Business Books—by the Numbers

In the last post I talked about the business book revolution that was ignited  a quarter century ago. The next logical question is, how big is the business book category today? For example, in any given week, do people buy more cookbooks or more business books? More books on politics or more business books? Let’s take one recent week of actual point-of-purchase sales to compare different non-fiction categories. The numbers below represent the total one week sales of the top 50 books in each designated category, as measured by Nielsen Bookscan (and rounded off to the nearest big number). The results will prepare you well for your next cocktail party when the conversation turns to books: 

  • Art: 11,000 
  • Religion: 58,000
  • Political Science/politics (from Moyers to Blackwater): 67,000 
  • Family/Relations: 70,000
  • Cooking 71,000
  • Business: 105,000
  • Self-help 156,000

In this particular week, well over half of the sales in the self-help category came from one book—The Last Lecture (by Randy Pausch, just as the political category will be dominated by former White House press secretary’s Scott McClellan’s What Happened when that book is released on June 6th). However, there was one other non-fiction category that crushed all of these—biographies and autobiographies. According to Nielsen Bookscan, that part of the bookshelf sold more than 250,00 copies in a single week, led by Barbara Walters’ memoir, Audition (that book sold close to an eye-popping 300,000 copies in three weeks). However, don’t count business books out yet. September—the start of the school year—and January—replete with New Year’s resolutions—are two of the best months for business books. Be sure to come back right after Labor Day when we take another snapshot of these key categories. 

Hello World!

Welcome to my blog, which will really get going in the next day or two. In the meantime, I wanted to make sure you had a sense of what I was going to write about. Business books are my life and my passion. I entered the world of publishing in 1982, the same year that In Search of Excellence and The One Minute Manager was published. As you will read in my next posting, that was the year that changed everything. As an editor, former publisher, current editorial director (of Portfolio, the business book imprint of Penguin), I know what it takes to get published and what it takes to make a breakthrough book (although we are often surprised by the books that make it big). So I will be blogging quite a bit about business books, and will work hard to talk about the stuff that other people aren’t writing about. That’s because I have experienced the business from both sides of the transaction. I have been an editor for some 25 years (and have edited more than 275 books personally), and have now just completed my sixth business book (as author).  It’s that unique perspective from both sides of the written word which I hope will keep bringing you back to this site.  So if you love business books, want to get published, or want to understand the inside of the business book world, you have come to the right place. Oh, and yes, if you love Peter Drucker, this will also be the right site for you. That’s because the late Peter Drucker cooperated with me on a book that was six years in the making, INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN. Meeting him was an incredible experience, especially for somone whose entire career has been about business books. My blog will be updated several times per week, so please do come back, and feel free to ask questions or add comments. I want to create a community of business book lunatics just like me. One more thing: if you have a friend, co-worker, or family member who may be interested in business books or Peter Drucker, tell them to check out, scroll down, and enter their email address as indicated. Many thanks, and look out for my next posting on May 28th.

  • Find It

  • Sign up!

    Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications in your inbox when there are new posts

  • The Unforced Error

      The Unforced Error

  • Sneak Peek - Chapter One!

    Source Notes