US print book sales reached nearly 5 million units in 2021, doubling the previous year’s sales

Port Washington, N.Y., June 15, 2022 – Print book unit sales for the LGBTQ subject area in adult, kids’, and young adult fiction categories in the U.S. are surging. Sales reached nearly 5 million units in 2021, doubling the previous year’s sales for this subject. So far in 2022, LGBTQ fiction book year-over-year sales increased by 39% from January through May 28, 2022, compared to the same time last year, according to The NPD Group

“The continued strength in this subject across all areas of the market suggests there is an opportunity for publishers to expand in these subjects or cross-pollinate LGBTQ themes with other high-growth areas of the market,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “The growth in young-adult categories, in particular, mirrors a generational shift toward a more open and inclusive attitude toward gender diversity and sexual orientation.”

According to BookScan®, the biggest absolute gains in LGBTQ fiction last year came from young adult fiction subjects, with sales growing by 1.3 million units over the previous year. Adam Silvera’s novel, “They Both Die at The End,” provided the most gains. Adult fiction sales also boomed, growing by more than 1 million units in 2021, led by titles like “The House In The Cerulean Sea,” by TJ Klune; “One Last Stop,” by Casey McQuiston; and “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” by Ocean Vuong. This trend is showing continued strength in 2022 but this year adult fiction is leading the charge, with sales rising 55% higher than the prior year.

LGBTQ fiction category mix

When NPD analysts reviewed BISAC subject mix for LGBTQ titles, “young adult social situations” boasted the highest category share, followed by “general adult fiction.” “Adult fiction fantasy” has enjoyed the strongest growth so far this year, led by authors like Mo Xiang Tong Xui, TJ Klune, and Heather Walter. The next top growth category was “young adult science fiction,” led by the “Heartstopper” series, by Alice Oseman, which also released as a teen drama TV series on Netflix earlier this year. Although LGTBQ “adult romance” is a small subcategory, accounting for just 3% of overall romance sales, growth is outpacing total romance category sales by 10 points. 

“Just like the diverse world it reflects, LGBTQ fiction is woven into all parts of the fiction landscape,” McLean said. “What was once considered a niche area of publishing is now becoming mainstream, with a number of titles leading the national bestseller lists and books being shared across generations of readers. That’s something to celebrate today and every day.”

About NPD Books
With the explosion of content generated by print books, streaming video-on-demand services, podcasts, and audiobooks, our culture is increasingly dominated by the stories we tell. In this interconnected media landscape, books are where some of today’s hottest media properties get their start. But as retail and consumer change accelerates, it can be a challenge to make sense of it all. We work with all the major players in U.S. publishing, retail, media, and toys to understand how digital and print content is evolving. Our books industry experts know the publishing world inside and out; they tap into our point-of-sale data to help you make better and faster decisions in today’s market.

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