From the bookseller:
When talking of “the Richard & Judy effect” on book sales, one must be very careful to include the caveats. Admittedly, running the sales of the 82 books to date that have been included in the 10 “Richard & Judy” (R&J hereafter) clubs to date through Nielsen BookScan’s online database generates some impressive figures: 26.6 million books sold with a total market value of £159.2m—that’s 2.6% of all sales since the club began in 2004 in value terms and 2.1% in revenue. But, as there is no way of knowing how each of these books would have performed had they not gone under the R&J spotlight, simply quoting the end-result £159.2m figure is somewhat misleading.
However, the caveats don’t stop here. Especially given the propensity of Cactus TV m.d. and R&J Book Club creator Amanda Ross to select début authors among names familiar to the UK public, an R&J participant has the chance to remain on the public radar long after their brief spot on the R&J sofa.
As one might expect, sales figures of the books under discussion on the show are so phenomenal that it can prove an almost impossible feat for an author to match those sales with a follow-up book.
It’s been four years since the R&J club made its television début on Channel 4, so there has been little time, especially for recent picks, for a follow-up. But, of the authors who have participated in the R&J Book Club thus far and gone on to publish a comparable follow-up title, eight are currently enjoying stronger average weekly sales with their follow-up work than for their programme title.
For example, in the table (far right) that charts an author’s follow-up versus their show title, Jane Fallon sits on top. Fallon’s Getting Rid of Matthew (Penguin) was part of the 2007 Summer Read, and has sold 3,510 copies on average through the market to date. Her follow-up, Got You Back, was released earlier this month in a mass-market edition and, after only two weeks of recorded sales, has clocked up more than 13,000 copies sold—hence the inclusion of an asterisk against the younger titles in the chart.
Nigel Slater’s memoir, Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger (HarperPerennial), was chosen for R&J’s first Book Club and to date has sold more than 260,846 copies through the market. Before 2004, his cookery manual, Appetite (Fourth Estate), enjoyed an average weekly sale of 707 copies through the market, whereas his more recent book, Kitchen Diaries, has enjoyed sales almost double that figure—1,372 copies on average. In fact, Slater’s average weekly sales total of his entire backlist in the years 1998–2003 was 1,901 copies. During the year Toast went under the spotlight, it jumped to 4,350 and, from 2005 to date, has enjoyed sales of 2,701 a week—a growth of 42.1%1.
Before and after
That’s an impressive statistic, but Slater does not in fact make the top 10 in a chart based on “before/after” growth. That accolade belongs to Sphere’s Dorothy Koomson, a member of the 2006 Summer Read.
Koomson’s first book hit UK shelves early in 2003 when Piatkus’ £6.99 edition of The Cupid Effect sold only 3,099 copies during its first six months on sale. The Chocolate Run followed in March 2004 and fared slightly better, selling 3,537 copies in its first six months. Joanne Coen at Time Warner bought two new novels by Koomson in the summer of 2004 with her first novel in her new home, My Best Friend’s Girl, published in May 2006. It sold 373,301 copies during its first half-year, thanks to the R&J Summer Read spotlight.
The Cupid Effect and The Chocolate Run were re-released by Sphere in August 2007 and February 2008 respectively, and they have clocked up combined sales of 174,165 in the six months during their second bite at the cherry. Before 2006, Koomson’s average weekly sale through the market was a mere 57 copies, whereas from 2007 to date, her weekly average is 6,306—a staggering growth of 10,963.2%—the highest of all of the R&J authors who have recorded sales in the year before and after their appearance on the sofa.
In strict sales terms, Martina Cole’s The Graft (Headline), which has shifted 524,126 copies through the market to date, classifies as the most popular follow-up of all R&J authors. It’s enjoyed an average weekly sale of 2,608 copies through the market since release, whereas The Know, included in the 2004 Book Club, has total sales of 492,165 and a weekly average of 1,953 to date.
It’s an interesting case. The Know was released in November 2003 in hardback, and sold 159,054 copies through the market before its appearance on R&J. By the time the book went under the spotlight, the hardback was coming to the end of its sales life and only 21,896 copies were sold during the series. It means the impact the R&J limelight made on sales was much lower than for others who appeared in the same club, notably Joseph O’Connor who enjoyed sales of 213,668 for The Star of the Sea (Vintage) over the same period, helped by the paperback release just five weeks earlier.
Jodi Picoult is an author who appears on all three charts (see right), which look at the average weekly sales of follow-ups in comparison to show titles and the average weekly sales of an author’s entire canon in the years before, during and after they’ve been featured in the Book Club or Summer Read.
Long Island-born Picoult is today one of the biggest names in contemporary fiction, having enjoyed sales worth £5.1m last year—the highest gross of any female fiction writer. But before the inclusion of My Sister’s Keeper in the Book Club in 2005, she was almost unheard of on UK shores. She’s currently an author selling around 8,000 copies a week through the market, thanks to Hodder’s strategic and extremely successful stepped backlist releases.
Plain Truth, Picoult’s seventh novel, which was first published in the US in 2000, was the first book released to the UK market in 2004. It enjoyed a peak week sale of 2,898 in November 2004. There followed Picoult’s 11th novel, My Sister’s Keeper, released straight into paperback early in 2005, in time for the Book Club, and it enjoyed a 20,482 peak week during the series. All in all, since being featured in the Book Club, 10 Picoult novels have been released to the UK market—which goes some way to account for her impressive 17,515 average weekly sale over the past two- and-a-half years.
