France: 2022 Book Revenues Were Down 5.4 Percent

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

French publishers report that unit sales fell in 2022 by 7.7 percent over those sales in 2021. Editorial production was down by 2.9 percent.

In a summary of figures, the French publishers’ association points out that the French publishing industry’s workforce is majority-female: 73.3 percent of its employees identify as women, 26.7 percent of its employees are men. The average age of the workforce in publishing is 42 years old. Fifty-six percent of employees are older than 41. Image: SNE

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

Paperbacks Show Resilience Among Formats
The French publishers’ association—the Syndicat national de l’édition—has announced today (June 29) that in 2022, the country’s gross publishing revenues fell from €3.1 billion in 2021 to €2.9 billion in 2022, a drop of 5.4 percent (US$3.4 billion to $3.2 billion).

Unit sales fell from 486.1 million in 2021 to 448.5 million in 2022, down 7.7 percent.

There are considerable distinctions in how these outcomes played in various sectors of the book industry. For example:

  • Literature was down 2.7 percent
  • Comics and manga were down 4.2 percent
  • Young readers’ categories dropped 8.2 percent
  • Art and “fine books” gained 14.7 percent

Something of a bright spot was seen in income derived from rights sales of €148.5 million (US$161.4 million), a gain of 1.26 percent. Note that this is not only translation/international publication rights, but a calculation of those rights plus paperback, book club, and audiovisual adaptation rights sales, the syndicate advises us.

The publishers, seated today in their general assembly, are pointing out that of course the 2022 figures “must he put into perspective because the comparison is based on a 2021 [performance] of exceptional and almost ‘out of the ordinary’ growth.”

This, the publishers note, was not just an effect of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic but also of “very good health in 2021 of comics and an explosion of the manga phenomenon.” In fact, a comparison of 2022 to 2019, prior to the onslaught of the pandemic, the French book market remains ahead of the game, at +3.7 percent in revenues and +3.1 percent in unit volume.

Nevertheless, part of today’s report also indicates that editorial production is down (by more than those rights sales are up), by 2.9 percent. The number of new releases stood at 38,743.

In its summary of figures for the year, the association points out that the French publishing industry’s workforce is majority-female: 73.3 percent of its employees identify as women, 26.7 percent of its employees are men. The average age  of the workforce in publishing is 42 years old. Fifty-six percent of employees are older than 41.

French editorial production, 2019 through 2022. Image: SNE

Paperback Share Rising

In an interesting insight, the French publishers’ association acknowledges that in an inflationary period, the paperback format seems to have reasserted its usefulness as “a strategic sector for publishing houses.”

French publishing summary of figures, 2022. Image: SNE

In discussion, the organization says, “Although down 1 percent, the paperback book accounted for 15.1 percent of sales in value in 2022 and 26.1 percent in unit sales, a very slight increase compared to 2021, when the paperback’s shares were at 14.4 percent in value and 25 percent in unit sales.”

All told, paperbacks generated €417.2 million (US$453.4) in sales in 2022, unit sales coming in at 131.4.

In paperback, literature leads with 60.3 million copies sold. The organization cites the book-to-film adaptation trend as a driver to paperback sales in film tie-ins, as well as well as sales to younger buyers, whose patronage is credited in 2022 with €68.4 million (US$74.3 million).

In addition, the association’s pointed to comics, “with initiatives by publishers on collections at low prices, which attract new readers.”

Vincent Montagne, president of the SNE, spoke of new challenges including the defense of copyright “in the context of technological developments and the arrival of artificial intelligence.”

The Syndicat national de l’édition has some 700 members.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the French market is here, more on industry statistics is here, more on international publishing is here, and more on sustainability 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.com, 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.