US Book Market: Circana Reports an Uptick at Mid-June

In News by Porter Anderson

In the US, year-to-date print book sales are 12 percent ahead of the same time in 2019, but 8.6 million units below 2022’s number.

Image – Getty iStockphotos: Wirestock

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

Plus: An All-Time High in LGBTQ Sales
At the midpoint in June, the week ending on the 17th, Circana reports, the United States’ print book market saw improved sales “after several weeks of soft performance,” according to Circana Books‘ executive director and industry analyst Kristen McLean.

“Summer reading and Father’s Day,” she says, “combined to increase volume nearly 1 million units” over the previous week, “with a tighter clustering of sales against previous years’ performance.

“The net result was year-to-date performance holding steady at -3 percent, on a weekly volume of 14.2 million units,” she writes, “and a year-to-date volume of 328 million units, which is 8.6 million units below 2022, but 26 million units, or +12 percent, above the same point in 2019.”

Adult categories, McLean says in her report, “were the big winner this week. Combined, they were responsible for 87 percent of the weekly growth. If you look at the weekly bestsellers you’ll understand why. Every one of the Top 10 bestsellers this week was adult fiction, and six of the Top 10 were romance.

“Romance was also the leading category in young adult,” she says, adding, “It’s a beach-read-y week, for sure.”

Image: Circana BookScan through week ending June 17, 2023. US print sales only

In the above graphic, you’re looking at a tally in print book sales in the States for the 24th week of the year, “still down 528,000 units compared to 2022,” McLean says, but up nearly 1 million units from the previous week.

Image: Circana BookScan through week ending June 17, 2023. US print sales only

With romance holding six of the Top 10 titles, you see the American print-book market focusing on its customary fixation in fiction in the week ending June 17, per the data collection of Circana.

‘Skyrocketing Sales of LGBTQ Fiction’

Earlier in the month, Circana’s team provided the news media with a focused look at sales of LGBTQ fiction in the States, which at the end of May, the data shows, had reached an all-time high for the preceding 12-month period, at sales of 6.1 million units.

“This growth represents an 11-percent increase over the previous 12-month period and a 173-percent surge compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark of 2019,” or 12 months ending May 2019, the report indicated. “Authors with the highest sales increase in the LGBTQ subject include Mo Xiang Tong Xui; Alice Oseman; Rick Riordan; Alexis Hall; and Piper CJ.

“It’s important to note,” McLean said, “that the growth in LGBTQ fiction has outpaced the overall market for fiction sales, including adult, children’s, and young adult fiction combined, which remained relatively flat. This growth comes at a critical time when reports of book bans have surged, predominantly targeting books written by or about the LGBTQ community and people of color.”

What’s interesting to consider, of course, is that this trend is being tracked by Circana at the same time that many in the book business are realizing that a firm, concerted response is needed to the rising tide of book censorship led by the political far right. In many cases, school libraries and administrations receive demands to remove books with LGTBQ themes. You can read about the newly opened, “Freedom to Read” campaign in our coverage here.

The growth of LGBTQ fiction sales, McLean reports, spans various genres, including fantasy, thriller, science fiction, horror, and social situations.

But the category that has experienced the most significant gains is adult romance. “Sales of LGBTQ romance novels reached 1 million units in the 12 months ending May 2023, exhibiting a remarkable 40-percent increase over the corresponding period last year.

“Notably, romance contributes to 30 percent of the overall growth witnessed in LGBTQ subjects. The next largest area of growth was general adult fiction, which rose 17 percent, year over year, to reach 1 million units.”

Publishers are ensuring, McLean says, “that the transformative power of storytelling reaches a growing number of readers, regardless of their background or identity. Skyrocketing sales of LGBTQ fiction not only signify a growing demand but also indicate a shift in societal attitudes toward embracing diverse narratives.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here, and more on Circana research here. 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 freedom of expression and freedom to publish is here, more on politics is here, and more on censorship 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.