 93rd place.

Oliphant in the room
It will be no surprise to regular Bookseller charts readers—or, for that matter, anyone who went into a bookshop in 2018—that Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins) was the bestselling book of the year. It notched up the Mass Market Fiction top spot in its first week of release in late January and claimed the full market number one two weeks later. Throughout 2018—in which the book would pick up the Costa First Novel Award and the Nibbie for Book of the Year – it has been a remarkably consistent seller, earning seven non-consecutive overall and 18 Mass Market pole positions between January and September. Eleanor Oliphant… sold 240,000 more copies than the next-bestselling title, almost half a million more than the second top-selling work of fiction and it is already the 22nd best-selling general fiction book since accurate records began.

Another across the year fiction success was for Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Zaffre). The mass market edition ended the year with a flourish, scoring 13 consecutive MMPB number ones to finish sixth place in the overall 2018 chart. The January-released hardback, meanwhile, was a word-of-mouth hit through the first half of the year, eventually grabbing an Original Fiction number one in July. The HB just missed out on the top 100 (109th overall) and Morris’ début has sold 519,000 units for £3.3m in all print editions.

Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt (Picador) was essentially the non-fiction twin to Honeyman’s novel. Both were the bestselling hardback débuts in their respective categories in 2017, both swept the awards season and both reached even further heights of success in paperback. This is Going to Hurt spent a near-straight eight months atop the Paperback Non-Fiction chart, only falling twice from the pole in its 32-week stretch, and shifted over 500,000 copies across 2018.

Making the print market great again
In 2017, the Donald Trump bump saw sales boosts for classic political dystopias such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, which jumped to number one in the US charts the week of the President’s inauguration ceremony, and Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, the story of a “vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue” who is elected to the highest office in the land. Somehow, the 2018 book market painted an even worse picture of Trump, with UK bookbuyers reaching deep into their pockets for several titles critical of him and his administration.

The year began with a bang when he attempted to stop US publisher Henry Holt releasing Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury (Little, Brown) with a cease-and-desist letter, which made the title a runaway hit around the world—in the UK alone, it racked up over £1m earned in its first week on general sale. Bob Woodward’s Fear (S&S) followed in September, knocking Joe “the Body Coach” Wicks off the overall number one spot and scoring an average selling price of £15.58.

And would we have crowned Michelle Obama the Christmas number one (and the first author of colour to do so) if Hillary was in the White House? Becoming (Viking) shifted over half a million books in under two months, obliterated records set by Alex Ferguson’s My Autobiography (Hodder) in 2013 and, in the last week of the year, became the most expensive number one bestseller of all time, at £17.04.

Fire and Fury’s blazing success story at the start of the year had even more bizarre twist when it didn’t immediately rocket into the UK number one—despite blanket press coverage and the literal US President tweeting that he was “a very stable genius”. Instead, and perhaps demonstrating British bookbuyers’ commitment to “new year, new you”, Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight for Good (Absolute) pipped it to the post, setting the record for hardback sales in January. Kerridge lost 10 stone with a high-fat, low-carb diet—and netted his first number one in 2017 with Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet—yet his more user-friendly calorie controlled recipe book shifted more than double its predecessor and became the bestselling cookbook of the year. Kerridge even dethroned the previously unassailable Wicks, shifting more than 200,000 copies in excess of the Instagram personal trainer’s The Fat-Loss Plan (Bluebird).

Fantastic Four
With their abllity to spend more on marketing, promotion, publicity and advances, the Big Four publshing groups almost always have a greater share of the biggest selling books than they do of overall sales. That was certainly the case in 2018, with 78 of the 100 entries split among Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan. PRH claimed 34% of the top 100 in a year in which its overall print market share will be around 22%. Transworld is big part of this; PRH had 21 titles in the top 50, a third of which were from the commercial powerhouse, led by its crime lords Lee Child, Dan Brown and Paula Hawkins.

