Everything is relative. Unit sales of print books fell 5.6% last week compared to the week ended August 8, 2020, when sales rose 10.2% over the prior week driven by several new blockbuster titles. Compared to August 17, 2019, however, sales were up 14.3% at outlets that report to NPD BookScan.
The biggest factor in last week’s sales decline was the trailing off of sales of Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, which sold more than 524,000 print copies following its release on August 4. Last week it sold a very respectable 139,000 copies, making it once again the top-selling title for the week, but the sales drop from its debut led to a 38% sales decline in the young adult segment in the week.
Similarly in adult nonfiction, a title that had a big debut saw sales cool in its second week on sale, contributing to a 2.1% drop in sales in the category last week. Sean Hannity’s Live Free or Die sold nearly 108,000 copies last week, keeping it behind Midnight Sun on the overall bestseller list despite a 41% decline in sales from the prior week.
Adult fiction sales fell 6% in the week as several genres had double digit declines, including fantasy (off 15.5%), science fiction (down 13%), and mystery/detective (off 10.5%). The only new book to cause much of a stir last week was the adult nonfiction title Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie, which more than 38,000 copies in its first week on sale.
Despite the slip in week-on-week sales, unit sales of print books through August 15 were up 5.5% over the comparable period in 2019.