Printed books had a huge sales year in 2021
Led by fiction categories, unit sales of print books increased 8.9% in 2021 compared to 2020 at outlets that fall under NPD BookScan. Units sold were 825.7 million last year, up from 757.9 million in 2020. BookScan captures about 85% of all print sales. In 2020, unit sales increased 8.2% from 2019, which saw 693.7 million printed units sold.
The young adult fiction segment saw the largest increase, with unit sales up 30.7%, while adult fiction sales increased 25.5%. Sales of the children’s fiction category increased by 9.6%.
Sales of adult non-fiction rose 4.4% last year, while sales of young adult non-fiction rose 8.3%. The children’s non-fiction category was the only segment to see sales decline last year, with sales down 6.2%. The drop was expected: Sales in the category hit record highs in 2020 as parents searched for books that could both educate and entertain their children, who were stuck at home due to school closures linked to Covid-19.
Within adult fiction, the graphic novel genre saw the largest increase, with units up 109.3%, followed by fantasy, which saw sales increase 45.3%. The best-selling title in the category was the backlist title The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy, which sold around 955,000 copies.
In adult non-fiction, the short trips subcategory, which was hammered in 2020 when few people traveled, saw the biggest increase last year, with sales up 23%. 3. The business / economics area recorded the second largest increase, with sales up 19%. Those gains helped offset a 17.9% drop in sales of autobiographies / biographies / memoirs, which saw big gains in 2020 due to Barack Obama sales. A promised land, which was the best-selling title in 2020, selling around 2.5 million printed copies through outlets that report to BookScan.
The 9.6% increase in children’s fiction sales was led by several top sellers, and the category was the # 1 print seller of the year, Dog Man: Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey, which sold just under 1.3 million copies. The category also housed the third bestseller of the year, Big cap, the 16th volume in Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series, which has sold over 985,000 copies.
Gains in the young adult category were aided by several titles that benefited from the attention that BookTok received, users of the TikTok social media platform posting to their favorite books. They both die in the end by Adam Silvera, released in December 2018, was the # 1 title in the category, selling nearly 685,000 copies.