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Print Unit Sales Rose 2% in First Half of 2018

7 July 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

With unit sales of print books rising 4% in the adult nonfiction segment—the industry’s largest major category—total unit sales for the first half of 2018 increased 2% over the comparable period in 2017 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. The gain follows a 3% increase in six-month unit sales in the first half of 2017 over 2016. The strength in adult nonfiction offset a 4% decline in sales in the adult fiction segment. Overall, total units in the first half of 2018 were 316.8 million, up from 310.7 million in the first half of 2017.

Adult nonfiction benefited from strong sales of two political books both published by Macmillan divisions: Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff and released by Holt, sold nearly 1 million print copies, according to BookScan, while James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty sold more than 577,000 copies for Flatiron. A third new adult nonfiction title, Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines, sold almost 676,000 copies in the first half of the year, putting it in second place overall.

Adult fiction sales suffered from yet another period where no new novel broke out in print. (Though several did sell briskly in e-book). The top-selling new novel in the first half of 2018 was The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, which sold nearly 384,000 copies in the first six months of 2018. Stephen King’s The Outsider was the second-most popular new adult fiction title in the first six months of the year, selling over 275,000 copies. In the first six months of 2017, two backlist novels led the adult fiction chart—A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman sold 451,000 copies, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale sold 325,000 copies.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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5 Comments to “Print Unit Sales Rose 2% in First Half of 2018”

  1. Madeleine L’Engle’s 11-year-old A Wrinkle in Time was the category’s top seller, selling just over 514,000 copies,

    Oh, boy. That doesn’t even make sense as a typo, since the books is 56-ish years old.

  2. So, in other words, the only reason that adult nonfiction sales went up was because of Trump, while fiction sales have declined again.
    While the author of the original article may choose to blame this on the lack of a breakout hit, the fact that the words “yet another period” were used should be a wake-up call to traditional publishing.

    • Richard Hershberger

      Hardly. Those two books sold roughly 1.5 million copies. The rise in total copies sold was from about 310 million to about 316 million. So those two books account for about a quarter of the total rise. We are told that adult fiction sales dropped, so adult nonfiction sales rose more than just six million copies, so if we are talking about adult nonfiction sales, the two political books account for a smaller fraction.

      So what we actually have here is that the migration of commercial fiction from traditional to self publishing continues, while traditional publishing maintains its hold on nonfiction.

  3. Smart Debut Author

    Also not mentioned is the fact that the only “bookstore” where print sales actually rose (and rose big) is Amazon.com — while book sales at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Hudson News, Costco, Walmart, and pretty much every single other brick and mortar store around the country continued to plunge.

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