Italian Book Publishers Report on 2022 Revenue: A Slight Decline

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Italy’s publishers expect their year-end revenue to be down by between a modest 1.1 and 1.8 percent as compared to 2021.

At Rome’s La Nuvola convention complex, the Italian Publishers Assciation goes over the book industry’s performance for the first 11 months of 2022. From left are moderator Paolo Conti of ‘Corriere della Sera; Feltrinelli’s Alessandro Monti; AIE and Federation of European Publishers president Ricardo Franco Levi; Diego Guida of the small publishers association; and AIE research chief Giovanni Peresson. Image: AIE

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

Italy’s Book Prices Remain Steady
In a presentation today (December 7) at Rome’s Più libri più liberiItaly’s book fair for small and medium-sized publishing companies—the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) has presented its year-end industry statistics report on the market’s performance.

The top-line takeaway is that 2022 is expected to come in with a slight decline in revenue between 1.1 and 1.8 percent, over 2021. The retail sales value should total €1.676 billion and €1.687 billion (US$1.2 and US$1.3 billion).

This outlook is based on Nielsen BookScan data for the first 11 months of the year, and preceded today’s opening of the Più libri più liberi rights trading center, which we’ll have more about in our upcoming Rights Edition on Friday (December 9).

In his commentary on the market’s performance, the publishers’ association president, Ricardo Franco Levi, told his audience, “The considerable resilience of sales is an important fact that’s a testament to the ability of Italian publishing to react.

“Sales data reflects the responsible decision by publishers to keep retail prices unchanged, in the face of inflation and an explosion in production costs, starting with paper and energy–a costs explosion which obviously weighs particularly heavily on small and medium publishers.

“It’s essential that the tax credit on paper is reactivated and that all measures supporting reading be maintained, starting with the 18App at a time when families’ loss of purchasing power is cause for concern.”Ricardo Franco Levi, AIE

“That’s why it’s essential that the tax credit on paper is reactivated and that all measures supporting reading be maintained, starting with the 18App at a time when families’ loss of purchasing power is cause for concern.”

Diego Guida, president of the small publishers’ association and vice-president of AIE, said, “Once again, figures show how much of national publishing is made up of small and medium-sized publishers of great vitality but which, at the same time, have to deal with very difficult problems, starting with distribution.

Medium-sized publishers are driving growth, but special attention needs to be paid to small and micro-publishers, which are suffering from the difficult economic situation in a very particular way.”

The program today included AIE research head Giovanni Peresson; Alessandro Monti of Librerie Feltrinelli; and moderator Paolo Conti of Milan’s news outlet Corriere della Sera.

By the numbers: Strongly Ahead of 2019

At La Nuvola, the convention complex in Rome where the Italian Publishers Association’s book fair Più libri più liberi runs through December 11. Image: Più libri più liberi

As is the case in many markets, current-year declines in sales are best understood when viewed in comparison to 2019 figures, the last year in which the international book business was operating without the effects of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

January through November, the publishing industry’s sales at retail prices came to €1.268 billion (US$1.3 billion), down by 2.3 percent in comparison to 2021’s figures—but that’s a 12.9-percent gain over 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers.

In volume, those 11 months this year saw 86.8 million copies sold, down by 2 percent compared to 2021–but up by 14.5 percent over 2019.

Medium-Sized Publishers Growing Fastest

  • The trade market share of publishers under €25 million sold at retail price continues to grow and was 45.2 percent in 2021 over 44.3 percent in 2020 and 42.6 percent in 2019.
  • This is a large sector of Italy’s houses, and the subset of publishers doing between €15 million and €25 million represents 5.4 percent of the business, while those doing between €10 million and €15 million, at 7.3 percent, form the fastest-growing category.
  • Taken together, those two groups of publishers have increased their share of the market from a combined 4.6 percent in 2019 to a combined 12.5 percent now.

Physical Bookstores Make a Comeback

  • In contrast to the market averages, in the first 11 months of the year, sales in physical bookshops grew by 1.3 percent to reach €674.8 million (US$709 million).
  • Online sales fell by 5.3 percent to €532.9 million (US$560 million), and large-scale retail by 12.7 percent to €60.7 million (US$64 million).

Genres and the Attraction of Escapism

  • In the first eleven months of this year, novels by non-Italian authors grew by 9.1 percent, while novels by Italians grew 4.3 percent, and comics rose by 15.9 percent.
  • Professional nonfiction, by contrast, fell by 13.3 percent, general nonfiction by 10.8 percent, and books for children and young adults by 2.5 percent
  • The genre segments that performed best in 2022 include romance novels by Italians (up by 231 percent), household guides (up by 130 percent) and Italian women’s literature (up by a remarkable 92 precent).

Book Pricing: Stable

  • Despite many cost increases in 2022 in Italy, the average price of a book was €14.62, down by 0.4 percent compared to 2021.
  • New titles in print published this year so far total 62,745, and that’s 2 percent fewer new releases than in 2021.

Bestsellers and Backlist

Confirming a trend that sees sales spread over a widening range of titles, the Top 100 titles this year have accounted for only 8.8 percent of total sales. The backlist “is again a strong point in the market,” the report provided to Publishing Perspectives tells us, accounting for 70.4 percent of total sales in one year, while new titles account for 30.9 percent.

In this context, two books appear in the Top 10 by the Italian Erin Doom in first place (Fabbricante di lacrime) and in eighth (Nel modo in cui cade la neve), Colleen Hoover is in third place with It Ends With Us (and see our NPD BookScan report from Tuesday for more of Hoover’s dominance in that article’s latter section).

Madeline Miller with La canzone di Achille is in Italy’s seventh place, and K. Shell is in ninth with Let the Game Begin

The association notes that these works are all the by female authors who have benefited from good traction in social networks.

A packed audience of news media representatives and publishing professionals listen to the Italian industry statistics report on December 7, the opening day of Rome’s Più libri più libero, which is produced by AIE, the publishers’ association. Image: AIE

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Italian market and news from its publishers’ association is here. More on industry statistics is here and more on guest of honor programs at Frankfurter Buchmesse and other trade shows and book fairs is here.

More from us on the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which factors into many parts of this report from Italy, 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.