It comes as no surprise that Penguin Random House—the country’s largest trade publisher—is also the biggest children’s book publisher. But the size of the gap between PRH and second-place HarperCollins might raise a few eyebrows.
According to data released by Nielsen BookScan at its October 27 Children’s Book Summit, PRH had a 31% share of the children’s print book market for the July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016, period, while HC had an 11% share. (BookScan measures about 85% of print book sales.) PRH’s lead occurred despite a 5% drop in sales, to 72.7 million units, in the year ended June 30, compared to the prior year. Among the keys to PRH’s success is its ownership of a number of bestselling franchises, including Dr. Seuss and Golden Books.
In third place in the period was Scholastic, which had a 9% share, helped by its success with Minecraft titles. Scholastic’s share for the balance of the calendar year will likely rise, given the huge sales of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which has sold four million copies since its July 31 release. Simon & Schuster was in the fourth spot on the list, with the 17.6 million units it sold in the year ended June 30 giving S&S an 8% market share. Macmillan edged out Disney-Hyperion for fifth place, although each publisher had about a 5% market share. The top five children’s publishers together had a 64% share of print units sold through outlets that report to BookScan in the period, but Nielsen noted that their share was down from 66% in the prior year.
A number of children’s publishers ranked between 11 and 20 had strong growth over the past two years. While some, particularly Dover, saw children’s sales rise because of adult coloring books being classified as children’s titles, others have seen real growth in the kids’ market. Sourcebooks, for example, has invested heavily to build its children’s business, and its Jabberwocky and Put Me in the Story imprints have had solid gains, making it the 16th-largest children’s publisher on the BookScan list.
School Zone was the fastest-growing company among the 20 largest children’s publishers in the year ended June 30. School Zone is primarily a publisher of educational materials for school children, and CEO Jonathan Hoffman said that there was no one thing that led to the big gains in the past couple of years. He noted that sales were down in the 2013–2014 year, but that investment in product development led to a number of introductions—an inspirational coloring book/workbook line, a toddler line, and some larger format bind-ups—that yielded “some hits,” he said. An agreement with Readerlink also broadened School Zone’s reach into nontraditional markets.
20 Largest Children’s Publishers
|1||Penguin Random House||76,913,637||72,743,648||-5%||31%|
|4||Simon & Schuster||16,476,846||17,594,783||7%||8%|
|7||Hachette Book Group||8,034,250||8,052,209||0.2%||3%|
|8||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt||7,158,608||6,799,994||-5%||3%|
*For July 1,2014–June 30,2015 ** For July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 Source: Nielsen BookScan