Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Are Book Sales Up Or Down?

Many book sales are unaccounted for. For instance, when authors sell books directly to consumers, from their website, at an event, or through a bulk sale to an organization, their sales are not registered anywhere – unless they are processed through amazon or bn.com or some recognizable retailer. Given there are over 1.6 million new books published each year – and millions more in circulation – we have to assume that book sales into the hundreds of millions of copies are sold under the radar. So how, do we really know if book sales are up or down for the industry?

We look at two big measuring sticks – what is sold via Amazon and what is sold by stores. This informs us of the health of the book industry, and by all standards, things are looking good.

For all of 2020, a year severely compromised by shutdowns, job losses, and health scares, bookstore sales registered a 28.3% drop from 2019. That is a huge decline, but small considering the environment the stores had to operate under. Things should greatly bounce back in 2021, especially when more stores re-open, events return, and consumer in-store-shopping confidence returns.

The real good news is that book sales jumped by a whopping 9% from 2019 when we look at the numbers from BookScan, which measures not just bookstore sales but book sales from places like Target and supermarkets, as well as Amazon and e-books.  From 2016 to 2019, annual book unit sales averaged 865 million. 2020 saw 942 million units sold!

What isn’t tracked is sales per title. Given the marketplace is flooded with more books than ever before, sales per title are in decline. They have been on a downward trajectory for a while. This means more books struggle to turn a profit or break through the clutter.

If you do some raw math, though I caution this is not scientific, take 942 million copies sold in 2020 and divide by the 1.6 million new titles released, and you average around 600 copies per new title sold. Now, it is not accurate, because as we pointed out, many unregistered sales take place. Also, it is not like all book sales in 2020 were for new books. In fact, many were for backlisted titles, but you get the idea.

Book sales, however they come about and however they are accounted for, still have room to grow. Given half the nation hardly reads books, a whole marketplace awaits exploitation. Further, if we see a new baby boom coming out of Covid-19 hibernation or immigration expansion under President Biden, book sales will likely increase.

It could be that the industry surpasses one billion unit sales this year. We could also see the number of new book titles rise towards two million. The trend for both is growth.

Let us hope 2021 can kickstart us into the new Roarin’ 20’s for books!

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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand.

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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2021. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum. 

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