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The Hot and Cold Book Categories of 2015

20 January 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

It’s difficult to overstate the impact adult coloring books had on print sales last year, with the coloring-book craze driving large gains in several categories. The hottest category in 2015 was art/architecture/photography, which had a 60% increase in unit sales in 2015 over 2014 at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan.

The category was boosted by a number of coloring books, led by Animal Kingdom: Color Me, Draw Me (Lark), which sold 332,000 copies. Two other adult nonfiction segments that had big gains last year were also helped by adult coloring books: crafts/hobbies had a 35% gain in unit sales, with Johanna Basford’s Lost Ocean (Penguin) leading. There were fewer coloring books classified in the self-help segment as in crafts, but their presence was enough to help lift unit sales in the self-help category by 15%.

. . . .

 In adult fiction, genres in which sales of print books have been damaged the most by e-books continued to show erosion in 2015, as the fantasy and mystery/detective segments each posted 12% declines in unit sales, and romance sales fell 9%. The science fiction genre had a big gain, led by The Martian, which sold just shy of 1.2 million print copies across all editions.

. . . .

 The juvenile nonfiction category also benefited from adult coloring books, as many titles, including Basford’s megapopular Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, were classified as children’s nonfiction books.

. . . .

Unit Sales by Category, 2014-2015 (in thousands)

2014 2015 % Change
Adult Non-Fiction
Art/Architecture/Design/Photography 6,984 11,172 60%
Biography/Autobiography/Memoir 22,803 23,544 3%
Business/Economics 16,604 17,155 3%
Cooking/Entertaining 15,492 15,495 0%
Computers 4,652 4,234 -9%
Crafts/Hobbies/Antiques/Games 8,485 11,486 35%
Health/Fitness/Medicine/Sports 21,574 21,557 0%
History/Law/Political Science 15,220 17,132 13%
House & Home/Gardening 2,130 3,184 49%
Humor 4,897 4,660 -5%
Performing Arts 7,706 8,321 8%
Reference 31,989 33,266 4%
Religion/Bibles 35,798 35,930 0%
Self Help 9,848 11,279 15%
Travel 7,417 7,620 3%
General Non-Fiction 28,533 30,009 5%
Total Adult Non-Fiction 240,130 256,042 7%
Adult Fiction
Classics 7,578 9,985 32%
Occult/Psychological/Horror 3,329 2,218 -33%
Religion 4,174 4,414 6%
Fantasy 7,526 6,600 -12%
Science Fiction 4,142 5,964 44%
Suspense/Thrillers 20,111 21,783 8%
Action Adventure 2,239 2,285 2%
Graphic Novels 8,669 10,591 22%
Western 2,232 2,186 -2%
Mystery/Detective 14,304 12,533 -12%
Romance 30,885 28,031 -9%
General Fiction 33,524 35,101 5%
Total Adult Fiction 138,712 141,690 2%
Juvenile Non-Fiction
Animals 4,625 5,128 11%
Biographies/Autobiographies 3,979 4,253 7%
Concepts 3,790 4,296 13%
Education/Reference/Language 6,496 7,651 18%
Games/Activities/Hobbies 12,362 13,703 11%
History/Sports/People/Places 11,232 12,753 14%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion 3,895 4,073 5%
Social Situations/Family/Health 2,502 2,766 11%
Total Juvenile Non-Fiction 48,882 54,624 12%
Juvenile Fiction
Animals 9,051 10,112 12%
Classics 9,981 10,161 2%
Concepts 8,909 9,307 4%
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic 45,511 44,578 -2%
History/Sports/People/Places 14,107 13,550 -4%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion 8,621 9,418 9%
Social Situations/Family/Health 27,815 24,932 -10%
General 52,690 49,325 -6%
Total Juvenile Fiction 176,685 171,383 -3%

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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41 Comments to “The Hot and Cold Book Categories of 2015”

  1. Those with the biggest drop in adult fiction are also the categories where I think indies are making the biggest inroads. Coincidence? 🙂

  2. Science Fiction is up 44%! I’m aiming for the right category! 😉

    • Most of that was probably THE MARTIAN.

      • Me knows, me was making a funny. I’ll try to remember to use the /making a bad joke/ flag.

        (though I am hoping sci-fi indie/self-pub is doing good.)

      • I’m confident “The Martian” gets the credit here. What interests me is that usually you start seeing clones of successful books after about a year; I don’t think the Martian has had any yet. Or it has and I’ve missed them.

        • I don’t think it’s clonable.
          And we already saw Hachette’s response, to put out a handful extra SF titles…

        • I was trying to think of a clone of THE MARTIAN, and the nearest I can come up with is my own book from this year, BEACON 23.

          I’ll fire off a check to Andy right now.

          • Offer to take him out on your boat instead! He’s a computer geek and doesn’t get out much 😀

          • The closest I can recall is Stanley G. Weinbaum’s A MARTIAN ODYSSEY…


            …and that was a triptych story more than a survival narrative.

            (I’ll have to look into BEACON 23.)

            • Weinbaum was an amazing writer! Highly underrated. Died too young. -_-;

            • Eh, BEACON is more of a triptych as well. And survival in the mental sense more than the physical. If you’re serious about reading it, email me and I’ll send you a copy.

