What were the trends that led to bookseller searches and sales success in 2021? We delved into the searches conducted on TitlePage to see what we could discover.
As expected there were award winners and big releases surrounded by hype, but also important were the media, Netflix and the ever increasing influence of BookTok.
These latter three trends in particular saw backlist titles propelled into must-haves for bookshops and readers alike, and crunching the numbers for 2021 saw a ten-year old title as the most searched for book on TitlePage this year and an even older book the most searched for title in December.
Here’s our rundown of the top searches on TitlePage across the year:
Julia Quinn and her Bridgerton series (HarperCollins) dominated the summer searches on TitlePage, as the Netflix series drove strong sales for all her titles. Moving into Autumn, big releases ruled the top searches though they were only just ahead of the BookTok fueled interest for backlist titles. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (2017, S&S) and Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles (2011, Bloomsbury) were two of the biggest BookTok successes early on in 2021. But a new Kazuo Ishiguro book will always attract attention, so it was Klara and the Sun (2 March, Faber/A&U) which was the top search in March while George Saunders’ exploration of writing A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (5 March, Bloomsbury) topped the search charts in both April & May.
While Dark Emu (most searched title of 2019 and third in 2020) continued to feature heavily in TitlePage searches throughout 2021, it was Peter Sutton & Keryn Walshe’s critique Farmers or Hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate (16 June, MUP) which was June’s top search.
Two very different books topped the TitlePage searches in July, with Amanda Lohrey’s The Labyrinth (4 August 2020, Text) propelled by a Miles Franklin Award win to join Dr Norman Swan’s So You Think You Know What's Good for You? (30 June, Hachette) as the most sought after titles in July. Awards again prompted August’s top search, CBCA’s Early Childhood Book of the Year No! Never! (28 April 2020, Hachette).
The big releases dominated searches in September, with Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You (7 September, Faber/A&U) leading the way ahead of Liane Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall (14 September, Pan Macmillan), while the passing of Eddie Jaku aged 101 saw The Happiest Man on Earth (28 July 2020, Pan Macmillan) propelled back to the top of the searches in October.
Searches increased dramatically in November and December, thanks to easing of lockdowns for much of the country and the build up to Christmas. Damon Galgut’s Booker Prize win with The Promise (16 June, Penguin Random House) shot it into the Australian market and to the top of the searches in November. Another backlist title propelled back into bookshop interest was most likely down to a feature on Radio National’s The Bookshelf in their Classic Australian Novels series, rather than BookTok. Alexis Wright’s 2006 novel Carpentaria (1 August 2006, Giramondo) to the top of December’s TitlePage searches, with a huge surge of interest in the 2007 Miles Franklin winner following The Bookshelf feature on 30 November. .
Top search of the year
Crunching the numbers for the whole year finds a backlist title that was high throughout the year as the overall top TitlePage search of the year. A BookTok inspired surge from mid-2020 saw early-year interest, and increased mainstream media interest around BookTok success stories maintained interest throughout the year. This was then coupled with a well timed (and beautifully published) 10th anniversary edition in November, which made Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles the top TitlePage search for 2021.