Hachette notched up 19 spots—an improvement on 2017 when it had 16 of the top 100—but only one of those was in the top 20, and that was John Grishamn’s 19th-placed The Rooster Bar (Hodder), although Wolff’s Fire and Furywould probably have also cracked the BookScan top 20 for Hachette if the print versions were available immediately after it had to be rush-released in early January. There were some decent Hachette Christmas crackers, though. John Murray had Stephen Hawking’s Brief Answers to the Big Questions (poaching the late physicist’s last book from Transworld), while Orion imprint Trapeze scored with both The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book (a.k.a. this year’s GCHQ Puzzle Book) and the holiday season’s sleeper hit, Noel “the Supervet” Fitzpatrick’s Listening to the Animals, the latter of which shifted an impressive 75,000 units in the three weeks before Christmas.

HarperCollins was a smidgeon behind Hachette with 18 entries, 11 of which were from the heretofore discussed Honeyman and Walliams/Ross partnership, but breakouts included SAS badass turned TV presenter Ant Middleton’sFirst Man In (20th) and Henry Firth and Ian Theasby’s BOSH! (HQ, 54th), the standard-bearer for the surging vegan cookery market. A good year, too, for Pan Macmillan and its seven Top 100 entries, which include Kay, two from Wicks and the return of C J Sansom’s Turdor sleuth Matthew Shardlake in Tombland, which sold almost 170,000 units in hardback this autumn.

Only three publishers outside the Big Four had three or more entries. Bloomsbury’s had a quintet wtih Kerridge, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (33rd place) and three of Rowling’s Harry Potter tiltes (all told, the boy wizard’s backlist was worth £9.9m to Bloomsbury last year). Irish eyes smiled upon Faber for its three spots: Sally Rooney, the pride of Castlebar, Co. Mayo, hit 99th with the paperback of Conversations with Friends, while a Waterstones Book of the Year nod pushed Normal People up to 77th. Meanwhile, Belfast’s Anna Burns claimed the Man Booker Prize, and the 135,000-unit sale for her supposedly difficult Milkman was proof the Booker bounce was back.

Scholastic, lastly, had hits from the usual suspects—Liz Pichon’s latest Tom Gates adventure (92nd spot) and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s newest (83rd)—and from completely out of nowhere with The Wonky Donkey. Craig Smith and illustrator Katz Cowley’s picture book was originally released in 2009 and up to the end of 2017 had sold a modest 2,100 copies through BookScan. But after a video of a Scottish woman reading the book to her grandson and dissolving into uncontrollable giggles on lines like “Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey?” went viral, the book hit the stratosphere, becoming the bestselling pre-school book of the year.



