Taking a look at the top selling titles for The Book Depository in 2016


The Book Depository recently published its list of the top 100 bestsellers for 2016.

I had a sort through to put these into categories to see what might be gleaned from the list. Here is the breakdown:

Non-fiction (adult, excluding colouring) 38

Spoof non-fiction (adult) 21

Fiction (adult) 16

Children’s fiction (excluding JKRowling) 13

Children’s non-fiction (excluding colouring) 2

JK Rowling 7

Colouring 3 (adult 2, 1 JKR)

I’d better quickly explain the categories. I kept them as simple as possible but I thought it was interesting to split spoof non-fiction from serious non-fiction, and to keep JK Rowling as a separate category. Also to check on how colouring books (if indeed they are ‘books’, which is something that is under consideration by the UK authorities regarding VAT) are faring.  

The clear result is that non-fiction far outsells fiction, for TBD at least. It’s also worth bearing in mind that digital may well be eating into its fiction sales. Non-fiction sells better in print, often because books such as cookbooks, which are perennial bestsellers, and autobiographies with their colour photos don’t come across as well in digital format.

What’s disappointing, in my opinion, is the huge success of the parody non-fiction. Why disappointing? Well, I just think it seems a shame for jokey books to scoop up so much of the market when there are so many other wonderful books out there whose authors would love a break. For there to be 21 spoof books in the top 100 is downright depressing. I’m not a killjoy, I just object to the idea being done to death. I also think it’s a shame when the Ladybird books and Enid Blyton books I and so many other youngsters grew up with, and cherished, are being diminished like this, and with official permission! Kind of sad. However, it shows successful marketing by the publishers.

To move on. JK Rowling on her own accounts for 7 of the top 100, and 8 if you include the colouring book in this category. Another example of excellent marketing since everything she writes gets whisked off the shelves, even if it doesn’t subsequently get massively good reviews. The film scripts are getting mixed feedback. However, there are four more to come, I believe, since the Fantastic Beasts series will consist of five films. The original trilogy has expanded. Whether you love her or hate her, or are somewhere in between in your emotions, you have to appreciate that JK Rowling is a unique force in the publishing scene.  

Children’s fiction outperforms adult fiction, but this can again be partially explained by digital sales, or rather the reduced amount of such sales of children’s books as a whole. Print books are hanging on for the younger reader, and there’s no denying that it’s easier to read to or with a youngster from a traditional book rather than an ereader.  

Just the three colouring books. The bubble has pretty much burst for this trend now, I think it’s fair to say. It’s not been helped by the contention surrounding how it should be taxed. HMRC claim that colouring books are ‘incomplete books’ and therefore subject to VAT, not exempt like ‘complete’ books. Kids’ colouring books fall outside the VAT net, but the many popular adults ones don’t and depending on the outcome, some publishers could find themselves owing a lot of money to the government.

One further comment: 97 of these books are being discounted at between 20% and 58%.

So, in summary non-fiction rules, JK Rowling continues to be a force to reckon with and children’s fiction outsells adult fiction in print.        


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