What Sizzled and What Fizzled in Print Book Sales in 2014

Authors want to know if their books will land in a sought after category … a category that the buying public covets. Nielsen’s BookScan monitors sales via retail outlets in print sales. Over 240,000,000 books were sold in Adult Nonfiction alone, up from 2013; Adult Fiction dipped from the previous year to 138,712,000 books sold; the Juvenile titles had a good year- Nonfiction increased to 48, 882,000 books and  Fiction to 176,685,000. If you are doing the math, that’s over 700,000,000 print books sold last year. Mega truckloads of books. Print sales are approximately 79% of all book sales. Wait, Wait … there’s more that’s no here. Mega millions of Children’s and Board books aren’t in these numbers.

Yes Virginia, people are buying print books. Lot’s of them.bookscan1

Neilsen reports that the Self-Help category (15%) led the pack in non-fiction followed by Religion/Bibles and Biography/Autobiography/Memoir both posting unit increases of 12%. Non-fiction also out-performed fiction.  Graphic Novels (13%) led growth in Fiction categories—the only other category with growth in fiction was Western.

Past categories that have done fairly well in adult nonfiction, didn’t turn out to be a laughing matter. Humor had the largest decline, off 13%, followed by a 12% drop in Computer book sales and an 11% decline in the History/Law/Political Science segment.

Also interesting, while Religion did well in nonfiction, Religion fiction nose-dived in sales last year—sales down more than 15%.  Another category hitting the dumpster was the Occult/Psychological/Horror category, falling 26%. The Action/Adventure category declined 15%. Often a big seller in adult fiction, it wasn’t roses for Romance. It too hit a decline and fell 11%, followed by Suspense/Thrillers dropping 9% and the Mystery/Detective categories dipping 4%Article continues below.

The youngsters did well. The Juvenile segment performed much better overall than Adult. BookScan measures 16 categories—only three of them showed a decline. The big winner in 2014 was the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic category walked away as the big winner in 2014 (up 38%)—boasting honors included franchises of Frozen, Divergent and anything by Rick Riordan and James Dashner. Games/Activities/Hobbies were also hot with 33% unit rise-the star in this category was anything with Minecraft in the title along with Lego and the perennial sticker books.

Unit Sales by Category: 2013–2014 (in thousands)

2013 2014 % CHANGE

Adult NonFiction

Art/Architecture/Design/Photography 6,739 6,984 4%
Biography/Autobiography/Memoir 20,425 22,803 12%
Business/Economics 15,473 16,604 7%
Cooking/Entertaining 15,363 15,492 1%
Computers 5,311 4,652 -12%
Crafts/Hobbies/Antiques/Games 8,314 8,485 2%
Health/Fitness/Medicine/Sports 22,488 21,574 -4%
History/Law/Political Science 17,080 15,220 -11%
House & Home/Gardening 2,309 2,130 -8%
Humor 5,604 4,897 -13%
Performing Arts 7,358 7,706 5%
Reference 32,642 31,989 -2%
Religion/Bibles 32,012 35,798 12%
Self-Help 8,546 9,848 15%
Travel 7,658 7,417 -3%
General Nonfiction 29,509 28,533 -3%
Total Adult Nonfiction 236,833 240,130 1%

Adult Fiction

Action/Adventure 2,619 2,239 -15%
Classics 7,817 7,578 -3%
Fantasy 8,615 7,526 -13%
Graphic Novels 7,659 8,669 13%
Mystery/Detective 14,884 14,304 -4%
Occult/Psychological/Horror 4,474 3,329 -26%
Religion 4,925 4,174 -15%
Romance 34,585 30,885 -11%
Science Fiction 4,448 4,142 -7%
Suspense/Thrillers 22,161 20,111 -9%
Western 2,088 2,232 7%
General Fiction 36,314 33,524 -8%
Total Adult Fiction 150,590 138,712 -8%

Juvenile Nonfiction

Animals 3,891 4,625 19%
Biographies/Autobiographies 3,429 3,979 16%
Concepts 3,106 3,790 22%
Education/Reference/Language 6,556 6,496 -1%
Games/Activities/Hobbies 9,289 12,362 33%
History/Sports/People/Places 10,429 11,232 8%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion 3,108 3,895 25%
Social Situations/Family/Health 2,475 2,502 1%
Total Juvenile Nonfiction 42,283 48,882 16%

Juvenile Fiction

Animals 9,430 9,051 -4%
Classics 9,684 9,981 3%
Concepts 8,916 8,909 -0%
History/Sports/People/Places 13,686 14,107 3%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion 7,420 8,621 16%
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic 32,900 45,511 38%
Social Situations/Family/Health 23,777 27,815 17%
General Juvenile Fiction 51,895 52,690 2%
Total Juvenile Fiction 157,707 176,685 12%

bookscanSource:  BookScan



One final thought. I’m one of those authors who published 18 of my books via New York–the traditional way. The last 13 have been with my own imprint … as the 3 that I have queued up for completion this year. I bought huge amounts of my books directly from the publishers before I figured out how to publish … and why I become an indie publisher. Hundreds of thousands of copies–copies that I than resold to the audiences I spoke in front of. None ever went through BookScan or anything like BookScan. I know that plenty of authors still buy books via the “author discount” –they are “sold” but don’t count.


Ashography Event PhotographyJudith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord Indie/Fab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Unplugged, a two and 1/2 day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2015, the dates are August 27-29th.  Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at http://tinyurl.com/AuthorURoadio. Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and Judith Briles – TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at Judith@Briles.com.