Though the publishing industry seems to be in a period of malaise, there are some signs that business is improving. Earlier this week, the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot program reported an 18% increase in April sales over a year ago. That news has been followed up by Circana BookScan’s report that unit sales of print books increased 5% in May over May 2023.

According to Brenna Connor, industry analyst for U.S. books at BookScan, the May increase was driven by strong Mother’s Day sales, as well as several retail promotional events, which included the Amazon six day book sale in the month. As usual, adult fiction was the biggest driver of the increase, and Kristin Hannah’s The Women was the top-selling adult title in May, pushing just over 139,000 copies.

Adult and young adult fiction titles claimed nine of the top 10 bestsellers on the list, with The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson the nonfiction outlier. And although no single title from the series made it onto the top 10, Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books fared well in the month due to the release of season three of the Netflix adaptation of the same name.

While adult sales fared well in May, the month’s bestseller was the graduate gift favorite Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss, which sold nearly 196,000 copies. Also on the children's books side, nonfiction sales had a solid month as well, with Connor noting that early learner workbooks and activity books sold particularly well. Two new Bluey coloring books combined to sell almost 78,000 copies, while the Get Ready for Pre-K Jumbo Workbook sold nearly 37,000 copies.

The May sales increase gave another boost to year-to-date results: through the first five months of 2024, print sales were down just 1% from a year ago. Noting that sales have been up for three straight months, Connor suggested that summer sales might be up over 2023, and if so, that sales for the full year could pull even with last year’s sales.