Christmas reads: what books are going to end up in your stocking this year?

Christmas Stocking

Do the biggest and brightest in bookselling know what you are buying this Christmas? We asked for predictions from Amazon, Foyles and Mr B’s, to name a few; see what they predicted and how sales are faring in the lead-up to the Christmas rush

The publishing industry is waiting with bated breath to find out which of the Autumn’s titles will top the sales charts for the year - and safeguard their flagging fortunes for another year. The busiest day of the year for publishing is Super Thursday, deemed to be the optimum day for new releases to hit shelves and maximise Christmas sales. It’s not a new phenomenon – in recent years, there has consistently been an observable spike in new ‘Christmas titles’ coming out on Thursdays in October – but 2014 was the first year the day was celebrated by bookshops. With good reason; over 315 new hardback titles came out on October 9 2014 in the UK, all earmarked for top spots in our Christmas stockings.

When the first official Super Thursday arrived, we decided we wanted to monitor the impact of the day on sales this year. Would the titles published on that day perform better than others this Christmas? To know that, we needed to know what bookstores and retailers were expecting to fly off shelves before the Christmas rush began, so we contacted stores, websites and individuals and asked them to predict what the top 20 bestsellers this Christmas would be.

Originally, we intended to ask everyone to make their predictions based on expected performance across the country overall; but, for the sake of variety and catching any underdog bestsellers, we decided to open the selection process to the contributors on a store-by-store, chain-by-chain basis. What is going to do well in your store this Christmas? we asked. What do your customers want to read and buy?

We received predictions from all corners of the book industry, which you can read here: from some big players – Amazon UK, Waterstones, Foyles and Blackwell’s; independent stores – Mr B’s Book Emporium, Chorleywood Bookshop and Walkers Bookshops; and for a perspective removed from retail, the industry news source The Bookseller.

Of the 160 predictions, 19 of the 114 different titles came out on Super Thursday; a huge majority (90 percent) have been or will be released between August and December 2014. There are the usual big-hitters – Guinness World Records, memoirs and cookbooks – but there are some recurring titles linking the larger groups with the independents. David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and Ian McEwan’s The Children Act by were the clear top picks for fiction, while most picked non-fiction titles were the latest cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi and Jamie Oliver, Claire Balding’s memoir Walking Home and The Establishment by Owen Jones. For children, David Walliams’s Awful Auntie and the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid installment are clearly expected to appear on many lists to Father Christmas in 2014.

Opening up predictions to individual stores revealed some more niche, oddball tips, typically on the lists of smaller retailers. Blackwell’s in Oxford emphasised coffee-table hardbacks, like Jenny Broom’s Animalium and the weighty National Geographic: Around the World in 125 Years; while Mr B’s in Bath championed two previously published, older novels that they’re bringing back into print, through their new publishing house Fox, Finch & Tepper.

With the help of Nielsen book data, we have graphed the 10 best selling titles from the prediction lists as of 29 October 2014:

The top 10 predicted bestsellers as of 29 October 2014, based on Nielsen sales figures.

The titles shift slightly, when taking the recommended retail price (RRP) into account; the predictions list is dominated by hardbacks (99 of the 114 titles):

The top 10 predicted bestsellers by value as of October 29 2014, based on Nielsen sales figures.

Ultimately, Amazon UK has made the most predictions consistent with sales figures at this stage: nine of their 20 predictions are in the current top 10 bestsellers. However, it will be interesting to monitor the sales of some of the smaller titles in the lead-up to Christmas: will the titles in Mr B’s publishing venture appeal to their customers? Will the critically-loved H is For Hawk prove to be a dark horse with Christmas buyers? We will be blogging and monitoring sales of all of the predicted top 20s in the lead-up to Christmas and by our final blog, a week before Christmas, we’ll know whether Super Thursday worked - and whether booksellers can truly predict what we are going to buy.

Powered by article was written by Sian Cain, for on Tuesday 4th November 2014 16.28 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010