A number of summer’s top bestsellers, a resurgence of interest in social justice books, and the continued demand by parents for both educational and entertaining children’s books have combined to continue to increase prices. unit sales of printed books through the third quarter of this year. According to NPD BookScan, printing unit sales increased 6.4% for the nine months ended October 3, 2020 compared to the comparable period of 2019.
Unit sales jumped 29.1% in the children’s non-fiction category, driven by huge demand for Large preschool exercise book, which sold nearly 649,000 printed copies over the period, and My first exercise book for learning to write by Crystal Radke, which sold nearly 595,000 copies.
YA nonfiction, which is the smallest of the six major categories, recorded the largest gains, with 2.5 million units sold in the first nine months of 2020. Live by Sadie Robertson Huff was the best seller in the category, selling over 101,000 copies. YA nonfiction has also benefited from the continued misclassification of Johanna Basford’s adult coloring books. Three of its backlist titles combined to sell around 120,000 copies during the period, and adult coloring books in general saw gains during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Two books related to social justice issues were among the top 20 total sellers in 2020 so far, which gave a little boost to print unit sales in the adult non-fiction category. that of Robin Diangelo White fragility sold over 777,000 copies until October 3, and How to be anti-racist Ibram X. Kendi has sold over 615,000 copies. The adult non-fiction has also hosted several summer blockbusters, including that of Mary L. Trump. Too much and never enough, which has sold over 1.1 million copies since its release in July and was the # 1 seller of print for the first nine months, and John Bolton In the room where it happened, which has sold over 661,000 copies since its release at the end of June.
Two new titles by popular authors helped boost sales in the YA fiction category by 18.6%. The ballad of songbirds and snakes by Suzanne Collins has sold nearly 1.1 million copies since its release in mid-May, and Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer has sold nearly 985,000 copies after its release in early August. The titles were second and third on the overall bestseller list for the first nine months of 2020, respectively.
Sales of children’s fiction increased 9.5% in the first nine months of 2019. Dav Pilkey’s Grime and Punishment (Dog Man # 9) was the first title in the category, selling nearly 590,000 copies after its release on September 1. Pilkey’s Collect 22 (Dogman # 8), released in October 2019, was second on the list, selling around 484,000 copies so far this year.
Unit sales of adult fiction increased 3.5% over the period, driven by two backlisted titles (Where the crayfish sing and Small fires everywhere), followed by that of Charlie Mackesy The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse, which sold 448,000 copies, and American dirt by Jeanine Cummins, which has sold over 445,000 copies.
Among the major print formats, unit sales of professional paperbacks increased 8.3% in the first nine months of 2019, and sales of hardcover books increased 6.2%. Unit sales of consumer paperbacks continued to decline, but the 6.2% drop was well below the format’s 15.3% drop for full year 2019.
A version of this article appeared in the 12/10/2020 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: The surprise continues