US Market in April: Down 2 Percent in Print Unit Sales

In News by Porter Anderson

The month of April in the States, per Circana data tracking, saw only 11 ‘designated market areas’ in truth growth this spring.

In Cardiff-by-the-Sea in Encinitas, San Diego County, California, April 19. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Olga Sazonova

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

YA and Adult Fiction Lead Backlist Growth
In its month-closing assessment of the United States’ print book market in April, Circana Books describes a 2-percent drop in print sales on a unit basis, year-to-date in 2023.

Print book unit sale, according to Circana’s Kristen McLean, were 4.3 million units lower than in the prior four  weeks.

“On a brighter note,” McLean says, “we are projecting year-to-date ebook sales to be up slightly, based on sales for the first two months of the year.”

Kristen McLean

Juvenile fiction contributed to nearly half (43 percent) of the drops, when compared to strong Easter and “Seuss Week” sales, Seuss Week being an estate-driven observance of the late Theodore Seuss Geisel’s birthday.

In a series of data points, McLean lists these bulleted notes:

  • The top growth subjects for April were led by frontlist releases, seasonal titles, and page-to-screen adaptations
  • That was not enough to stabilize frontlist share; similar to last month, McLean reports, April’s backlist share was one point higher, compared to the same time in 2022
  • YA and adult fiction are leading backlist growth, she says
  • While only 11 “designated market areas” (DMAs) are in true growth this year, 52 such areas are beating the 52-week average of -4.5 percent
  • Only one of those 52 is a Top 10 designated market area, and that’s Atlanta
  • Smaller markets are doing better, McLean says
Weekly Volume Rose 4 Percent

Adult fiction, McLean points out in her look at week-over-week performance, at the end of April, was making up 70 percent of the monthly bestsellers tracked by Circana’s BookScan system.

You’ll note that author Colleen Hoover in April held positions at No. 3, 4, and 8, while Dr. Seuss was propelled to No. 6, in part on the energy of  “Seuss Week.”

Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me (Simon & Schuster) moved to the No. 2 position from the previous week’s No. 1.

Image: Circana BookScan through week ending April 29, 2023. UA print sales only.

And in her look at the Top 10 bestsellers tracked by Circana for the month of April 2023, McLean notes that Dav Pilkey held his position in the No. 1 spot for a second month, with Dog Man: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea (Scholastic).

mage: Circana BookScan through week ending April 29, 2023. UA print sales only.

More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here, and more on the NPD Group’s work is here—this spring, an acquisition has changed the name to Circana. More on the work of Kristen McLean is here, and more on the United States book industry 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.