That magic phrase
But to combine the average weekly sales of all 64 authors who have been featured in the R&J clubs between 2004 and 2007 reveals perhaps the most impressive of all of the statistics. In the years after appearing on the show, the combined average weekly sale of these authors is 126,3332, which is 490.5% up on the pre-show figure. Although part of this may be owing to a number of début works being included in the clubs (these authors will register few, if any, pre-show sales figures), consider that around a third of these 64 authors haven’t released comparable follow-ups yet and won’t be registering high year-after sales.
The opinion on the high street is that follow-ups perform best if their front cover contains the phrase “from the author of the ‘Richard & Judy’ bestseller . . .”—and it certainly seems a logical thing to do given the evidence in the data. Buyers at major high street retailers have said that when a new book by an “as seen on ‘Richard & Judy'” author arrives in store, the only difficulty is keeping it in stock. One warned, “never underestimate the power that the club currently still has and will continue to have in the future in the mindset of the British public”.
Whether or not R&J’s move to UKTV channel Watch proves a success, the achievements of their Channel 4 series will no doubt prove to have long-lasting, positive effects for the 82 authors who have appeared on the show thus far.
Richard and Judy’s first show on Watch is on 7th October.
142.1%—the growth in Nigel Slater’s backlist sales post-R&J
2126,333—average weekly sale of authors in the year(s) after appearing on R&J
Richard and Judy Follow-Ups
Pos Author Follow-up Life sales
1 Martina Cole The Graft 524,126
2 Cecelia Ahern Where Rainbows End 476,380
3 Kate Mosse Sepulchre 357,837
4 Jodi Picoult The Pact* 304,097
5 Sam Bourne Last Testament 256,693
6 Kate Morton The Forgotten Garden 236,270
7 Dorothy Koomson Marshmellows for Breakfast 235,825
8 Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries 208,552
9 Michael Connelly Echo Park 201,286
10 P J Tracy Dead Run 125,565
11 David Mitchell Black Swan Green 100,691
12 Simon Kenick Deadline 73,872
13 William DalrympleThe Last Mughals 59,170
14 Adriana Trigiani Queen of the Big Time 54,297
15 Anchee Min The Last Empress 54,116
16 Victoria Hislop The Return 46,842
17 Asne Seierstad A Hundred and One Days 43,366
18 Alice Sebold Almost Moon 42,204
19 Susan Fletcher Oystercatchers 37,655
20 Joseph O’Connor Redemption Road 35,283
*Originally published in 1998 but first released to UK market in 2005
R&J Title versus the Follow-Up title
Pos Author Show title Avg weekly sale to date
1 Jane Fallon Getting Rid of Matthew 3,510
2 Kate Morton The House at Riverton 10,912
3 Nigel Slater Toast 1,011
4 Martina Cole The Know 1,953
5 Simon Kenick Relentless 2,933
6 Kate Mosse Labyrinth 6,754
7 William Dalrymple White Mughals 529
8 Sam Bourne The Righteous Men 4,170
9 Jodi Picoult My Sister’s Keeper 2,486
10 Michael Connelly The Lincoln Lawyer 2,340
11 Victoria Hislop The Island 7,227
12 Dorothy Koomson My Best Friend’s Girl 4,577
13 P J Tracy Want to Play? 1,017
14 Cecelia Ahern PS, I Love You 3,940
15 Anchee Min Empress Orchid 1,282
16 George Hagen The Laments 210
17 David Mitchell Cloud Atlas 1,749
18 Susan Fletcher Eve Green 992
19 Adriana Trigiani Lucia, Lucia 586
20 Anthony Capella Food of Love 619
Author’s follow-up title Pub date AWS to date Diff
1 Got You Back* Jul 08 6,564 87.0%
2 The Forgotten Garden* May 08 19,689 80.4%
3 Kitchen Diaries Aug 05 1,372 35.7%
4 The Graft Sep 04 2,608 33.5%
5 Deadline* Jun 08 3,888 32.6%
6 Sepulchre Sep 07 8,520 26.1%
7 The Last Mughals Sep 06 598 13.0%
8 Last Testament Jun 07 4,351 4.3%
9 Vanishing Acts May 02 2,287 -8.0%
10 Echo Park Aug 06 1,993 -14.8%
11 The Return* May 08 5,855 -19.0%
12 Marshmallows for Breakfast May 06 3,685 -19.5%
13 Dead Run Mar 05 743 -26.9%
14 Where Rainbows End Oct 04 2,406 -38.9%
15 The Last Empress Mar 07 741 -42.2%
16 Tom Bedlam* May 07 106 -49.5%
17 Black Swan Green Apr 06 832 -52.4%
18 Oystercatchers Jan 07 459 -53.7%
19 Queen of the Big Time Sep 04 266 -54.6%
20 The Wedding Officer Mar 06 274 -55.7%
* Fewer than 26 weeks on sale
Average Weekly Sales on Richard & Judy
Author Before During After Growth
1 Dorothy Koomson 57 9,027 6,306 10,963.2%
2 Simon Kenick 213 6,687 8,939 4,096.7%
3 Richard Benson 162 17,037 5,921 3,554.9%
4 Susan Fletcher 19 3,562 460 2,321.1%
5 A M Homes 20 4,303 453 2,165.0%
6 Jed Rubenfeld 115 15,779 2,090 1,717.4%
7 Bella Pollen 23 3,024 334 1,352.2%
8 Jodi Picoult 1,529 13,863 17,515 1,045.5%
9 Mark Mills 144 6,160 1,133 686.8%
10 P J Tracy 324 4,811 2,473 663.3%