Circana on July’s US Print Book Market: A Slight Frontlist Gain

In News by Porter Anderson

The  US summertime market’s flat performance in July, says Circana’s Kristen McLean, was underpinned by some ‘interesting shifts below.’

Image – Getty iStockphoto: TimiTV

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

‘52.5 Million Units, Monthly Volume’
In her July report on the print-book United States market, Circana Books’ executive director Kristen McLean writes that she sees the month as having been “all about ‘quiet signals.'”

By this, she means that the month-over-month data held “remarkably unchanged at the top line,” down 174,000 units on a monthly volume of 52.5 million units. And yet, writes in her media message this week, “Under the surface there are some interesting data points. Stable at the top, interesting shifts below.”

She lists several points of note:

  • “Frontlist gained one point of share in July, ending the month at a 30-percent share, which is what it was at the same point in 2022, and where it’s been for the last two months. I think this is a new benchmark for the market,” McLean writes, “and it’s possible we may even gain another point of frontlist in Q4 based on past patterns. I don’t foresee any radical shifts in share for the rest of the year.
  • “Adult subjects dominate this month’s top growth subject list, led by a mix of front list new releases and deep backlist classics. However,” McLean writes, “while adult fiction remains the only supercategory in growth year-to-date, it missed the mark this week, falling -7 percent behind the same week in 2022, which is something to watch closely. Adult fiction’s year-to-date performance dropped 1 percent as a result.
  • “Juvenile [content] continues a slow drop to 2019 levels but is still up 8 percent over 2019.”

Image: Circana BookScan through week ending July 29, 2023. US print sales only

Top 10 US Print Bestsellers, July 2023

McLean reports the arrival of some “fresh voices” at the top of the print charts for July.

In adult fiction, “Rebecca Yarros stood at No. 1 on the monthly list, and the No. 2 spot on the weekly list with Fourth Wing (Entangled, May 2), which has been rising steadily as the new #BookTok favorite.

“In adult nonfiction,” McLean says, “B. Dylan Hollis’ newly-released Baking Yesteryear: The Best Recipes From the 1900s to the 1980s  (DK, July 25) took the No. 5 spot for the month, and the No. 1 spot for the week.”

Hollis, she notes, has a large following on YouTube and TikTok for his tests of old recipes on those platforms. And Colleen Hoover, not at all a fresh voice on the bestseller list, was at the end of July holding the spots at Nos. 3, 7, and 8. Perhaps with that and other romance on the list, it was heartening to some to find the National Geographic Road Atlas 2024 at No. 2.

Lastly, McLean’s notes for the press have a reference that may cause TikTok and #BookTok enthusiasts one of their first chilly moments in a US summer of record-breaking high temperatures, emphasis ours: “While we’re seeing the overall BookTok numbers start to lose a little velocity, there are plenty of new voices emerging from the platform.”

Image: Circana BookScan, the four weeks ending July 29, 2023. US print sales only

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

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.