Circana’s May Report: US Book Sales Down 1.5 Million Units from April

In News by Porter Anderson

Adult fiction and nonfiction sales grew in May, Circana BookScan’s Kristen McLean reports on last month’s US market performance.

In Lexington, Massachusetts, on May 8. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Fly Snow

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

Frontlist Gains, First Time This Year, in Print
Llooking at the week ending May 27 and the month of May this year in the United States as compared to May 2022: the  Circana Books report from executive director and industry analyst Kristen McLean leads with the point that “The US market continues incrementally to shed some performance.”

McLean cites print book unit sales in April coming in at 1.5 million units lower than in the prior four weeks, “which is a nearly 3-million-unit improvement over the post-Easter losses in April but still an
indication that velocity remains sluggish,” she reports.

There are four upbeat points that McLean wants to stress in the new report provided to Publishing Perspectives on June 6 for today’s (June 7) report:

  • Frontlist gained share in May for the first time this year, McLean reports, coming it at 31 percent of monthly sales. “That’s a two-point improvement over April,” she says. “We’ll be watching this closely to understand where the ceiling for backlist will be.”
  • Both adult fiction and adult nonfiction sales grew in May, she reports, compared to April. Growth in adult fiction was led by romance. In adult nonfiction, it was cooking, driven by Joanna Gaines’s new cookbook.
  • Year-to-date ebook sales are projected to be growing, up 1.1 percent at the total market level. This is driven primarily by sales of adult nonfiction, which are currently projected to be up 7.6 percent.
  • The Dr. Seuss Oh, the Places You’ll Go has taken “its traditional spot at No. 1 on the bestsellers this
    graduation season. It’s a comforting reminder,” McLean adds, clearly with a smile on her face, “that, like the sun and the moon, some things in the universe will be there no matter what happens.”

Image: Circana BookScan through week ending May 27, 2023. US print sales only

Weekly volume was flat to last week, McLean writes, but 5-percent under the same week in 2022, which dropped incrementally year-to-date by about 0.03 percent.

May sales were down 1.5 million units from April. Slowing year-to-date velocity has increased the deficit to 2022 by 2 million units over the last four weeks and decreased the performance to 2019 from 15 percent to 13 percent in the same period.

And in May’s bestseller-list action, McLean points out that hardcover books “made up 70 percent of the bestseller list in May.

Image: Circana BookScan through week ending May 27, 2023. US 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

A note about reporting on the United States’ market: Because Publishing Perspectives is a news medium dedicated to covering the international book publishing industry, we report on news from the United States as information that’s important in world publishing. The States’ book market is the largest in the world. We do not, however, report on the American industry as “our” industry. In contacting us, US book-business publicists will want to ask themselves what international angle may be a part of that news. Our international readership of book-business executives, rights directors, international rights agents, scouts, and other professionals sees the United States as we do: an important and leading influencer in world publishing, but not a “home” market.

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.