China Bestsellers for November: The ‘Double Eleven’ Sales Boost

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An annual round of sales pricing on Double Eleven or ‘singles day’ provides a bump to Chinese publishers and booksellers in November.

November 11 shopping during ‘Double Eleven’ sales in Shanghai. Image- iStockphoto: Pavel Sipachev

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

November Answers June’s Sales Boost

‘The Three-Body Problem’

As we look at China’s bestselling books in November, we see the effects of what’s called the “Double Eleven,” a shopping festival that coincides with November 11, and features both online and offline promotional retail discounts.

The date is also sometimes called “singles’ day,” a name for it that reportedly began in the early 1990s at Nanjing University. According to some reports, Alibaba was the first major online retailer to introduce a major sale event in association with the tradition, in 2009.

While Yu Hua’s To Live and three titles of The Three-Body Problem series (which includes The Dark Forest and Death’s End) maintained their dominance, the month’s data—and interpretive assistance from of Rainy Liu of Trajectory—shows us that two new titles entered the charts in fiction, Wu Zhe’s Ran Freely at No. 20 and Eileen Chang’s Red Rose White Rose at No. 25, the latter in a revised 2012 edition.

Re-entries were made onto OpenBook’s overall fiction chart by Sophie’s World (Jostein Gaarder in a new edition) at No. 26; Paulo Coelho’s familiar The Alchemist at No. 27; and Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City in a revised 2012 edition, at No. 29.

‘Red Rose White Rose

OpenBook’s staff cites the increasing importance in the Chinese market of cyclical promotional events, both online and off, which are driving the development of two relatively new peak periods for sales, one in June and one in November, as seen in terms of Top 30 and Top Five titles. These join the longer-standing trends of heightened sales around the primary and secondary school systems’ winter and summer vacations.

The June sales boost is referred to as “six-eighteen” at mid-year. And in the November Double Eleven results, there was a boots seen for some classic titles’ sales as well as for newer works.

For example, an enduring favorite, Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude rose by five places, and his Love in the Time of Cholera rose 10 spots.

And this figure, provided by OpenBook, shows the boosts being seen in the middle of the year from the June and November sales cycles in the fiction market overall.

In this chart from OpenBook in Beijing, the Chinese book market’s 2018 sales increases in June and November are reflected most strongly in the top line, illustrating sales (in units) of the market’s Top Five titles

Campus Romance: ‘Ran Freely’

One of the month’s titles new to the list, Wu Zhe’s Ran Freely (No. 20), is said to have enjoyed wide popularity across social media and on online sales platforms during the November sales.

‘Ran Freely’

It’s a love story set on a college campus—perhaps of some relevance to “singles’ day,” as such, is part of a fiction subset: romantic campus novels hold a kind of category of their own, and Wu’s writing is considered particularly witty among such titles.

Staffers at OpenBook say that nonfiction sales are also increased during the November sales period, and in this case, that bump has produced the entry of four new titles onto the nonfiction list:

  • Gag Reel by Li Dan, ranked No.11
  • Economics Lecture Notes by Xue Zhaofeng, at No.12 (published in July)
  • 1587, a Year of No Significance by Ray Huang, at No.13
  • Don’t Be the Stray Migrant Bird by Liu Tong, ranked No. 17 (published in October)

The curiously titled Gag Reel is a debut, we learn, a story collection powered by Li’s appearances on a popular television show, Tucao Conference, and a newly launched talk show.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from (month) of bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country.

At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.

OpenBook’s Overall Fiction Bestsellers in China, November 2018
October 2018 Ranking November 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
3 2 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 3 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 4 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 5 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
2 6 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
7 7 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 8 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 10 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
12 11 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
22 12 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 13 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
15 14 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 15 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
10 16 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
16 17 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
23 18 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
18 19 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
24 21 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 22 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
25 23 9787530211564 2012-03 Life Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
21 24 9787540458027 2013-10 I Belonged to You Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 25 9787530211151 2012-06 Red Rose White Rose (2012 Revised Edition) Eileen Chang Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
27 28 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787530211168 2012-06 Love in a Fallen City (2012 Revised Edition) Eileen Chang Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
26 30 9787530218198 2018-07 The Clown of House Juji Higashino Keigo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House

