NPD Group: United States LGBTQ Book Sales Are Surging

In News by Porter Anderson

NPD’s Kristen McLean says the book sales data appears to reveal ‘a generational shift’ in attitudes toward LGBTQ literature.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Sneksky

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

McLean: ‘An Opportunity for Publishers to Expand’
While waiting for a June recap from the NPD Group—we expect it after the United States’ Independence Day holiday—NPD’s latest sector-area report is interesting for a surge the books division, BookScan, is tracking in American LGBTQ literature in adult, children’s, and YA categories.

The timing of the news is interesting, considering the threat many believe now is posed to legal protections for gay Americans, relative to Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas’ writings on the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade.

As Dan Mangan wrote on Monday for CNBC, “Thomas in a concurring opinion on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the federal abortion rights decision, suggested cases affecting gay rights and rights to birth control likewise should be tossed.”

Sales are reported by NPD book industry analyst Kristen McLean to have reached close to 5 million units in 2021—double the previous year’s sales in LGBTQ content.

And so far in 2022 LGBTQ fiction book sales have increased, year-over-year, by 39 percent through May 28.

  • According to NPD BookScan figures, McLean reports, the biggest absolute gains in LGBTQ fiction last year came from young adult fiction subjects, with sales growing by 1.3 million units over the previous year.
  • Adam Silvera’s novel, They Both Die at The End, provided the most gains.
  • Adult fiction sales also boomed, growing by more than 1 million units in 2021 led by titles like including The House In The Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune; One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston; and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong.

Kristen McLean

This trend is showing continued strength in 2022, but this year adult fiction is leading the charge, with sales rising 55 percent higher than in 2021.

“The continued strength in this subject across all areas of the market,” McLean says, “suggests that there’s an opportunity for publishers to expand in these subjects or cross-pollinate LGBTQ themes with other high-growth areas of the market.

“The growth in young-adult categories, in particular, mirrors a generational shift toward a more open and inclusive attitude toward gender diversity and sexual orientation.”

Image: NPD Books

BISAC analysis: ‘YA Social Situations’ Lead Category

When NPD analysts reviewed BISAC subject mix information for LGBTQ titles, “young adult social situations” showed highest category share, McLean reports, followed by “general adult fiction.”

“Adult fiction fantasy” has enjoyed the strongest growth so far this year,” the company’s report says, “led by authors including Mo Xiang Tong Xui; TJ Klune; and Heather Walter.

The next top growth category is “young adult science fiction,” led by the “Heartstopper” series, by Alice Oseman, which also was released as a teen-drama television series on Netflix earlier this year. Although LGTBQ “adult romance” is a small subcategory, accounting for just 3 percent of overall romance sales, growth is outpacing total romance category sales by 10 points.

“Just like the diverse world it reflects,” McLean says in assessing these figures, ” LGBTQ fiction is woven into all parts of the fiction landscape.

“What was once considered a niche area of publishing is now becoming mainstream, with a number of titles leading the national bestseller lists and books being shared across generations of readers.

“That’s something to celebrate today and every day.”

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Fizkes

More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here, more on the NPD Group’s work is here, more on LGBTQ issues in book publishing news is here, and more on the work of Kristen McLean is here, and more on the United States book industry is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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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.