From 'Bridgerton' to 'Ripley,' Netflix's latest hit adaptations have also boosted book sales

Netflix has had immense success adapting books into television series, turning the streamer into a global driving force for boosting book sales and changing how we read fiction.

One of its biggest recent successes has been the “Bridgerton” series — the first three seasons rank among its top 10 most popular TV series, according to Netflix’s viewing metrics, and Season 3 is No. 1 in the global top 10 since Part 1 was released in May. And those views have translated into major book sales. According to Nielsen’s BookScan, for example, the weekly U.S. sales of HarperCollins’ “Bridgerton” book series, written by Julia Quinn, increased by a whopping 552% between the week before the Season 3 TV trailer was released and the week after the season premiered on Netflix.

Similarly, after the premiere of “Fool Me Once,” an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s mystery thriller, the book soared onto the Amazon U.K. bestsellers of 2024 list and the New York Times bestsellers list, and the tie-in cover sold 20,000 physical copies post-release in the U.S.

Michelle Weiner, co-head of the books department at Creative Artists Agency, works closely with Netflix on numerous book to TV series deals, including “Night Agent,” “XO, Kitty,” “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” and “All the Light We Cannot See.”

“Some of Netflix’s most successful series have been based on book adaptations we thoughtfully built together,” Weiner said. “They share our goals and authors’ goals in taking award-winning cinematic stories and partnering them with thoughtfully matched writers, directors, producers, and talent.”

Audiobooks have also seen the effect of Netflix’s fandom, especially on Spotify. Since popular titles were added to Spotify’s Audiobooks in Premium, existing subscribers can listen to 15 hours of audiobooks per month as part of their Spotify Premium subscription.

“On Spotify, audiobook versions of these novels connect fans to the onscreen characters in a deeper way, and the correlating soundtracks and playlists also see a spike,” said David Kaefer, Spotify’s head of music and audiobooks businesses.

He pointed to “Bridgerton” as one example, saying they’ve seen a 1,700% increase in searches of the show, a 150% increase in listens to Quinn audiobooks and a boost in listens to Vitamin String Quartet, whose pop music covers are featured in the series. Similarly, Kaefer said Spotify has seen spikes for Cixin Liu’s “The Three-Body Problem” — the Chinese sci-fi novel was the basis of the series that premiered in March — and for Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which was the basis for Steven Zaillan’s adaptation, “Ripley,” that starred Andrew Scott.

And Highsmith’s novel, published nearly 70 years ago, is just one example of a book returning to bestseller lists years or even decades after the original release.

Following the premiere of the romantic drama “One Day” in February, David Nicholls’ 2009 novel returned to No. 1 on the Sunday Times bestsellers list and was on the Amazon U.K. Best Sellers of 2024 list, 15 years after the book debuted.

Netflix Vice President Jinny Howe, who oversees drama series, says books and television series have storytelling parallels.

“Who doesn’t love to disappear and escape into their favorite book? The character journeys in a TV series format also allow you to really live with this character, evolve with and follow them on these emotional, dramatic arcs that are really satisfying in similar ways,” she said.

The process for finding books they can adapt into a series is ongoing.

“We’re always reading across a variety of genres and authors, and have a great in-house team who helps us track upcoming properties,” Howe said. “We’re not just looking at the genre, but also for fresh voices and perspectives, and bold and original narratives.”

Many of Netflix’s adaptations are based on bestselling novels with a built-in fandom that’s invested in characters and their stories.

“I think what we always try to be really careful about and to do really thoughtfully is, how do you take the spirit of that from the books? Because you are trying to appeal to that existing fandom, but also as a series, as a film, expand upon it.”

However, it’s not always about looking at the “hot book” of the moment, Howe said.

“We have also seen adaptations of novels that are lesser known have just as much success on Netflix, like with ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ which is one of our most popular series,” she said. “When you look at the success of ‘Ripley,’ and also there just being [intellectual property] of different forms and different times, [it] has been exciting to see as well … there are such great stories that also feel ripe for interpretation and they’re not necessarily coming directly from the London Book Fair this year.”

While romance series like “Bridgerton” and “One Day” have performed well, thrillers and mysteries are also popular on the platform, Howe said. “Fool Me Once” was one of Netflix’s most popular series earlier this year, and the streamer plans to release another thriller on Aug. 1, “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.”

It’s based on Holly Jackson’s bestselling book series of the same name, and the British author is an executive producer on the murder-romance TV series. She took a hands-on approach for the adaptation.

“I assisted with selecting the writers for the room and have given extensive notes on all iterations of the scripts for every episode,” Jackson said.

She quipped: “They couldn’t get rid of me, even if they wanted to.”

Whether book authors are involved in the production of a series is a case by case basis.

“Some authors prefer to be more hands off to provide the series team more creative flexibility to explore beyond the perimeters of their original work, while others like to be more directly involved in the adaptation process to shepherd how their vision is brought to screen,” Howe said. “Ultimately, our goal is to honor the book while presenting the best version of the story, which is a very nuanced process.”

In addition to helping select writers for the TV series, Jackson was also involved in post-production, including the edit, giving notes on rough cuts of the episodes.

“My ambition has always been that I wanted to make a show that elevated — or dare I say — even improved upon parts of the book,” she said. “When I had those ideas, I made sure I didn’t shut up about them until they made it into the show.”

The author said she’s happy to have her project at Netflix because of its “accessibility and the fact it will now reach so many more people,” especially viewers who haven’t heard of her books.

“I’m so excited to hook them in too and take them on this new journey,” Jackson said.

Though she is an author and loves to read and get lost in a book, Jackson said she watches “significantly more” TV than she reads books, which she finds can be more helpful in training her to be a better writer.

Emma Myers, who had a breakout role as Enid Sinclair in “Wednesday,” will star as 17-year-old Pip Fitz-Amobi in “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.” Jackson said casting an American actor for the lead role was a way to give “U.S. readers some sense of ownership over the show too.”

Readers have already shown support for the series.

“They have been desperate for any clue or crumb about the show we’ve made, and even seeing them freak out about the smallest details — like one of Pip’s costumes — is heartening to see,” Jackson said.

Bella Kish, a 21-year-old fan of the books, said she was elated when she learned there would be a TV adaptation.

“I posted a TikTok video about the announcement that got a lot of attention,” Kish said. “It was great to see what a huge fan base Holly’s books have gained and how excited everyone is for the upcoming episodes.”

Kish said seeing one of her favorite books onscreen will be special.

“While there is some risk when making TV series out of books, I really hope that they stay true to the original characters and don’t change the story too much,” she said.

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