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Aug 31, 2020

The U.S. Book Market: Strong Summer Sales Continue in August

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Overall, the U.S. trade book market is having a very good year. The U.S. print book market is up 5.5% over the same time period in 2019—a 9% gain over its COVID-19 lowpoint the week after Easter. While 2020 is not a year for dependable predictions, barring another surprise, the U.S. book market is now on track to have one of its best years since NPD BookScan started tracking book data in 2004.

There are a number of factors behind this strong market performance. We’ve had a couple of highly-anticipated young adult fiction books come out.  Stephenie Meyer’s latest addition to the Twilight series, “Midnight Sun,” has held the top spot on the BookScan Bestseller list for two weeks, beating Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” for fastest-selling fiction book of the year. 

After a steep drop in the early COVID-19 period, adult nonfiction has also been driving growth, with the two strongest areas of interest being politics and books related to civil rights, racism, and diversity. For example, Mary Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough” hit 1M print unit sales, joining the aforementioned “A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” as the first two books to hit 1M unit in 2020.

Given a roster of high-profile books related to politics that are lined up for September, including books by Bob Woodward, Michael Cohen, and Melania Trump-confidant Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, we anticipate this trend will continue to heat up through the November election.

There’s been a strong market for children’s fiction and non-fiction, as families cope with a new cycle of schooling from home. Back-to-school book categories for both kids and adults increased 29%, and children’s educational non-fiction grew a whopping 44% for the year.

It is a year of big highs, and big lows, and it is important to mention that not all categories are faring equally as well. Publishers not participating in high growth areas like politics or children’s non-fiction have had a mixed year.

However, all of the drivers I’ve outlined are likely to remain strong into the fall, so the question is: How high will it go? Stay tuned here to find out.


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