Pos Title Author; Illustrator Imprint ISBN 2018 Total
1 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman HarperCollins 9780008172145 866,200
2 The Ice Monster David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008164690 624,913
3 This is Going to Hurt Adam Kay Picador 9781509858637 541,219
4 Becoming Michelle Obama Viking 9780241334140 533,727
5 Lose Weight for Good Tom Kerridge Absolute 9781472949295 406,665
6 The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris Zaffre 9781785763670 370,266
7 The World’s Worst Children 3 David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008304591 365,606
8 The Meltdown Jeff Kinney Puffin 9780241321980 365,196
9 The Midnight Line Lee Child Bantam 9780857503619 354,769
10 Guinness World Records 2019 GWR 9781912286461 352,121
11 Origin Dan Brown Corgi 9780552174169 323,525
12 Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari Vintage 9780099590088 306,908
13 Into the Water Paula Hawkins Black Swan 9781784162245 265,379
14 The Break Marian Keyes Penguin 9781405918756 255,029
15 The Midnight Gang David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008164621 244,358
16 5 Ingredients Jamie Oliver Michael Joseph 9780718187729 242,416
17 Past Tense Lee Child Bantam 9780593078198 213,609
18 The Wonky Donkey Craig Smith; Katz Cowley Scholastic 9781407195575 213,310
19 The Rooster Bar John Grisham Hodder 9781473616998 205,025
20 First Man In Ant Middleton HarperCollins 9780008245719 200,624
21 Where’s the Unicorn? Sophie Schrey & Jonny Marx; Paul Moran Michael O’Mara 9781782439073 188,087
22 The Fat-Loss Plan Joe Wicks Bluebird 9781509836079 183,004
23 Listening to the Animals Noel Fitzpatrick Trapeze 9781409183747 182,463
24 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J K Rowling Bloomsbury 9781408855652 182,281
25 Camino Island John Grisham Hodder 9781473663749 179,444
26 Brief Answers to the Big Questions Stephen Hawking John Murray 9781473695986 178,798
27 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald J K Rowling Little, Brown 9781408711705 171,803
28 Why We Sleep Matthew Walker Penguin 9780141983769 169,674
29 Tombland C J Sansom Mantle 9781447284482 167,014
30 The Girl Before J P Delaney Quercus 9781786480262 164,686
31 12 Rules for Life Jordan B Peterson Allen Lane 9780241351635 163,961
32 Fire and Fury Michael Wolff Little, Brown 9781408711408 162,427
33 Norse Mythology Neil Gaiman Bloomsbury 9781408891957 161,513
34 Surprise Me Sophie Kinsella Black Swan 9781784160432 161,233
35 Oi Goat! (WBD) Kes Gray; Jim Field Hodder 9781444942316 160,998
36 Jamie Cooks Italy Jamie Oliver Michael Joseph 9780718187736 158,620
37 Gangsta Granny David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780007371464 156,475
38 Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari Vintage 9781784703936 156,236
39 Mythos Stephen Fry Penguin 9781405934138 154,266
40 Brain Freeze (WBD) Tom Fletcher; Shane Devries Puffin 9780241323724 154,113
41 Damaged Martina Cole Headline 9781472201096 153,851
42 Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo Particular 9780141986005 153,042
43 Munich Robert Harris Arrow 9781784751852 151,711
44 SIMPLE Yotam Ottolenghi Ebury 9781785031168 150,102
45 No Middle Name Lee Child Bantam 9780857503770 149,632
46 The Last Tudor Philippa Gregory Simon & Schuster 9781471133077 149,363
47 Prisoners of Geography Tim Marshall Elliott & Thompson 9781783962433 149,126
48 Wonder R. J. Palacio Corgi 9780552565974 148,035
49 Beano Annual 2019 D C Thomson 9781845356798 147,834
50 The Official Highway Code TSO 9780115533426 147,505
51 Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng Little, Brown 9780349142920 145,788
52 The Couple Next Door Shari Lapena Corgi 9780552173148 145,231
53 A Legacy of Spies John Le Carré Penguin 9780241981610 142,221
54 BOSH! Henry Firth & Ian Theasby HQ 9780008262907 141,983
55 Then She Was Gone Lisa Jewell Arrow 9781784756253 141,387
56 The Good Daughter Karin Slaughter HarperCollins 9780008150792 140,518
57 Paddington Turns Detective (WBD) Michael Bond; Peggy Fortnum HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008279806 139,851
58 You Are Awesome Matthew Syed; Toby Triumph Wren & Rook 9781526361158 139,163
59 How to Stop Time Matt Haig Canongate 9781782118640 138,078
60 Awful Auntie David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780007453627 136,040
61 Milkman Anna Burns Faber 9780571338757 134,929
62 Demon Dentist David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780007453580 133,581
63 The Getaway Jeff Kinney Penguin 9780141376677 133,580
64 Grandpa’s Great Escape David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008183424 132,628
65 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets J K Rowling Bloomsbury 9781408855669 128,958
66 Bad Dad David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008164652 128,560
67 The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book Dr Gareth Moore Trapeze 9781409184676 126,282
68 Insidious Intent Val McDermid Sphere 9780751568240 125,889
69 Why Mummy Swears Gill Sims HarperCollins 9780008284213 124,116
70 The Thirst Jo Nesbo Vintage 9781784705091 122,862
71 Classic Mary Berry BBC Books 9781785943249 120,182
72 He Said/She Said Erin Kelly Hodder 9781444797145 119,699
73 The World’s Worst Children David Walliams; Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008197032 119,500
74 Private Eye Annual 2018 Ian Hislop Private Eye 9781901784664 118,341
75 Blowing the Bloody Doors Off Michael Caine Hodder 9781473689305 115,762
76 Double Down Jeff Kinney Puffin 9780141376660 114,926
77 Normal People Sally Rooney Faber 9780571334643 114,233
78 Dear Zoo Rod Campbell Macmillan Children’s 9780230747722 114,178
79 Dead If You Don’t Peter James Pan 9781509816378 113,687
80 Fire and Blood George R R Martin HarperCollins 9780008307738 113,684
81 A Stranger in the House Shari Lapena Corgi 9780552173155 113,414
82 Lethal White Robert Galbraith Sphere 9780751572858 113,117
83 The Ugly Five Julia Donaldson; Axel Scheffler Alison Green 9781407184630 112,874
84 End Game David Baldacci Pan 9781447277415 110,787
85 The Chimp Paradox Prof Steve Peters Vermilion 9780091935580 110,766
86 Friend Request Laura Marshall Sphere 9780751568356 109,610
87 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban J K Rowling Bloomsbury 9781408855676 109,350
88 Sleeping in the Ground Peter Robinson Hodder 9781444786903 109,293
89 How to Be a Footballer Peter Crouch Ebury 9781785039768 108,369
90 The Story of Brexit Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris Michael Joseph 9780241386569 108,294
91 My Book about Me by Mr Silly (WBD) Adam & Roger Hargreaves Egmont 9781405290869 108,047
92 Biscuits, Bands and Very Big Plans Liz Pichon Scholastic 9781407179858 107,853
93 I’ll Keep You Safe Peter May riverrun 9781784294977 106,838
94 The Girl Who Thought She Was a Dog (WBD) Clare Balding; Tony Ross Puffin 9780241323731 106,450
95 In a House of Lies Ian Rankin Orion 9781409176886 106,427
96 Close to Home Cara Hunter Viking 9780241283097 104,434
97 Joe’s 30 Minute Meals Joe Wicks Bluebird 9781509836093 104,045
98 Billionaire Boy David Walliams;Tony Ross HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780007371082 103,720
99 Conversations with Friends Sally Rooney Faber 9780571333134 103,482
100 Birthday Boy David Baddiel; Jim Field HarperCollinsChildren’s 9780008200510 103,134

