NPD BookScan: Mystery Solved on US Thriller Sales’ Lag?

From Publishing Perspectives:

In a follow to Monday’s (August 30) update on the United States’ market, NPD BookScan’s research team has released a genre-specific look at the thriller and suspense category, finding that US sales have dropped six percent in the last year.

Thrillers and suspense are probably most popular in the United Kingdom’s market, where they reign at the top of the list, much as romance seems to do in the American market. But the category is a major one in the States, making its apparent trend toward a softening interesting.

NPD sees thrillers standing as one in eight adult fiction print and ebook buys in the American market.

To date this year, thrillers are the third largest-selling category, NPD Books reports, with unit sales for adult thrillers when combining print and ebook sales reaching 14.1 million units for the year-to-date through the end of May. But sales are down six percent in the past year.

Kristen McLean, NPD’s lead books analyst points to notable new thrillers released in 2021 and sees the category being “up slightly” over last year. However, she says it has fallen behind the pace set by the rest of the adult fiction market, which has risen by 15 percent, in combined print and ebook formats through the end of May.

“As with Christmas books,” McLean says, “there’s always room for another great thriller on the shelf. It’s a core evergreen category that’s always ripe for new energy,” which might indicate there’s some concern for those in the business working the thriller/suspense category.

“In 2021,” she says, “the category has not kept up with overall fiction growth trends, but  perhaps not for obvious reasons.”

. . . .

“Part of the declining growth in thrillers seems to be because of changes in consumer tastes,” McLean says–which could indeed be predictive of more weakening in the category.

“But it’s also true that books that have traditional elements of thriller and suspense books are now being categorized in in other hot areas of the fiction market,” she says, “like women’s contemporary fiction, general fiction, and young adult fiction, where they’re driving growth.” That trend of thriller and suspense content going into other traditional categorizations might be what’s behind the downward pressure on the category.

As an example, McLean points to Laura Dave’s recent bestseller, The Last Thing He Told Me (Simon & Schuster, May 4), which is categorized as general fiction. At this writing, the book stands at No. 2 on the Amazon Charts’ most-read fiction side, its 17th week on the list.

McLean also points out that two of the four new thriller writers topping NPD’s growth list in the category are women. Suspense and thrillers have, in the past, been dominated by male authors in the States.

“The rising profile of women authors,” McLean says, “indicates that there may be a market for more female voices in this genre,” in the American field—which, of course, could be a key for international markets looking to find a foothold with translations sold into the US trade marketplace.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

2 thoughts on “NPD BookScan: Mystery Solved on US Thriller Sales’ Lag?”

  1. Another explanation is that thrillers tend to be read more by men, who trend less Progressive in affiliation. And, I have noticed too many thrillers throwing in snide comments within the story (whether related to the story, or – as often happens – not).
    Gee. I wonder just how many WOMEN’S books would be bought if the purchaser had a good suspicion that a sub-plot would deal with anti-feminist tropes?
    Probably not as many as will be bought in the thriller category.
    Sandwiching political opinions into otherwise non-political books is KILLING the industry. I can think of few things will turn off the buying public faster than disrespecting (and, usually, completely twisting into unrecognizable shape) the mainstream opinions of those buyers.
    I’ve tossed a few books without finishing them when I see this.

    https://theindependentwhig.com/haidt-passages/haidt/conservatives-understand-liberals-better-than-liberals-understand-conservatives/

    Reply
  2. Or… it could simply be that most thriller readers — much like the SciFi and Fantasy readers and Romance readers before them — have made the shift to ebooks during the pandemic, and more of their purchases now are from publisher categories untracked by NPD.

    Reply

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