StatShot Annual Publisher Survey Puts 2017 Estimated US Revenue at $26.2 Billion

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2017 statistics of the new StatShot Annual Report from the Association of American Publishers show 2.7 billion units moving, and a mild, five-year decline in overall total revenue estimates.

Image – iStockphoto: Bitterfly

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

Online Sales: 43.2 Percent Print, 27 Percent Ebook
Days after the UK’s Publishers Association released its 2017 “Yearbook” report on the British book publishing industry, the organization’s Stateside counterpart, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), released news to the press of its 2018 StatShot Annual Report which covers 2017 US book publishing industry statistics.

As in the case of the Publishers Association’s report, members of the organization receive a copy while others can buy it, and will find information here (US$395.00).

The top line offered in press material is that in 2017, the US book publishing industry generated an estimated $26.23 billion in net revenue for 2017, representing 2.72 billion units.

Another key point: Publisher revenue for trade books (fiction, nonfiction and religious presses) were reported by survey respondents to be effectively flat at 0.3 percent, increasing by $45 million in 2017 over 2016. Since 2013, or in the past five years, publisher-reported revenue for trade books has increased by some $820 million.

And at Publishing Perspectives, we find this component of the newly released information on the American market interesting: “For the first time, publisher sales to physical and online retail channels were approximately equal at $7.6 billion and $7.5 billion respectively in 2017.

“Within online retail channels, 43.2 percent were print formats, 27 percent were ebooks, 16.3 percent were instructional materials, 10.5 percent were downloaded audio, and 3.1 percent were physical audio or a different format.” Keep in mind that the digital revenues reported by publishers can’t include such revenues that are not reported by online retailers.

So the entirety of the market picture isn’t available here, but the comparison of publishers’ reported sales levels to brick-and-mortar and online outlets is interesting.

Publisher Revenue in Billions, 2013 to 2017

Year Trade Higher Ed PreK-12 Professional University Other Total
2013 $15.13 $4.81 $3.84 $2.97 $0.30 $0.02 $27.07
2014 $15.43 $4.85 $4.27 $3.09 $0.30 $0.00 $27.96
2015 $15.82 $4.53 $4.11 $3.05 $0.29 $0.00 $27.80
2016 $15.90 $3.96 $3.73 $2.37 $0.28 $0.04 $26.27
2017 $15.95 $3.98 $3.62 $2.35 $0.29 $0.04 $26.23

From: 2018 StatShot Annual Report, Association of American Publishers

StatShot High Points Conveyed to the Media

We’ll next touch next on several other parts of the report highlighted for the press, and then you’ll find below some notes on the StatShot Annual report itself and how it goes together. It’s good to remember that it represents publishers’ reported revenue from tracked categories—as well as estimates of other revenues for publishers not reporting. In short, these numbers aren’t generated from actual sales at cash registers and in cyber-carts for retailers.

Adult Nonfiction

  • Adult nonfiction in 2017 appears to be showing the largest growth of tracked categories in terms of publisher revenue, with a 5.4-percent increase from 2016 to 2017
  • In the five-year view, the category has grown 28.4 percent over 2013, to $6.18 billion
  • “Nearly 150 million more adult nonfiction books were sold in 2017 than in 2013,” according to press materials

Adult Fiction

  • Publisher revenue for adult fiction declined slightly, by -1.2 percent to $4.38 billion
  • From 2013 to 2017, the category is reported to have seen just one year of revenue growth, in 2015

Children’s and YA

  • Both fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults, press materials say, saw more units sold in 2017 than in 2016, up 1.1 percent and 4.4 percent respectively
  • In the five years since 2013, publisher revenue for children’s and YA fiction has grown by 11.3 percent to $3.67 billion. Nonfiction in the same time period has declined by 2.3 percent to $652 million


  • Downloaded audio, of course, was again in 2017 the fastest growing format (as has been indicated by other reporting, from the Audio Publishers Association, for example), with 28.8-percent year-over-year growth from 2016 to 2017 and 146.2-percent growth over the past five years (2013 – 2017)


  • More than 1 billion paperback books were sold—more than any other format in 2017, we’re told—comprising 36.9 percent of books sold in all categories

Other Categories

  • Revenue from higher education was effectively flat at 0.5 percent, revenue from pre-K-12 and professional books declined in 2017 by 2.9 percent and 0.7 percent respectively
Notes on the StatShot Annual Report

The StatShot Annual figures’ value lies in their comparative numbers from year to year–as represented in our chart above–rather than in comparisons to other measures, even the monthly assessments conducted by the association.

StatShot Annual Report figures “represent publishers’ net revenue from tracked categories (trade, higher education course materials, preK-12 instructional materials, professional books, and university press), in all formats, from all distribution channels.”Association of American Publishers

This is not to say that the StatShot Annual report isn’t worthwhile. In a market as big and difficult to evaluate accurately as the US market (with large sections of its data held invisible by online retail forces), many assessments, properly understood, can be helpful.

The key is to understand, as the association readily states in its media messaging, that the StatShot Annual Report numbers are estimates and “represent publishers’ net revenue from tracked categories (trade, higher education course materials, preK-12 instructional materials, professional books, and university press), in all formats, from all distribution channels.

“These are not retailer/consumer sales figures.”

In other words, the StatShot Annual is created from survey activity in which publishers report results for the year. And “since the annual survey does not include all known industry publishers,” press announcements clarify, “estimates are used for publishers who do not participate directly in data collection. These estimates are based on sales data included in company financial reports, trade and news media reporting, government filings, BooksinPrint, press releases, third party research services, and private sources.”

The StatShot Annual Report is put together by a different process than the Association of American Publishers’ monthly surveys, and “survey participants in StatShot Annual may not be the same as those who participate in AAP’s monthly surveys,” per explanatory notes from the association.

More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.