Women Authors Lead Literary Fiction Books Sales in the US, The NPD Group Says

To highlight Women's History Month, March 1 through March 31, 2020, NPD BookScan recognizes the growing influence of women authors at the heart of the U.S. book industry.

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., March 17, 2020 –According to global information company The NPD Group, 67 percent of unit sales in the top 100 literary fiction books in 2019 came from books written by female authors. The top fiction title of the year was “Where the Crawdad’s Sing,” by Delia Owens, selling more than 1.2 million print copies.

“March is Women’s History Month, which makes it the perfect time to review the many contributions of women authors to the U.S. publishing industry,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “Women have increased their share of bestsellers in the last decade, particularly when it comes to fiction.”

Women authors’ influence in publishing varies by category

Women authors were responsible for 42 percent of unit sales for the top 100 books in the overall print book market in 2019—up from 30 percent in 2010. Last year 39 of the top 100 bestselling authors were women, up from 33 in 2010. In fact, over the 16 years NPD BookScan has been tracking the U.S. publishing market, the bestselling author is a woman. Total sales of all of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series exceeded 55 million copies, across more than 300 editions of her many titles for children and adults.

Combined unit sales of books with a focus on subjects about, and of interest to, women have enjoyed seven consecutive years of growth; and women-related subcategories have been responsible for overall growth of a wide variety of publishing areas. Women-related subcategories in comics and graphic novels, drama, history, poetry, and political and social science collectively increased 7 percent in 2019 over the previous year.

However, while female authors led in literary fiction and other categories, men still wrote 94 percent of top-selling business books, which tracks closely to the fact that companies with female CEOs made up just 6.6 percent of the Fortune 500 in 2019. “Women in the top levels of business still lag behind men in the United States, so we see fewer leading titles reflecting the business advice of high-profile women on the bookshelf,” McLean said.

Book clubs and women’s empowerment

Women’s influence in the publishing market is not limited to writing. The Hello Sunshine Book Club, founded by Hollywood actor Reese Witherspoon, selects books written by women that explore the female experience.  Over the past two years, the club’s picks have jumped to the top of the bestseller lists. Their success has even fomented growth in categories that had previously been declining, like contemporary and literary fiction. Since Hello Sunshine was created in June 2017, the books chosen have outperformed the top 10,000 U.S. fiction list by 512 percent. A number of the selections have also been optioned by the club’s production arm for development into TV and movies. “This strong female point-of-view mirrors a larger sense of empowerment in the post #MeToo era,” McLean said.

“The book market is really the idea market. As the conversation about women’s empowerment and equality has increased over the past decade, we are seeing that reflected in the sales of books and the types of projects that are succeeding in the current market,” McLean continued. “And like real life, there is still work to be done. There are many other areas of life and publishing where women are under-represented. We look forward to seeing how the next round of progress is reflected in book buying and reading in the coming decade.”

TOP 10 best-selling female authors since 2004 according to NPD BookScan

Rank Author Print Units Sold
1 J. K. ROWLING 55M
2 NORA ROBERTS 45M
3 MARY POPE OSBORNE 44M
4 STEPHENIE MEYER 38M
5 JANET EVANOVICH 26M
6 DEBBIE MACOMBER 24M
7 SUZANNE COLLINS 22M
8 SANDRA BOYNTON 22M
9 E. L. JAMES 21M
10 DANIELLE STEEL 20M


Stay current in your industry
SUBSCRIBE

Press Contact

Lee Graham
917-806-7902

The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

Want more?

Complete this form to hear from NPD.


Newsletter

Subscribe and get key market trends and insights relevant to your industry each month.

We will not sell your information. View privacy notice. | Cookie Settings

Follow Us

© 2020 The NPD Group, Inc.