Print sales in US boom with YA and graphic novels top performers

Print sales in US boom with YA and graphic novels top performers

The sales of print books in the US soared across 2021, boosted by fiction with YA and graphic novels riding high in particular. 

Unit sales of print titles rose 8.9% in 2021 from 2020 according to NPD BookScan. Units sold were 825.7 million last year, up from 757.9 million in 2020. In 2020, unit sales were up 8.2% from 2019, which saw 693.7 million print units sold, figures reported by Publishers Weekly (PW) show. 

The YA fiction segment saw the biggest rise, with unit sales jumping by almost a third (30.7%), while adult fiction sales rose 25.5%. Sales in the juvenile fiction category increased 9.6%. 

Across non-fiction, adult sales rose 4.4% in 2021, while YA sales were boosted by 8.3%. The juvenile non-fiction category was the only category to decline last year, with sales dropping 6.2%. 

Within adult fiction, the graphic novel genre had the biggest rise, with units jumping 109.3%, followed by fantasy, which saw sales rise 45.3%. The bestseller in the category was backlist title The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (published by HarperOne in the US and Ebury in the UK), which sold around 955,000 copies, PW reported. This title was recently named the UK’s bestselling hardback since records began. 

In adult non-fiction, the small travel subcategory saw sales rise by almost a quarter (23%) after being diminished in 2020 owing to the pandemic. The business/economic field had the second largest gain, with sales rising 19%. Those gains helped offset a 17.9% decline in sales of autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, which had big gains in 2020 due to sales of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (published by Crown in the US and Viking in the UK), which was the top selling title in 2020.

The jump of 9.6% in juvenile fiction sales was led by several big sellers, and the category had the year's number one print seller, Dog Man: Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (published by Graphix in the US and Scholastic in the UK), which sold just under 1.3 million copies. 

The young adult category was helped by several titles that benefitted from attention drummed up by BookTok. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (published by HarperTeen in the US and S&S UK), which was the number one title in the category, sold nearly 685,000 copies, PW reported.