Despite the lack of a hot new title in the first nine months of 2017, print unit sales for the period were 2% higher than in the comparable timeframe in 2016. According to NPD BookScan, print units were 467.7 million in the January–September period, up from 460.6 million the previous year.
While it is certainly possible that some fall books will ring up big numbers, the small sales gain to date has been driven by backlist titles. Only three of the year’s top 10 bestsellers to date were released in this calendar year. John Grisham’s Camino Island was the top new book, selling more than 528,000 print copies since its release in June to land at #5 on the year-to-date bestseller list. The other new titles on the top 10 list are Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 (#7) and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (#10).
The bestselling title so far this year is Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Released in October 2015, the book has sold more than 706,000 copies in 2017, easily outdistancing the second-place book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
Overall, sales of nonfiction, both in adult and juvenile, were better than sales of fiction. Unit sales of juvenile nonfiction in the first nine months of 2017 were 6% higher than in the same period of 2016, led by numerous backlist titles and topped by First 100 Words by Roger Priddy, which sold more than 277,000 copies. Adult nonfiction sales were 2% higher. In addition to Milk and Honey, J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass were among the top 10, selling more than 492,000 copies and more than 447,000 copies, respectively.
Juvenile fiction unit sales rose 1% compared to the first nine months of last year—a good performance considering that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sold almost four million copies during the summer of 2016. Unit sales of adult fiction slipped by just under 1%. Two backlist books helped to offset the lack of a new blockbuster: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood sold more than 456,000 copies, and 1984 by George Orwell sold more than 402,000 copies.
Board books was the bestselling print format, with units up 11% over the comparable part of 2016. Mass market paperback sales continued to sag in the first nine months of 2017, falling 8%; sales of the format fell 8% in 2016 compared to 2015.
The retail and club channel, which includes bookstores and online retailers, posted a respectable 3% unit increase in the period, but books struggled in the mass merchandisers channel, with units off 9%.
Unit Sales of Print Books (in thousands), January–September
|Retail & Club||392,615||405,724||3%|
|Mass Market Paperback||44,453||40,903||-8%|
Bestsellers, January–September 2017
|1||Milk and Honey||Rupi Kaur||706,503|
|2||Oh, the Places You’ll Go!||Dr. Seuss||553,470|
|3||A Man Called Ove||Fredrik Backman||549,652|
|5||Camino Island||John Grisham||528,305|
|6||Hillbilly Elegy||J.D. Vance||492,508|
|7||The Woman in Cabin 10||Ruth Ware||475,610|
|8||The Handmaid’s Tale||Margaret Atwood||456,102|
|9||You Are a Badass||Jen Sincero||447,638|
|10||Lilac Girls||Martha Hall Kelly||417,113|