According to a new report from NPD BookScan, print book sales of LGBTQ fiction are surging in the U.S. across the adult, children's, and YA categories. In 2021, sales of LGBTQ fiction reached 5 million units, doubling 2020 sales. Strong growth has continued in 2022, with LGBTQ fiction sales up by 39% from January through May 28, compared to the same period in 2021.
BookScan data shows 2021's biggest gains in LGBTQ fiction came from YA fiction titles, with sales growing by 1.3 million units over 2020. Adam Silvera's They Both Die at the End, which exploded in popularity on TikTok in 2020, provided the most gains. Adult LGBTQ fiction also grew by more than 1 million units in 2021, led by such titles as TJ Klune's The House in the Cerulean Sea, Casey McQuinston's One Last Stop, and Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. So far this year, adult LGBTQ fiction is leading the sales gains, with sales rising 55% over 2021.
After reviewing BISAC subject codes for LGBTQ titles, NPD found that “young adult social situations” had the largest category share, followed by “general adult fiction.” “Adult fiction fantasy” has seen the strongest growth so far this year, led by such authors as Mo Xiang Tong Xui, TJ Klune, and Heather Walter. The next top growth category was “young adult science fiction,” led by the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman, which saw a teen drama TV series adaptation released on Netflix earlier this year. Although LGTBQ “adult romance” is a small subcategory, accounting for just 3% of overall romance sales, growth is currently outpacing total romance category sales by 10 points, NPD said.
“The continued strength in this subject across all areas of the market suggests there is an opportunity for publishers to expand in these subjects or cross-pollinate LGBTQ themes with other high-growth areas of the market,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “What was once considered a niche area of publishing is now becoming mainstream, with a number of titles leading the national bestseller lists and books being shared across generations of readers.”
The sales rise comes even as efforts to ban LGBTQ books, as well as books by and about people of color, at public schools and public libraries proliferate nationwide. Those efforts have prompted multiple Congressional hearings attempting to reckon with the effects on the nation's schools and libraries.