U.S. Adult Fiction Sales Rise as COVID-19 Lockdowns Subside, The NPD Group Says

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., June 23, 2020 – Adult fiction unit sales in the United States rose 1.5 percent for the year-to-date ending June 5, 2020. As bookstores started to reopen, and the summer reading season began to unfold, adult fiction rose 23 percent, in the five weeks ending June 5, 2020, compared to the previous five-week period ending May 2, 2020, when most states and municipalities were under shelter at home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. The top selling fiction so far this year is “A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” a young adult novel published in May 2020, with total print sales over 750,000, according to The NPD Group ( www.npd.com).  

“’The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,’ the first big blockbuster of the season, topped the NPD BookScan bestseller list for three straight weeks,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “Delia Owen’s ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ also deserves special recognition, for its remarkable 91st week on the list. Romance, contemporary women’s fiction, and other categories that people enjoy reading during the summer also experienced nice gains.“

According to NPD BookScan, several fiction categories experienced double-digit unit-sales growth for the five weeks ending June 5, 2020 compared to the previous five-week period.  Romance category sales increased 28 percent, led by “Shadow Flight,” by Christine Feehan and “Every Breath,” by Nicholas Sparks. Thrillers rose 13 percent, led by James Patterson’s “The 20th Victim.” Contemporary women’s fiction grew 51 percent, with strong showings from “Hideaway,” by Nora Roberts, and “Big Summer,” by Jennifer Weiner.

“More than any other book category, fiction benefits from the active handselling and browsability of dedicated bookstores, so it was really hit hard by stay-at-home orders,” McLean said. “Adult fiction took a back seat to cookbooks, DIY and other non-fiction categories during the acute period of the COVID-19 lock-downs, so it’s encouraging to see it make a comeback.”



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