              • Appreciate the offer but if its commercially available, it would only be fair to buy it. It’s not as if your prices are outrageous. 🙂

                (I don’t want Mr Ellison on my case.)

                And, as it turns out, I happen to think the triptych is a woefully underused form in SF (and seriously overused in fantasy–thank you soooo much Tolkien fans!). Rather like Capers, which are lots of fun done right but few even bother to try.

                • And…
                  …the blurb sealed the deal.
                  Now to see how the triptych aspects fits in because the blyrbs makes it sound somewhat like VENUS EQUILATERAL. 😀
                  (And that scenario can use an update for the new century.)

                  Straight to the queue it goes.

            • *Makes note of books to add to ever-growing list*

            • OK. I am not a native English speaker : please explain to me what is the differnece between a triptych and a trilogy in fiction? I am not aware that there is a distinction in French.


              • Since I started it, the literal definition…

                …refers to a picture presented in sections.

                Colloquially, though…

                The AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATON (AAA) used to (and still might) provide for its members custom travel guides with detailed maps in sections and turn by turn directions. Priceless when driving thousands of miles cross country so they became legendary. People would sign up just for the maps sometimes, instead of the roadside assistance. A precursor to mapquest and gps. In fact, most of the conventions of the GPS guides come from the AAA TRIPTYCHs.

                So, TRIPTYCH became synonymous with Travel Guide and, in SF, Travelogue; a story whose purpose is to paint a picture (in episodes, usually) of a place or time. It is slightly different from the Odyssey form in that the Odyssey story is about a journey and the events that happen to the protagonist along the trip whereas the Tritych is about the place or places and there might not be any action as we normally define it. It is a descriptive story with little or no conflict.

                In Weinbaum’s story, the narrative is about Mars and its aliens, not about our intrepid hero fighting his way across horrors unimaginable. 🙂

                At the time it inspired a wave of travelogue stories in the still-young genre because of the sense of wonder Weinbaum brought to his alien world. Nowadays it is common for his kind of world-building to be used solely as a backdrop to the story so we see few instances in SF where the author lets the setting be the story and provides just a barebones plot to tie the scenes and settings together. It takes a lot of confidence in the setting to do that.

                I probably should’ve used the older travelogue term but Triptych was what the consciousness stream coughed up.


          • Dammit Hugh Howey, now I have to buy your Beacon books. What’s with the Beacon thing anyway? My sci-fi series starting with Beacon Birthright debuts in March with 2 more books and 2 novellas in the series due out during 2016. Should I adopt the pen name, Hugh Howey? I could do that. I’m not proud.
            And I note that Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars/Blue Mars/Green Mars were given a huge boost by The Martian. I loved all three KSR books.

        • One could argue that The Martian is a clone of Robinson Crusoe. 🙂

  3. I’m currently writing a horror novel. Does this graph indicate that there hasn’t been a decent horror novel published recently? Or does it mean that readers are moving away from that genre? Or are readers moving away from that genre because all the recent horror novels have been crappy?

    • In truth it means only that the big publishers are seeing some things sink as others grow — as this doesn’t even notice that there are any indie/self-pub books out there.

      Now if Data Guy trolls Amazon and tells us what’s selling like hotcakes …

    • I didn’t read it that way at all. I thought this was just the “ebooks are gaining on them” category; the chart is claiming that print books in these categories are “damaged” by ebooks.

      I figure the fantasy, romance, and horror categories are the ones that people get grief over liking, and people will jump at the opportunity to read them without anyone seeing the covers.

      That, and the indies have better prices. Plus, if the recent offerings have been crappy, readers will clamor for yours all the more. “Look! She doesn’t put people in a house with a homicidal maniac then have them split up for no reason! Her characters don’t juggle idiot balls!” 🙂

    • Editors aren’t buying horror right now because “horror doesn’t sell,” and if you’ve written something that could be classified as horror you have to market it as something else. So it’s self-fulfilling prophesy. That doesn’t mean people aren’t reading horror. They’re just not the readers the big publishers want.

  4. Juvenile is interesting. Total juvenile non-fiction print sales are up. Many non-fiction titles translate very poorly to current ebook standards. And the article suggests colouring books boosted the numbers. Total juvenile fiction is down slightly. It is the only super-category that’s down.

    Given that juvenile non-fiction is up, does the drop in juvenile fiction suggest not that the next generation of readers is reading less but that they are more likely to read on a tablet or eReader than the current adult generation?

  5. Wait… what…?

    The Juvenile SFF is 45 million, while the Adult SFF is about 12? Does this count every fairy tale book, in which case I’m not surprised, or is something else going on?

  6. dont know. the numbers dont seem right for horror.

    coloring books

    maybe westerncomputer scifi coloring books

    horrorhealthhumor coloring books

    religionbibleromance coloring books

  7. dont know. the numbers dont seem right for horror.

    coloring books

    maybe westerncomputer scifi coloring books

    horrorhealthhumor coloring books

    religionbibleromance coloring books

  8. Can someone post next year’s list, so authors know what to write this year?

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