A 17% drop in returns couldn't quite push up net sales at the 1,225 publishers that report to the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot program last November. Still, sales were roughly flat, down 0.5%. For the first 11 months of 2023, sales from all reporting companies were also fairly flat, up 0.6% over 2022.

Aberratively, it was the children’s/young adult sector—which spent most of last year on its back foot—that kept sales from slipping further in November, with sales of children’s books up 8.8% in spite of a 1.8%. All major categories in the segment were up: hardcover by 10.8%, paperback by 12%—despite a 27.9% jump in returns—and board books by 13.8%. Despite the November increase, sales in the category were down 3.3% through the first 11 months of the year.

The adult segment was another story altogether. Sales were down 6.3% in the month in most of the major categories. Hardcover sales declined 4.3%, and paperback sales sank 12.0%, with a whopping 31.5% return rate in the category. Digital audiobook sales helped to offset some of the declines in print, rising 15.5%, while e-book sales were down 6.1%.

In the other categories, November sales of higher education course materials were down 1.6%, while sales at religious presses were up 16.7%.