Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fiction continues its rise as readers' go-to genre

By Carol Memmott and Anthony DeBarros, USA TODAY. Januarry 12, 2012

Fiction — led by Kathyrn Stockett's The Help as the year's No. 1 seller — was 2011's go-to genre for the majority of book readers, analysis of data from USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list shows.
Choosing novels over non-fiction is a long-term trend; fiction has climbed from 67% of the titles in USA TODAY's weekly top 150 in 2007 to 78% last year.
And the reason the retiree sitting in the beach chair next to yours and the businesswoman relaxing in the airport lounge are reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? We're craving that "Calgon, take me away" moment.
"People are interested in escape," says Carol Fitzgerald of the Book Report Network, websites for book discussions. "In a number of pages, the story will open, evolve and close, and a lot of what's going on in the world today is not like that. You've got this encapsulated escape that you can enjoy."
Non-fiction's downward slide — there were only five titles among 2011's top 20 best-selling books — can be blamed in part on the Internet, Fitzgerald says. "If you want to examine an issue, you can easily Google the topic and come at it 10 different ways in five minutes. That's the way it is with social media."

Other 2011 trends:
• We're buying more e-books. 25% of the titles in the weekly top 150 had an e-book version outsell any individual version tracked. That's up from 2% in 2010.

• Brand-name authors' books are the equivalent of blockbuster movies.John Grisham (right-Getty Images), James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, Stephen King and Janet Evanovich are perennial top sellers on the list.
• We still love Lizbeth Salander. Sales of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy more than tripled from November to December as the film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo hit theaters. Dragon Tattoo is No. 9 on the list of the year's top sellers. The Girl Who Played With Fire is No. 11. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is No. 13.
• More self-published authors made their debuts on the list. The most talked about was Amanda Hocking, who had seven e-books on the list last year, but Barbara Freethy had nine, Michael Prescott had five and Darcy Chan had one.
• Movies and TV shows pump up book sales. Already popular books benefited from screen adaptations, from last spring's critically acclaimed HBO miniseries Game of Thrones, to last summer's hit movie The Help, to the current buzz over the March 2012 release of The Hunger Games.
• Young-adult novels cool off a bit. Suzanne Collins, P.C. and Kristin Cast, and Cassandra Clare were heavy hitters in this category. The genre accounted for 18% of sales tracked last year, down from 20%. Reason: J.K. Rowling's last Harry Potter novel was published in 2007, and Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, the last book in the Twilight series, came out in 2008. No other author has been able to match their power on the list.

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