Bestseller Success Led US Print Books Industry Growth in 2018, The NPD Group Says

Five titles sold more than one million copies last year

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., January 16, 2019 – 2018 marked another year of modest growth for the print books industry in the United States.  Print books sales volume grew 1.3 percent compared to last year with 696 million units sold, according to global information company The NPD Group.

The dominant trend in the books industry last year was that the biggest bestsellers sold more copies than the year prior. In fact, five titles sold more than 1 million copies, compared to only two titles that reached similar heights in 2017.  “Becoming” by Michelle Obama took the top spot in 2018, with over 3 million copies sold. “Magnolia Table” by Joanna Gaines, “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid #13: The Meltdown” by Jeff Kinney, and “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff each sold more than 1 million copies. 

“Most notably, political books were especially hot sellers last year,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst, The NPD Group. “The pervasiveness of best-selling books that focused on the Trump administration, from both the left and the right, helped the political books category attain one of its best years ever.”

“Book publishers also experienced strong growth in wellness and comfort books, in categories like self-help, home, and cooking,” McLean said. “Part of this growth aligns with a rise in people doing more to stay comfortable and cozy at home – what the Danes call ‘hygge,’ -- but books themselves also support self-soothing impulses, as people seek more control and tranquility in their lives.”

Despite bestseller success, the holiday season – covering the six-week period of Black Friday week through Christmas week -- was flat compared to the prior year.  However, a 24 percent boost over Christmas week made up for lags earlier in the month.  A smaller bump in sales also occurred during Black Friday week.  Later holiday sales resulted from shifting consumption habits, along with the fact that an extra day leading up to Christmas this year fell into that week’s reporting.

December sales were top-heavy with bestsellers, which excelled as midlist sales suffered.  Year-over-year sales for the top 100 titles increased 21 percent in December 2018, but sales of titles ranked between 100 and 1,000 declined 3 percent.  “Widespread printing shortages likely negatively affected holiday sales, as publishers and retailers were challenged to meet consumer demand,” McLean said.

Source: The NPD Group /NPD BookScan, 2018.

NPD BookScan gathers point-of-sale book data from about 16,000 locations across the U.S., representing about 85 percent of the nation's book sales. Print-book data providers include all major booksellers and Web retailers, and food stores. E-book data providers include all major e-book retailers. Free e-books and those sold for less than 99 cents are excluded. The fiction and nonfiction lists in all formats include both adult and juvenile titles; the business list includes only adult titles. The combined lists track sales by title across all print and e-book formats; audio books are excluded.


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