At outlets that report to NPD BookScan, juvenile biography/autobiography and adult history/law/political science were the two fastest-growing book categories in the first half of 2017, with 32% and 25% higher unit sales, respectively, than in the first half of 2016.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly played a role in lifting sales in both segments: it was the top book in adult history (selling more than 358,000 copies) and the young readers’ edition was #1 in juvenile biography/autobiography (where it sold almost 78,000 copies). Other titles that gave a boost to the latter category were I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Debbie Levy.
Bill O’Reilly had two books high up in history/law/political science: Old School was #1 in the political science segment, and Killing the Rising Sun was #2 in history. The political science segment was otherwise dominated by books dealing with the current political landscape, including On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, Big Agenda by David Horowitz, the Constitution of the United States, and Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich.
The gains in the history/law/political science category helped offset steep declines in the art/architecture/design/photography and crafts/hobbies/antiques/games segments, where units were down by 33% and 30%, respectively. Both segments are home to adult coloring books, sales of which were substantially cooler in the first half of 2017 than in the first half of last year. For example, the top-selling book in art so far this year—Mythomorphia: An Extreme Coloring and Search Challenge by Kerby Rosanes—sold more than 51,000 copies. Last year’s top seller—Color Me, Draw Me by Millie Marotta—sold almost twice as many in the January–June period: more than 105,000 copies (and it led a large contingent of other adult coloring books with strong sales). Similarly, in crafts/hobbies, the top seller in the first half of last year—Color Your Own Deadpool by Ed McGuinness and Tony Moore—sold 42,000 copies, but this year’s #1 so far—The Art of Coloring: Beauty and the Beast—sold closer to 33,000 copies.
Sales in the house and home/gardening segment were also down in the first half of this year, by 30%, from the first six months of last year. Marie Kondo’s hit books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, were the top two in the first six months of both 2016 and 2017, but last year they sold a combined 684,000 copies, and this year they sold only 175,000 copies.
The hottest segment in juvenile fiction was animals, where units were 21% higher than in the first half of 2016. The increase was led by a number of successful titles rather than one breakout hit or subject area.
The current political climate also helped boost sales in adult fiction’s classics genre, where units were up 10% from the first half of last year. George Orwell’s 1984 sold about 275,000 copies in the first half of 2017, putting it in the top spot in the category (in the first half of last year, it sold 97,000 copies). In the first half of 2016, the #1 seller was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, with 171,000 copies; in the first half of this year, it sold 144,000 copies.
The religious fiction genre had the biggest gain within adult fiction; the 12% increase was largely due to sales of The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, which was adapted into a movie. Three editions of The Shack sold more than 530,000 copies total in the first half of this year.
With all four of the major subject areas posting increases in the first six months of 2017, print units were 3% higher than in the first half of last year.
Unit Sales by Category, January–June, 2016 v. 2017
(units in thousands)
|House & Home/Gardening||1,754||1,232||-30%|
|Total Adult Nonfiction||127,377||130,512||2%|
|Total Adult Fiction||65,621||66,061||1%|
|Total Juvenile Nonfiction||24,746||25,843||4%|
|General Juvenile Fiction||21,364||21,893||2%|
|Total Juvenile Fiction||74,969||78,484||5%|