Independent Bestsellers

Independent Bestsellers

Literary critic, chief editor of “Antares” publishing house Arkmenik Nikoghosyan tells about the recent trends in the Armenian literary market and its main bestsellers. 

Text : Arkmenik Nikoghosyan


During the first years of the Armenian independence, the series of books initiated by “Apolon” publishing house – “Five novellas”, “The Trial” by Franz Kafka, “Within and Without” by Hermann Hesse, “The Plague” by Albert Camus, etc. – were in fact the last books released with a large circulation typical of Soviet times, 40.000. In the years that followed, books in Armenia were not only pushed to the backburner but they also got published less (for different reasons, but first and foremost – financial). Later, more in the end of the 1990s and in the beginning of the 2000s, these printed copies not only drastically dropped in quantity beyond comparison (500 or 1000 at most) but also the numbers on the last page indicating the circulation gradually disappeared. Also, the books, especially those by contemporary Armenian authors, were circulated and spread out not as much due to sales but for the most part, due to being given as a gift.

One of the most popular Armenian poets of XX century Paruyr Sevak, a hero of Hovik Charkhchyan’s non-fiction

 

In this case, perhaps the most essential question arises; what must the sales quantity be for a book to be considered a bestseller? Especially, since at one point there was a situation when selling 30-50 copies of a book was considered a great success. And, in the 2010s, when the “Armenpress” news agency launched its “Yerevan Bestseller” project, which operates to this day, one could often see books appearing on the top ten list which had been sold by just 8-10 copies during the past week or month.

A story of a prominent thief in law Svo Raf was sold in tens of thousands copies

 

Given the fact that there are no accurate statistics, and also because the sale of the books weren’t always carried out at the bookstores alone (the number of which, by the way, was dropping with each day), bestsellers of especially the late 1990s and early 2000s should be assessed based on circulating news and facts, and in this assessment, data presented by the booksellers working in the underpasses are of especially greater importance.

Therefore, a bestseller of the 1990s can be considered Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people", which was first published in Armenian in 1991, and later republished many times. The best-selling books of the 2000s are considered two non-fiction publications (surprisingly so, since that category has not gained much momentum in Armenia up till now) – one about a favorite poet, and the other about a favorite thief in law (professional dignitary). So, Hovik Charkhchyan’s book “Sulamita; Sevak’s big love” in two volumes (2004, 2006) has been sold in over 9000 copies according to various data, and the sales of Sergey Galoyan’s “Svo Raph… a bio of a legendary man” (2007), is counted by tens of thousands.

The next factual bestseller is “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which repeatedly published and sold by different publishers, in different translations, even without copyright (an exception is the 2012 publication by “Antares” publishing house). The sales of “The Little Prince” surpasses 100,000, if not more. 

One of many Armenian editions of “The Little Prince”

 

As for the fiction books of Armenian authors, we should of course mention Vahram Martirosyan’s novel “”Landslide", which was constantly advertised on TV and in newspapers, and it paid off.

In the last 5-6 years, it is possible to reveal the data of bestseller books more accurately, as on the one hand, there is the “”Yerevanyan bestseller" project which announces definite numbers every week, in addition, the publishers themselves occasionally come up with unique reports; and on the other hand, the bookstore managers and those in charge are not reluctant to announce numbers, a phenomenon which in itself was not something common in the past.

In the light of what has been said let’s try to understand the Armenian bestsellers of the last 5 years according to different so-called nominations.

 

Armenian Contemporary Authors

Since the early 2010s, there has been a noticeable activity in this field. Even long-forgotten things took place; thus, 155 copies of Aram Pachyan’s novel “Goodbye, Bird” were sold in two hours, Hrachya Saribekyan’s novel “The Sun of the Twins” was sold in two hours – 178 copies in total, Armen Ohanyan’s “The Return of Kikos” – 268 copies, and Levon Khachyan’s postmortem published novel “The book of Mher’s Door” – more than two thousand copies in one day.

