Licensed Books Were 28 Percent of U.S. Children’s Book Sales in 2017, The NPD Group Says

Dr. Seuss was the top licensed brand, the Walt Disney Company was the leading license owner, and Penguin Random House was the leading publisher of licensed books in the market overall

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., March 26, 2018 – Licensed books feature popular characters from movies, TV, games, toys, and lifestyle brands, where the publisher has paid the original intellectual property owner for the right to publish the character or property in book form. For all books sold in 2017, licenses made up 12 percent of sales, reaching 85 million units, and 28 percent of all children’s book sales last year, with 63 million units sold, according to global information company The NPD Group.

As proof that classics continue to appeal to readers in today’s connected, digital world, the leading book license in 2017 was also one of the most distinguished: Dr. Seuss. The Walt Disney Company, with its strength in movie franchises and classic characters, was the leading license owner. Penguin Random House, the number one publisher in the United States, was also the leading publisher of licensed books, according to the new “NPD BookScan License Reporting Service,” which tracks approximately 4,000 licenses across more than 16 million weekly book sales in the U.S.

“Given the ubiquity of popular franchises, and the way content can spread rapidly across platforms, licensing is one of the hottest areas in publishing to watch,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for The NPD Group. “It used to be that book licensing was confined to popular television and film properties, but now there are all kinds of interesting and creative examples of licensed books from a much wider content universe.”

Other book licensed content in 2017 included popular video games (e.g., Five Nights at Freddy’s), top-selling toys (e.g., Shopkins), well-trafficked YouTube creators (e.g., Nerdy Nummies), and adult lifestyle brands (e.g., Weber Grills). There is no such thing as a predictable pattern when it comes to licensing anymore,” McLean said. “Bringing popular licenses from other platforms into books gives license owners a powerful way to extend the world of their brand into an affordable, high value format. Publishers reap the benefits of a built-in, and plugged-in, fan base that can stimulate sales right out of the gate. We can expect licensed publishing to be one of the higher-growth areas in the book industry for years to come. It’s also one to watch carefully, as a bellwether of larger consumer trends.”

Top Book Licenses in 2017

Top Publishers

Top License Owners

1. Dr Seuss

1. Penguin Random House

1. Walt Disney Company

2. James Patterson

2. Walt Disney Company

2. Penguin Random House

3. Harry Potter

3. Scholastic

3. Scholastic

4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid

4. Hachette Book Group

4. Abrams

5. Star Wars

5. HarperCollins

5. Nickelodeon/Viacom 

The new NPD BookScan License Reporting Service delivers offline weekly reporting on sales of all licensed books across all publishers in the BookScan point-of-sale (POS) system. Weekly reports include item-level sales for the top 100 geographic markets in the U.S.

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