OpenBook’s Overall Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, November 2018
October 2018 Ranking November 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787201094014 20150-9 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
1 2 9787540487669 2018-06 You Are Bad Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
3 3 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
4 4 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
5 5 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
7 6 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 7 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
6 8 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
11 9 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
19 10 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787540481827 2017-08 Gag Reel Li Dan Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 12 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 13 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang SDX Joint Publishing Company
14 14 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
15 15 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
22 16 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 17 9787559626530 2018-10 Don’t Be the Stray Migrant Bird Liu Tong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 18 9787549550159 2014-01 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 19 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
25 20 9787550263932 2015-11 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 21 9787503561634 2017-08 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
27 22 9787540467784 2014-06 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 23 9787540482190 2017-08 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
21 24 9787549564125 2015-04 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai,Andreas Walther Guangxi Normal University Press
16 25 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
24 26 9787540488079 2018-07 Letters to Meijun Long Yingtai Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 27 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
13 28 9787108042453 2012-09 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
20 29 9787559625632 2018-09 Speak Well (2) Ma Weiwei,Huang Zhizhong,Zhou Xuanyi,et al. Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 30 9787530216712 2017-04 A Unique Pig Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, November 2018
October 2018 Ranking November 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787208061644 2018-03 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
2 2 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 3 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 4 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 5 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
9 6 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 7 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 8 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 9 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 10 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
11 11 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 12 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
13 13 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
12 14 9787530218198 2018-07 The Clown of House Juji Higashino Keigo Japan Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
14 15 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 16 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 18 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
19 19 9787539982830 2015-06 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
18 20 9787544749398 2015-01 The Catcher in the Rye Jerome David Salinger United States of America Yilin Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, November 2018
October 2018 Ranking November 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 2 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
4 3 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
5 4 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
6 5 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
9 6 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
8 7 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
17 8 9787559407634 2018-03 Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things Jenny Lawson United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 9 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
12 10 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
2 11 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
15 12 9787535733597 2002-02 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
20 13 9787544762885 2016-04 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff United States of America Yilin Press
14 14 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
16 15 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 16 9787544768559 2017-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
18 17 9787544292498 2018-04 What is There to Do in Laos? Haruki Murakami Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 18 9787300126210 2010-09 Mao: A Biography Ross Terrill United States of America China Renmin University Press
Not Ranked 19 9787544760850 2017-01 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
Not Ranked 20 9787544761031 2016-12 Stray Birds Rabindranath Tagore India Yilin Press

Notes on the Charts

OpenBook is a privately owned industry-data research firm based in Beijing. It functions somewhat as Nielsen and NDP do from the West, and Nielsen Book Research International has worked with OpenBook in Asian operations. With authoritative data and information resources, OpenBook is able to deliver consulting service to partners who would like to explore the Chinese book market and identify suitable partners.

Trajectory, based near Boston, is an importer of Western-language ebooks and audiobooks into China. Trajectory is also helping China’s largest publishers export their books and audiobooks through a proprietary global ebook distribution network that includes hundreds of retailers as well as library and school distributors. Trajectory recently has added copyright services, both for content going into China and for exports from China to the rest of the world.

Up until July 1, 2018, this data has been estimated by OpenBook to represent some 50 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from more than 6,000 bookstores in China, including a total 3,496 physical bookstores representative of all the provinces in China except Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Retail outlets include:

  • Traditional bookstores
  • Supermarkets
  • Campus bookstores
  • “Professional” stores, said to be small stores with a specific industrial or trade focus
  • Airport stores

In addition, OpenBook is drawing data from online bookstores of three main types:

  • The “Tmall” stores of Alibaba (Tmall is described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
  • The “JingDong” Stores of JD.com (similar to Tmall as a marketplace of both individual companies and bookstores operated by JD.com)
  • Ten independent online bookselling retailers

China has some 500 or more publishers in operation today. Most of them, Trajectory CEO James Bryant clarifies, are government-owned. Private publishers are required to purchase ISBNs for their titles from a publishing company that is government-owned—which, in other words, creates a system in which all ISBNs are in one way or another registered through government channels. The government approves each book published in China.


More of China bestseller reports from Publishing Perspectives are here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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