The final 2022 industry estimates from the Association of American Publishers show that publishing sales fared better last year than the AAP’s preliminary figures, released in February, showed. Rather than a 6.4% decline from 2021, the new figures found total sales fell 2.6%, to $28.10 billion. The biggest difference in the two figures is the inclusion of sales in the pre-K–12 educational materials segment that were not captured in the earlier presentation. K-12 revenue jumped 16.6% in 2022, to $5.61 billion, making the category the only major segment that had an increase over 2021.
Like many in the book business, the AAP drew a comparison between 2022 and 2019, the last year of sales before the pandemic, and noted that while revenue fell last year, sales still remained 6% higher than the $25.87 billion total recorded in 2019.
On the trade side, adult sales fell 7.1% from 2021, to $11.22 billion, as a 0.6% increase in fiction was offset by a 13.2% drop in adult nonfiction sales. Total children’s/young adult sales fell 6.5%, from $5.21 billion in 2021 to $4.87 billion last year. Similar to the adult category, fiction (down 6.3%) did better than nonfiction (where sales fell 7.2%). The AAP includes sales of religious publishers in the trade segment, and sales in that category fell 6%, to $1.27 billion.
Taking a five year look at trade sales, the AAP reported that adult fiction revenue rose 26.4% in the 2018-2022 period, while nonfiction declined 5.2%. Sales in the children’s/YA nonfiction category, which did very well during the pandemic before falling last year, jumped 58.6% in the five-year span, while fiction rose 9.5%. Sales in the religion category fell 2.4%.
Shifts in trade sales by format are drawing more attention from industry members. In 2022, hardcover sales fell 13.8%, to $6.03 billion, and represented 34.7% of sales, dropping it behind trade paperback as the largest print format. Sales of trade paper were flat in the year, at $6.20 billion, and accounted for 35.7% of sales.
On the digital front, audiobook sales rose 2.6%, their slowest growth in many years—but at $1.81 billion, the format accounted for 10.4% of trade sales, just below the 10.8% market share of e-books. Though e-book sales fell 6.3%, to $1.87 billion, the format increased its share by one-tenth of a percentage point as print sales softened.
Two formats continued their steep declines in 2022. Mass market paperback sales tumbled 24.6% last year and, at $340 million, its share fell under 2%, to 1.9% of trade revenue. Physical audio sales dropped 27.7% and made up just 0.2% of sales.
Channel sales patterns also changed last year. Online retailers continued to account for the largest share of trade sales in 2022, though their 42.2% share was three percentage points below 2021 and eight percentage points below 2020, when the online channel represented 50.2% of trade sales. Sales through the channel fell 12.7% last year, to $7.32 billion. Amazon’s by now well-documented decision to slow ordering last year while it sold down inventory certainly played a role in the decline of online book sales.
Physical retailers picked up some market share, but only because sales through the channel dropped more slowly than online sales, falling 3.8%, to $3.29 billion. Direct-to-consumer was the fastest growing channel last year, rising 4.9%, though at $430 million, the channel accounted for just 2.5% of trade sales. Sales through intermediaries (largely wholesalers) inched up 0.6%, to $4.51 billion, and accounted for 26% of sales.
AAP’s final industry sales numbers are derived by combining the input from 2,252 publishers and distributors who directly reported a total of $16.15 billion in revenue in 2022, with $11.95 billion in estimated revenue for non-reporting publishers, a figure developed through market modeling by AAP’s statistics partner, Management Practice, Inc. Participating publishers included sales to Amazon in their reporting. Sales by nonparticipants to and via Amazon, including sales by Amazon’s publishing imprints, are estimated. Sales of titles that do not have ISBN numbers, which would mainly be from self-published authors sold exclusively through Amazon, are not included in AAP totals.