Rebuck pays tribute to ‘writer’s publisher’ Stephen Johnson

Penguin Random House UK chair Gail Rebuck has paid tribute to Stephen Johnson, the former m.d. of Exclusive Books and Random House South Africa, who died earlier this week, as “a larger than life figure” in South Africa’s publishing industry who will be “greatly missed”.

Johnson, born in Cape Town, was dubbed a “writer’s publisher” by his authors and had a career in the book trade spanning 40 years. He started out at educational publisher Maskew Miller before becoming m.d of the South African book chain Exclusive Books. Subsequently he became m.d. for Random House South Africa, a role he held for two decades until in 2008 he was made the founding m.d. of Random House Struik. After this, from January 2013 to June 2014, he served as c.e.o. for Penguin South Africa for two years, before going on to work for South African discount book retailer Bargain Books. He died on Tuesday (1st January).

In tribute, PRH SA c.e.o. Steve Connolly hailed him “a true leader in the industry”. Meanwhile Rebuck recalled Johnson’s exuberance and said he would be “greatly missed”.

Connolly wrote as part of an email to staff in the South African office: “In his time as a publisher, Stephen worked closely with many great writers and was an active and larger than life figure in the local publishing industry. Stephen was renowned for his erudition and remarkable eloquence, making him much in demand as Master of Ceremonies for many events.  He was an active and highly involved figure in the Publishers Association of South Africa for many years and has been a true leader in the industry. Our thoughts go to Louis, his partner, and to his children and family.”

Rebuck said: “It is with great sadness that I heard the news of Stephen Johnson’s untimely death. He was a larger than life figure and the face of Random House in South Africa for many years.

“I shall never forget an incredible visit to South Africa to launch Umuzi in 2006, when Stephen had arranged a surprise and truly remarkable tea with Nelson Mandela.  Mandela responded so warmly to Stephen’s size and exuberance that he started calling him The Boxer – a nickname we adopted for Stephen ever after.

“Stephen was known in South Africa as the ‘writer’s publisher’ and will be greatly missed.”