The cooking/entertaining and science fiction categories had the strongest print unit sales gains among the adult categories in the first half of 2018 compared to the first six months of 2017, according to NPD BookScan. On the downside, religion had the largest decline among the adult fiction categories, with units dropping 50%.
In juvenile/YA, social situations/family/health led the nonfiction segment with unit gains up 17% over 2017, while the holidays/festivals/religion category had the biggest improvement in fiction with unit sales ahead 19%.
The huge decline in religion fiction is due to the tremendous success that The Shack by Wm. Paul Young enjoyed in the first half of last year, spurred by the release of the film adaptation. Three editions of the book, originally published in 2007, sold more than 530,000 copies in the first six months of 2017. The religion fiction top seller in 2018 so far, The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers, sold just under 55,000 copies.
The romance and fantasy categories—where e-books have made large inroads—saw more declines in print unit sales in the first half of 2018, but science fiction and mystery/detective—where e-book sales also tend to be strong—had print increases in the period. The 18% in jump in science fiction print sales was led by four editions (two regular editions in trade and mass market paperback and two movie tie-ins editions) of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which sold a total of about 430,000 copies.
While several titles about cooking with the Instant Pot contributed to the 21% increase in unit sales in the first six months of 2018 in the cookbook category, the big driver was Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines, which sold nearly 676,000 copies since its April publication.
Two backlist titles led the 12% increase in the self-help category, and both books were among the top 10 print bestsellers for the first half of the year: You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.
Political books have been big sellers so far in 2018, and the history/law/political science category had the top print bestseller through June: Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, which sold almost one million copies. Still the category had a very modest 3% increase, which was largely due to the strong showing it had in the first half of 2017, when sales rose 25% over 2016.
Another factor keeping the gains in the political category modest was that James Comey’s 577,000-copy–selling A Higher Loyalty is classified as a memoir rather than as a political title. Despite the success of Higher Loyalty, the biography/autobiography/memoir category had a slight decline in unit sales so far in 2018, as the first part of 2017 saw seven titles sell more than 100,000 copies in the January–June period, compared to four such titles this year.
The holidays/festivals/religion category is the smallest in the juvenile/YA segment, and its 19% gain in the first half of 2018 was spurred by sales of more than 93,000 copies of Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama I Love You. The larger social situations/family/health category saw units rise 9%, led by established backlist titles: the top nine bestselling books were backlist, led by Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever, which sold more than 172,000 copies. Newer bestsellers included John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, with sales of more than 101,000 copies, and Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon, which sold about 72,000 copies.
In juvenile/YA nonfiction, the social situations/family/health category has been growing steadily, and it followed up a 15% increase in the fist half of 2017 with a 17% gain in the first six months of this year. Among the newer titles that lifted sales were Confidence for Girls by Katty Kay, which sold more than 72,000 copies, and Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted and She Persisted Around the World, which sold more than 65,000 and 57,000 copies, respectively. Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson, released in February, has sold more than 67,000 copies.
Another juvenile/YA category that has been showing good growth is education/reference/language. Unit sales in the first half of 2017 rose 17%, and in the January–June 2018 span they increased 13%. Backlist is king in this category, with sales in the first six months of 2018 led by the 21-year-old veteran Color Big Get Ready Preschool, published by School Zone Publishing, which sold more than 122,000 copies.
The lack of a blockbuster hit plus the huge sales of The Shack last year led to a 4% decline in unit sales in the adult fiction segment as a whole in the first half of 2018. The other three major segments posted gains, leading to a 2% increase in total print unit sales in the first six months of this year over the first half of 2017.
Unit sales by Category, January–June
(units in thousands)Adult Nonfiction 2017 2018 Change Art/Architecture/Design/Photography 3,205 3,152 -2% Biography/Autobiography/Memoir 10,312 9,850 -4% Business/Economics 9,604 10,211 6% Cooking/Entertaining 6,940 8,364 21% Computers 1,874 1,807 -4% Crafts/Hobbies/Antiques/Games 6,468 5,933 -8% Health/Fitness/Medicine/Sports 11,423 11,288 -1% History/Law/Political Science 9,273 9,554 3% House Home/Gardening 1,232 1,195 -3% Humor 1,774 1,775 0% Performing Arts 4,054 4,190 3% Reference 17,552 17,999 3% Religion/Bibles 19,981 21,200 6% Self-Help 7,077 7,941 12% Travel 3,818 3,789 -1% General Nonfiction 15,927 17,533 10% Total Adult Nonfiction 130,512 135,780 4% Adult Fiction 2017 2018 Change Classics 4,048 3,588 -11% Occult/Psychological/Horror 1,108 1,051 -5% Religion 2,638 1,332 -50% Fantasy 3,326 2,956 -11% Science Fiction 2,276 2,679 18% Suspense/Thrillers 10,452 10,127 -3% Action Adventure 673 742 10% Graphic Novels 5,450 4,892 -10% Western 871 962 10% Mystery/Detective 5,225 5,511 5% Romance 10,889 9,181 -16% General Fiction 19,105 20,410 7% Total Adult Fiction 66,061 63,433 -4% Juvenile/YA nonfiction 2017 2018 Change Animals 2,554 2,806 10% Biographies/Autobiographies 2,722 2,618 -4% Concepts 2,093 2,218 6% Education/Reference/Language 4,410 4,975 13% Games/Activities/Hobbies 4,191 4,302 3% History/Sports/People/Places 5,988 6,150 3% Holidays/Festivals/Religion 2,211 2,558 16% Social Situations/Family/Health 1,672 1,954 17% Total Juvenile/YA Nonfiction 25,843 27,843 7% Juvenile/YA fiction 2017 2018 Change Animals 5,523 5,307 -4% Classics 4,522 4,472 -1% Concepts 4,334 4,604 9% History/Sports/People/Places 6,579 6,849 4% Holidays/Festivals/Religion 3,288 3,917 19% Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic 20,155 20,343 1% Social Situations/Family/Health 12,240 13,392 9% General Juvenile Fiction 21,893 21,756 -1% Total Juvenile/YA Fiction 78,767 80,906 3%