Times Talk (27th March)

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Okay, so it’s been quite a while since the last Times Talk. I really should stick to the schedule on this. My apologies.

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction: Pinning your book’s hopes on a comparison to a highly popular title can yield mixed results, and I must admit I’m hugely surprised to see how well it’s paying off for Paula Hawkins’s The Girl On The Train. The British writer’s debut novel has been on the NYT list for 10 weeks, most of those in the top spot, and has sold close to 400,000 copies. Clearly the Gone Girl comparisons have paid off, even with reviews far less enthusiastic than they were for Flynn’s blockbuster. As if on schedule, another James Patterson book debuts on the list at number 2, shifting 33,000 copies. Patterson’s assembly line of work is a reliable source of profit, remaining popular with readers and a familiar stock on supermarket shelves, where much of the big sales lie these days. Prolific romance favourite Kristen Ashley’s latest self-published effort Soaring sits at number 9. Her work is divisive but those who love it (and compare it to crack in terms of it addictiveness) swarm to her large back-catalogue in droves, and she continues to be a success in both traditional and self-publishing.

Combined Print & E-Book Non-Fiction: Erik Larson’s latest work, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, stays in the top spot, bringing its sales to over 73,000. Larson is one of the more recognisable names in non-fiction thanks to his supremely popular The Devil In The White City (currently at number 18). As expected, Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken continue to be main-stays in the top 10, no doubt bolstered by their subsequent film adaptations. British sensation H Is For Hawk, Helen MacDonald’s poetic memoir of her attempts to train a goshawk to help deal with familial grief, is at number 8 after 3 weeks. US reviews have been equally enthusiastic so expect this one to stick around.

Young Adult: Cassandra Clare’s latest Shadowhunters short story (co-written by Robin Wasserman) debuts at number 3 (below 2 John Green books, because of course). This new tactic of regularly releasing short stories (which will be compiled into a book afterwards) is interesting because it clearly keeps up visibility for Clare’s work between the releases of her full length novels. It also helpfully means her co-writers, YA favourites Maureen Johnson, Sarah Rees Brennan and Robin Wasserman, can call themselves NYT best-sellers. Given recent fan scepticism over the continuation of the Shadowhunter series and the countless spin-offs, this will be seen by Clare’s publishers as a positive sign. As will Danielle Paige’s Full Fathom Five produced Wizard of Oz re-telling Dorothy Must Die, sitting at number 5, a position it never reached upon its original release. A recent cut in Kindle price probably helped. It’s a true delight to see Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF remain in the top 5, thanks to the recent film. It’s a book that deserves wider attention. Hurrah for 9 out of 15 places being taken by women.

Other: The splintering of various best-seller lists by category is getting a little People’s Front of Judea. There’s a list for practically everything, from animals to celebrities to espionage. While this does make it easier for a reader to look at the category that fits their interests the most, I’m not so sure it does anything to bolster the supposed price or prestige of the NYT best-seller list. It’s already somewhat easier to get onto the list in the first place thanks to falling sales, so I wonder how many copies you need to sell to make it into the 10th place on the games and activities list (no offence to the Minecraft people).

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