Three-quarters of the way through 2018, unit sales of print books were up 2.5% over the January through September period in 2017 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan.
The adult nonfiction segment, the largest of the major book categories, posted a solid gain, with units up 5.7%. The category has the biggest seller to date, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, which is the only print title to crack the one-million-copies-sold level so far this year. Another political book was not far behind Fury: Bob Woodward’s Fear sold more than 760,000 copies since its release in September, making it the third-biggest seller so far this year. In between those two titles is another adult nonfiction book, Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines, which sold nearly 980,000 copies. And in fourth place on the year-to-date bestseller list is Girl, Wash Your Face, a self-help title by Rachel Hollis. Overall, 10 of the 20 bestselling books so far this year are in the adult nonfiction category.
While adult nonfiction is enjoying a good year, print unit sales in adult fiction continue to be soft. Units were down 4.3% in the first nine months of 2018 compared to a year ago. The President Is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton is the top adult fiction title this year, selling nearly 618,000 copies. One of the weakest fiction categories in 2018 has been religion, with units off about 43%. Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack sold more than 280,000 copies from January to September of last year.
Print unit sales increased 1.6% in the juvenile fiction segment in the first nine months of 2018. The top juvenile fiction book is Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man and Cat Kid, which sold more than 582,000 copies, putting it in seventh place on the year-to-date bestseller list. The only other juvenile fiction title in the overall top 10 is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was in ninth place with more than 563,000 copies sold.
Juvenile nonfiction sales rose 6.7% in the period over 2017. First 100 Words by Robert Priddy was the top title in the category so far this year, selling just under 300,000 units.
In terms of format, board books continued their steady growth, with unit sales up 10% over the first nine months of 2017. The popularity of board books has helped fuel the increase in juvenile nonfiction, where the format is widely used. Hardcover sales also have had a strong 2018 so far, with units ahead 6%. Unit sales of mass market paperback fell 2.3% in the nine-month period, but the years-long slide in the format seems to be coming to an end. On the other hand, sales of physical audiobooks continue to plunge, down 26.6% in the year to date, and the decline shows no signs of slowing as customers turn away from CDs to digital audio.
Unit Sales of Print Books, January–September
(units in thousands)2017 2018 Change Total 465,121 476,676 2.5% Category Adult Fiction 99,070 94,859 -4.3% Adult Nonfiction 195,216 206,312 5.7% Juvenile Fiction 103,135 104,784 1.6% Juvenile Nonfiction 37,116 39,594 6.7% Young Adult Fiction 14,966 14,284 -4.6% Young Adult Nonfiction 1,475 1,617 9.6% Format Trade Paperback 263,927 265,722 0.7% Hardcover 119,257 126,385 6.0% Mass Market Paperback 39,117 38,199 -2.3% Board Books 22,518 24,762 10.0% Audio 2,329 1,709 -26.6%
Editor’s note: This week is the first in which NPD has generated unit sales through its DecisionKey platform. Since BookScan was acquired by NPD from Nielsen in January 2017, NDP has been migrating the data from Nielsen. With the migration completed, slight differences in the processes and methodologies of the two companies have led to minor variances for the overall market (less than 1%), although the differences may be slightly larger for specific ISBNs.