Self-improvement boom kicks off book sales in 2021

Unit sales of printed books got off to a flying start in 2021. Sales jumped 19.3% last week during the week ended Jan. 2 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Additionally, units are up nearly 25% from the comparable week of 2020. With sales reaching 17.1 million, BookScan said it was the first time in history that unit sales of service exceeded 17 million during the first week of January.

Early January is always a good time for headlines related to renewal and personal improvement, and these categories have performed particularly well compared to last year. In the adult non-fiction segment, double-digit gains were recorded for body, mind and spirit (up 63%), self-help (up 30%), cooking (22%) and religion (+ 13%). The new year did not help the travel segment, however, with units plummeting 41%.

Overall, sales of adult non-fiction rose 19% in the first week of January 2020, the smallest gain posted by the six major categories. Sales in the non-fiction category for young adults jumped 61.3%, while fiction sales rose 49%. In juvenile categories, fiction increased 34.6% from 2020, and non-fiction increased 33%.

Adult fiction also performed well, with units up 29.5%. Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule sold nearly 28,000 copies in its first week on sale while Danielle Steel’s most recent, Neighbors, sold more than 23,000 copies.

A promised land by Barack Obama remained the bestseller of the week, selling nearly 47,000 copies. A new title from Sanjay Gupta, Stay sharp, came in second, selling just under 41,000 copies in its first week on sale.

A version of this article appeared in the 01/18/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Quick Start for Book Sales