Political Books Drove Growth in Print Book Sales, The NPD Group Says

Political e-books are also one of the few categories experiencing growth in digital book sales. 

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., June 19, 2018 – Political book category sales, including political science and political biographies, drove growth in U.S. growth in print book sales, for the year-to-date ending June 10, 2018.  With solid sales of major hits, like Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” and James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty,” book sales in the political category rose 32 percent this year, according to the latest information from global information company The NPD Group. Political books made up 3.8 percent of all print nonfiction in the first quarter of 2018, which is the highest market share for political books, since “Decision Points” by George Bush was released in the fourth quarter of 2010. 

Three of the top five best-selling print books year-to-date ending June 10, 2018 were politically focused, as follows: “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff, Macmillan (993,000); “A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey, Macmillan (562,000); and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” by Jill Twiss (477,000).

“No matter what your political affiliation, there is no denying the current cultural climate has been very good for books,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for The NPD Group. ‘We’re seeing these tent pole political titles lay down huge sales figures, as current-events oriented buyers snap them up.”

Politics in previous cycles

The volume of political print book titles sold following the 2016 election, from the first quarter of 2017 through the first quarter of 2018, reached 12 million units, which is nearly double the 6.8 million sold following the 2012 election, from the first quarter of 2013 through the first quarter of 2014. Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” was the top-selling political book in 2017, with 500,000 copies sold, while Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” sold close to 1 million print copies in the first quarter of 2018. In contrast, the top political book in 2013 was “Things That Matter,” by Charles Krauthammer, with 600,000 copies sold, followed by Mark Levin’s “The Liberty Amendments,” which sold 242,000 copies.

“Political books have always been a solid category for nonfiction sales,” McLean said. “Even so, this recent crop of tell-all exposé-type political books, debuting in such a politically charged period, has set the sales bar significantly higher. It will be interesting to see if this level of interest will continue through President Trump’s first term. I think the signs are very positive, given that the intense partisan discourse shows no signs of quieting.”

Political E-books

Political books are one of the few categories experiencing growth in e-book sales.  While overall e-book sales declined 5 percent in 2017, political e-book sales increased 22 percent.  In addition, political e-book sales were higher in 2017, than they have been since 2010 -- rising at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent over that period.  Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” was the top-selling political e-book in 2017, with 110,000 copies sold.

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