Figures from NPD BookScan show that publishing’s two nonfiction segments posted the largest unit sales increases in 2017, offsetting a decline in adult fiction and a small gain in juvenile fiction.
The juvenile nonfiction category increased the most of any segment in the year (8%), led by the biographies/autobiographies subcategory, in which units were up 26% from 2016. Two books about smart women were instrumental: Women in Science topped the subcategory list with 128,000 copies sold, and the children’s edition of Hidden Figures was second, with approximately 115,000 copies sold. In the social situations/family/health subcategory, which saw a 22% increase from 2016, were more strong women: She Persisted, which sold about 250,000 copies, was the #1 title, followed by two American Girl titles that together sold more than 280,000 copies. The 12% gain in the education/reference/language segment was driven in part by The Pokémon Essential Handbook, which sold more than 260,000 copies.
In adult nonfiction, unit sales rose 3%, overcoming the significant drop in sales of adult coloring books that led to big declines in the crafts/hobbies/antiques/games and art/architecture/design/photography subcategories. Self-help had the largest unit gain within adult nonfiction; sales were 18% higher than in 2016. You Are a Badass had another good year of sales, selling more than 648,000 copies, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck followed, with 557,000 copies sold. The history/law/political science subcategory saw a 13% unit increase. Within history, Killing England was #1, selling more than 446,000 copies, and Hidden Figures was second, selling more than 417,000 copies. On Tyranny was the top-selling political print book last year, selling more than 250,000 copies.
Juvenile fiction sales were about 2% higher than in 2016. Jeff Kinney had two of the three bestselling titles in the year: The Getaway was at #1, with more than 992,000 copies sold, and Double Down was in third place, with more than 538,000 copies sold. In between those two was Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Units were 10% lower than in 2016 in the science fiction/fantasy/magic subcategory—not a bad showing considering the high bar set by the previous year, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sold 4.4 million units. Replacing some of those Cursed Child sales last year were a number of Dav Pilkey books and various Potter titles.
Adult fiction unit sales last year fell 1% from 2016. The largest subcategory within adult fiction, general fiction, saw a 3% unit gain from the previous year. Origin was the #1 general fiction title, selling more than 746,000 copies, followed by A Man Called Ove, which sold more than 634,000 copies. Two adult fiction genres in which print has steadily lost ground to e-books increased unit print sales last year. The most notable was the mystery/detective subcategory, which, after a 10% decline in 2016 from 2015, saw an 8% unit increase in 2017. Hardcore Twenty-Four was the genre’s top title, with more than 190,000 copies sold. Fantasy, which had a 1% unit decline in 2016 from 2015, posted a 14% unit increase, led by the more than 265,000 copies sold of Norse Mythology. Graphic novels, which had an 11% increase between 2015 and 2016—the second biggest gain in adult fiction in that year—saw sales fall 5% last year.
Unit Sales by Category
|House & Home/Gardening||2,945||2,385||-19%|
|General Juvenile Fiction||48,913||64,399||32%|