NPD Group Sees 32-Percent Rise in US Political Books, Year to Date

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The political debate is paying off for publishers of political books, NPD’s data indicates, with major titles leading a nonfiction boost that shows up not just in print but also in ebook sales.

Image – iStockphoto: Willard

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

First Quarter 2018: 3.8 Percent of Print Nonfiction
If you’ve spent any time lately thinking that the political news of the day surely has to have been good for book sales, a new report from the NPD Group‘s books division backs you up.

A statement released on Tuesday (June 19) by the research company reads, “Political book category sales, including political science and political biographies, drove growth in US print book sales for the year-to-date ending June 10.

“With solid sales of major hits [including] Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury (Macmillan/Henry Holt, January) and James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty” (Macmillan/Flatiron), the NPD staffers write, “book sales in the political category rose 32 percent this year, according to the latest information.”

The category, according to NPD, “made up 3.8 percent of all print nonfiction in the first quarter of 2018, the highest market share for political books since Decision Points by George Bush was released in the fourth quarter of 2010.” Decision Points (Crown, 2010).

“Three of the top five bestselling print books year-to-date ending June 10, 2018 were politically focused,” we learn, this time with some numbers:

  • Fire and Fury: 993,000
  • A Higher Loyalty: 562,000
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss: 477,000

“No matter what your political affiliation, there’s no denying that the current cultural climate has been very good for books,” says Kristen McLean, books industry analyst with whom Publishing Perspecitves spoke this week about NPD’s new BookScan License Reporting Service.

“‘We’re seeing these tent pole political titles lay down huge sales figures, as current-events oriented buyers snap them up.”

McLean is quoted pointing to the intensity of partisan debate in the Trump era as being likely to continue driving unusually high interest in “this recent crop of tell-all exposé-type political books,” a consumer trend she sees likely to continue.

In media materials, NPD says the volume of political print book titles sold following the 2016 election—from the first quarter of 2017 through the first quarter of 2018, reached 12 million units—which it cites as being nearly double the 6.8 million sold following the 2012 election, from the first quarter of 2013 through the first quarter of 2014.

Hillary Clinton’s What Happened was the top-selling political book in 2017, according to NPD, with 500,000 copies sold. Wolff’s Fire and Fury sold close to 1 million print copies in the first quarter of this year.

By contrast, the top political book in 2013 was Things That Matter, by Charles Krauthammer, with 600,000 copies sold.

That was followed by Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments, which sold 242,000 copies.

Ebook Sales Also See Boost

While politics clearly are good for print, NPD also is seeing the classification as “one of the few categories experiencing growth in ebook sales,” as well.

“While overall ebook sales declined 5 percent in 2017,” NPD’s commentary reads, “political ebook sales increased 22 percent.

“In addition, political ebook sales were higher in 2017, than they have been since 2010–rising at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent over that period.

“Clinton’s What Happened was the top-selling political ebook in 2017, with 110,000 copies sold.”

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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