Unit sales of print books fell 4.8% through the first nine months of 2022, from the comparable period in 2021. Unit sales dropped from 570 million copies sold in the January through September period in 2021 to 542.6 million in 2022 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. The sales decline slowed during the third quarter, falling from a drop of 6.6% in the first half of 2021. The decline also follows a year in which unit sales for the full year rose 8.9% over 2020.
Adult fiction has been the strongest category all year, and that was particularly true in the third quarter, when sales jumped 38.5% over the third quarter of 2021, leading to a 9.2% sales increase through the first nine months of the year. To date, all four books that have sold more than one million copies were novels, and two of the three books that have sold more than 900,000 copies are in the adult fiction category. To no one’s surprise, Colleen Hoover has been the bestselling author so far this year, with sales of It Ends with Us nearing two million copies sold, while her Verity and Ugly Love have also posted sales of more than one million copies each. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was the fourth title to have sold more than one million copies through September, with sales just over 1.6 million.
Hoover’s Reminders of Him sold just over 922,000 copies, while another BookTok favorite, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, sold a little over 995,000 copies.
The top-selling adult nonfiction book in the first nine months of 2022 was Atomic Habits by James Clear, which sold more than 933,000 copies, higher than the 902,000 copies that American Marxism by Mark Levin, the #1 adult nonfiction book at this point in 2021, sold. (Atomic Habits sold about 610,000 copies through September 2021.) The 933,000 copies sold of Atomic Habits was just about double that of the second-bestselling adult nonfiction title so far in 2022, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. Among the adult nonfiction subcategories that dragged down sales were history/law/political science, where sales fell 16.8% from last year, as well as general nonfiction (down 15.1%), and reference (off 13.7%). The travel area continued to bounce back from a few down years, with unit sales up 18.3%.
The only other major category to post an increase in sales besides adult fiction was young adult fiction, where sales inched up 0.4%, helped by a good third quarter. Jenny Han was the category star, with four of her books tied to the streaming service hit The Summer I Turned Pretty selling about 1.1 million copies.
Sales in juvenile fiction and nonfiction were down 8% and 9.9%, respectively. All juvenile fiction subcategories had declines through September, with general juvenile sales down 15.1%, and sales of classics fell 12.3%. In juvenile nonfiction, unit sales in the social situations/family/health segment had the largest decline, falling 19.5%, while biography/autobiography sales dropped 13.6%. The only subcategory to have an increase in the nine-month period was holidays/festivals/religion, where sales increased 4.8%.
All print formats had declines in unit sales in the period, with the struggling mass market segment having an 18.4% sales drop. Hardcover unit sales fell 8.9%, much higher than the 1.8% drop reported by the cheaper trade paperback format.