The complete results are here, but to make things easier for you, I'll be pulling out some info on historical novels that made the list, for the hardcover fiction category at least.
There are no historical novels in spots #1-15 on PW's list. These places are dominated by thrillers, particularly James Patterson (who has a ridiculous 5 titles there), mysteries, Jodi Picoult, and of course Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, with 2.2+ million copies sold. But as for the rest of the list, we find the following. The numbers in parentheses indicate total sales as reported to PW.
#16 - Rhett Butler's People, Donald McCaig (606,304)
#19 - World Without End, Ken Follett (552,165)
#21 - The Chase, Clive Cussler (478,195)
Others, all with sales from 250,000 to 100,000 copies, in descending order:
Everlasting, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
The Boleyn Inheritance, Philippa Gregory
Mark's Story, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
The Double Agents, W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
The Ravenscar Dynasty, Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Bone Garden, Tess Gerritsen
The Heir, Barbara Taylor Bradford
Peony in Love, Lisa See
Loving Frank, Nancy Horan
Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th, Newt Gingrich and William R. Fortschen
The River Knows, Amanda Quick
Tree of Smoke, Denis Johnson
Away, Amy Bloom
Up in Honey's Room, Elmore Leonard
The Lady in Blue, Javier Sierra
The Quest, Wilbur Smith
Based on this information, it would seem that being a bestselling historical novelist (in hardcover) during 2007 required one or more of the following:
- Writing a highly anticipated sequel to a beloved historical novel that also happened to be a bestseller.
- Having your previous XX novels, historical or not, be bestsellers.
- Garnering uniformly stellar reviews and having your publisher back your efforts with a large-scale marketing campaign.
- Being (a) a famous political figure or (b) an author of the Left Behind series or (c) an author who died in 2007, leaving behind a manuscript for a final novel.
- Writing a very good book that appeals to an awful lot of different people. (Yes, probably self-evident, but...) Extra points if it's so good that it receives award nominations in two or more fiction genres and/or works extremely well with book clubs.
"Veteran novelists and Media Stars Make the Top Grades," reads the article's subtitle, which covers a lot of it. Taking a closer look at the list... there are few commonalities in terms of historical setting, and there's a mix of thrillers, literary titles, romances, sagas, alternate histories, and other things that are hard to categorize. Several are first efforts in historical fiction from bestselling authors known for their work in other genres.
PW compiles separate lists for trade paperbacks and mass market, which you can also read about, but I'll mention a few huge sellers in trade paperback as well, such as Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, and Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, with 1.0 to 1.4 million sales apiece in 2007. The last three, of course, were Oprah picks. Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess had sales of 318,000, while The Boleyn Inheritance added 242,000 sales in trade paperback to its hardcover total of 211,000 (in the same year).
Which ones have I read? Only Rhett Butler's People, which I thoroughly enjoyed (with a few small caveats) and The Boleyn Inheritance (ditto). Among those in trade, I've read Pillars of the Earth and The Constant Princess, both of which I liked, but I wouldn't put either on a list of all-time favorites.