Anyone even remotely interested in book publishing knows who the Big Five trade publishers are—if not necessarily in what order they rank. For the record, Penguin Random House sold the most units through NPD BookScan outlets last year, followed by HarperCollins. Simon & Schuster was in third place; last week, S&S reported that its worldwide revenue was $767 million in 2016, down 1.8% from 2015. The Hachette Book Group was #4 in units sold in 2016, a total that includes units from the Perseus Books Group, which Hachette bought last March. Macmillan rounded out the top five.
What is more of a mystery is which is the sixth-largest trade house. The company that finished behind the Big Five in 2016, based on unit sales made at retailers that report to BookScan, was Scholastic.
The company had 33 titles hit PW’s Children’s Frontlist Fiction bestseller list last year, including the top-selling print book of 2016: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which sold 4.4 million units. And, while a number of books on the list were Potter-related, a host of other books did well in the year, including new books in the company’s Baby-Sitters Club Graphix line. In all, Scholastic’s trade sales (which excludes book fairs and clubs) were $318 million in the 12-month period ended Nov. 30, 2016.
In seventh place was Disney, another children’s publisher that had a good run with bestsellers last year, particularly in the frontlist fiction category It had 25 books reach the Children’s Frontlist Fiction bestseller list, led by six Star Wars titles and six books by author Rick Riordan.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which last week reported sales of $165.6 million in its trade division in 2016, was #8 on the units-sold list. Workman was in ninth place. Among its titles that sold more than 100,000 print copies last year were Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders (which sold about 172,000 copies through BookScan outlets) and What to Expect When You’re Expecting (which sold more than 138,000 copies). Claiming the 10th spot on the list was Sterling, the publishing subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.
Publishers in the 11th through 20th places were a mix of independent presses (such as Norton, Kensington, Chronicle, Sourcebooks), divisions of larger companies (Dover, owned by LSC Communications), children’s publishers (Candlewick), and religion houses (B&H Publishing, Tyndale). John Wiley’s #12 spot on the list reflects sales of its business books and other trade-oriented titles to general retailers, rather than its educational materials.
Both Dover and Sterling continued to do well with adult coloring books in 2016, although sales in the category cooled compared to 2015. B&N said that because of strong adult coloring book demand, sales of Sterling titles to retailers other than B&N were almost 22% higher in fiscal 2016 than in fiscal 2015.
B&H occupied the 19th spot on the ranking due in part to strong sales of Fervent, which sold about 306,000 units last year, and The Battle Plan for Prayer, which sold approximately 157,000 copies.
Largest Trade Publishers By Units Sold, 2016*
|1||Penguin Random House|
|3||Simon & Schuster|
|4||Hachette Book Group|
|7||Disney Publishing Worldwide|
|8||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|11||John Wiley and Sons|
*Based on purchases made through outlets tracked by NPD BookScan
* This ranking and article were updated on July 31 after NPD discovered that it had double-counted unit sales of Sourcebooks's young adult titles. Eliminating the double-counting dropped Sourcebooks from 10th to 18th place on the ranking.