Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Categories That Boomed in 2015, and Books That Busted

Every year Nielsen BookScan releases statistics on how many books in each of its categories sold. This gives us 20-20 hindsight on what constituted a successful genre in the preceding year, while doing nothing to predict future trends.

Nevertheless, looking at yearly statistics gives us pause for thought. For example, in the non-fiction category people appear to have suddenly gotten very interested in art. (Actually, they were just interested in coloring books. Animal Kingdom: Color Me, Draw Me (Lark), sold 332,000 copies last year.) Crafts, hobbies, house and home, and gardening have also enjoyed substantial boosts. 

In adult fiction, science fiction got the biggest boost in sales, increasing 44% in 2015. We can attribute that increase to The Martian, which sold just under 1.2 million print copies. Graphic novels also saw a bump of 22%. 

Literary fiction (classics) also saw an increase due to the publication of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which generated a surge in sales of To Kill a Mockingbird.

While yearly growth may be due to the success of a single book in any given genre, the distribution of books sold has remained fairly consistent.

Book categories with the most unit sales were general children's fiction (49K) and juvenile SFF (44K). General adult fiction and the Bible/religious books tied at fourth place followed by reference books and romance.

Table from Publisher's Weekly.

Unit Sales by Category, 2014-2015 (in thousands)

20142015% Change
Adult Non-Fiction
Art/Architecture/Design/Photography6,98411,17260%
Biography/Autobiography/Memoir22,80323,5443%
Business/Economics16,60417,1553%
Cooking/Entertaining15,49215,4950%
Computers4,6524,234-9%
Crafts/Hobbies/Antiques/Games8,48511,48635%
Health/Fitness/Medicine/Sports21,57421,5570%
History/Law/Political Science15,22017,13213%
House & Home/Gardening2,1303,18449%
Humor4,8974,660-5%
Performing Arts7,7068,3218%
Reference31,98933,2664%
Religion/Bibles35,79835,9300%
Self Help9,84811,27915%
Travel7,4177,6203%
General Non-Fiction28,53330,0095%
Total Adult Non-Fiction240,130256,0427%
Adult Fiction
Classics7,5789,98532%
Occult/Psychological/Horror3,3292,218-33%
Religion4,1744,4146%
Fantasy7,5266,600-12%
Science Fiction4,1425,96444%
Suspense/Thrillers20,11121,7838%
Action Adventure2,2392,2852%
Graphic Novels8,66910,59122%
Western2,2322,186-2%
Mystery/Detective14,30412,533-12%
Romance30,88528,031-9%
General Fiction33,52435,1015%
Total Adult Fiction138,712141,6902%
Juvenile Non-Fiction
Animals4,6255,12811%
Biographies/Autobiographies3,9794,2537%
Concepts3,7904,29613%
Education/Reference/Language6,4967,65118%
Games/Activities/Hobbies12,36213,70311%
History/Sports/People/Places11,23212,75314%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion3,8954,0735%
Social Situations/Family/Health2,5022,76611%
Total Juvenile Non-Fiction48,88254,62412%
Juvenile Fiction
Animals9,05110,11212%
Classics9,98110,1612%
Concepts8,9099,3074%
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic45,51144,578-2%
History/Sports/People/Places14,10713,550-4%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion8,6219,4189%
Social Situations/Family/Health27,81524,932-10%
General52,69049,325-6%
Total Juvenile Fiction176,685171,383-3%

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