In general, among the modern authors, Aram Pachyan’s books are in high demand. His books “Robinson” and “Goodbye, Bird” have had three editions each and “The Ocean” has had two, while the printing of the first two books has already excelled 3000 copies, which is a very good indicator.

Third edition of Aram Pachyan’s “Goodbye, Bird”

 

Grig’s collection of short stories “Jesus’s Cat” had three editions and a total of 2000 copies published.

At one point, Edgar Harutyunyan’s books, “The Art of Devotion or a Dedication to the Rose” and “Chamomiles not Found” were of great demand, each of which, according to different data, has had sales of more than 5000 copies.

Thus, combining different data, Edgar Kostandyan’s “Orphanage”, Aram Avetis’s “Blind Punctuation”, and David Samvelyan’s “Roden’s Winter” have achieved a bestseller status.

For the last one or two years, Syune Sevada’s collection of stories “Addiction” and Levon Ness’s novella “Balzac; a Story about a Dog” have become bestsellers.

The situation is a bit different in the case of poetry books. They generally do not record large sales. In any case, although the number of sales does not exceed 400-500, we should mention Hovhannes Grigoryan’s “From a New Line”, Armen Sargsyan’s “Instead of Unread Books” and, especially, Husik Ara’s “And Love Said” collections of poems, which had a second edition.

If we consider Nikol Pashinyan’s novel “The Opposite Side of the Earth” in this category, we should acknowledge that it is the absolute leader in the Armenian market not only in this nomination, but also in general. To date, more than 8,000 copies of this book have been sold.

Perhaps, in this category we should also consider the books of Armenian authors composing in foreign languages, of which Mark Aren’s “Where Wild Roses Bloom” and Narine Abgaryan’s “Manyunya” novels have also had bestseller sales.

Darak Publishing republished Vardges Petrosyan’s novels recently

 

Armenian Classical Literature

There are many and varied editions of Armenian classics, and it is difficult to single out specific books. In any case, let us state that especially the publications of Hovhannes Tumanyan’s works are leading in this nomination. The collections of Yeghishe Charents’s and especially Paruyr Sevak’s works are also bestsellers.

 

Translated Literature
There has been a real boom in translated literature in Armenia during the recent years, which in turn contributes to the growth of book sales. Since there are so many books in this nomination, it is very difficult to trace the sales trend, but our surveys and calculations show that the leader among translated fiction books is Paulo Coelho’s novel “The Alchemist”.

George Orwell’s “1984” translated by “Antares” publishing is constantly among bestsellers in Armenia

 

Bestseller sales are recorded also by the Armenian translations of the following novels; George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm”, Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”, Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon”, Abba Prevo’s “Manon Lesko”, William Saroyan’s “Dad, You’re Crazy” and “Mom, I Love You”, John Green’s “The Stars Are to Blame”, Hermann Hesse’s “Steppe Wolf”, Oscar Wild’s “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”, and Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter book series, etc.

 

Non-fiction Books

Especially within the last 2-3 years, books of this nature started to be more frequently translated into Armenian, and most importantly, many of them recorded big sales data. Leading in this category is perhaps Mark Manson's book “The Subtle art of Not Giving a F*ck”, which sold thousands of copies in a short period of time.

newmag published “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” in 2018

 

In the last few months, Robin Sharma’s book “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” has also recorded exceptional sales. William C. Rempel's "The Gambler", Spencer Johnson's “Who Moved My Cheese?”, Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, Charles Aznavour's "Clinging to Life", Napoleon Hill's "Think and Get Rich" and others also achieved a bestseller status.

In conclusion, we’d like to emphasize again that the accuracy of the data provided is not unbiased and there may be some oversight, but in general, this is what the overall picture of bestsellers in Armenia looks like.
Book publication in Armenia is on its peak currently, and in the near future, we expect that these records will be surpassed, and new bestseller records will be set.

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