• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Do Film Adaptations Influence Book Sales? by Tom Chapman

Writing.ie | Magazine | The Big Idea
fault in our stars

By Tom Chapman

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In his book, A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin wrote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads lives only one.”

While Martin was certainly preaching to the converted in his novel, he still makes a valid point. Arguably, books are the only medium which allow individuals to fully explore the realms of their creativity, whether entering into a fantasy land or exploring the characters of a historical novel. Unfortunately, over the past few years, the sales of print books have been declining, possibly losing out to other mediums such as the eBook or to other activities entirely.

For example, data from Nielsen Bookscan – a statistics provider for those in the publishing profession – showed that the number of printed books sold during 2012 had decreased by almost five percent when compared with 2011. In addition, it was reported that many of those copies, in both digital and physical formats, had been heavily discounted, suggesting that many authors were struggling to make a profit.

Although some blamed institutions such as Hollywood for this trend, it seems that book-to-film adaptations could actually benefit authors. Potentially, movies could be the unexpected saviour of the publishing profession.

Hollywood’s effect on book sales

In 2012, journalists from the Huffington Post looked at statistics – again released by Nielson Bookscan – to discover the top selling books for the year before. Included in this list were such mentions as:

  • One Day by David Nicholls
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Also included in this list were books which had celebrity backing, such as Dawn French’s A Tiny Bit Marvellous and Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook. However, the three titles mentioned above had all been accompanied by a version on the big screen. One Day especially seemed to be benefiting from this media support as the novel had originally been published in 2009.

Hollywood’s effect on book sales can clearly be seen in the Harry Potter saga. Although the first part was released in 1997 – with a film equivalent four years later – the book still sold more than three million copies between 2008 and 2010.

For authors popular enough to feature on the big screen, book-to-film adaptations can greatly help their sales – keeping their novels in the public eye for potentially decades. However, while Hollywood can certainly benefit the publishing profession, it could also create a problem.

How Hollywood could cripple book sales

Although Hollywood has undoubtedly helped many authors make a living, only successful and influential writers can benefit from its power. Unfortunately, the bestseller lists often only feature individuals who have had their materials translated into a film or television show. Consequently, this pushes independent or starting authors out of the spotlight, losing out to those with media muscle.

So what can retailers do to ensure these people get proper coverage? Shops such as Foyles will continue to publicise independent authors but arguably more needs to be done to ensure they get the notice they deserve.

Until this occurs, film and television shows will continue directing readers towards their next book purchase. It is certainly debateable whether or not this is a good thing.

(c) Tom Chapman

foylesFoyles is a renowned independent bookstore with a strong history –dating all the way back to the 1900s. These days, there are stores all over London, one in Bristol, as well as a website which allows readers to have books delivered to them wherever they are in the UK


  • allianceindependentauthors.org
  • www.designforwriters.com

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