Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 4, Issue 4

Publishers Begin to Report Full-Year Results 

As the various regulatory filings trickle into the folks at the SEC and beyond, we start to get a more in-depth picture of the health of the industry.  Unit sales are the closest measure we have to any “real-time” data in this industry, but eventually, profits are what keep the presses running—and BookScan reports can’t help us there.

Case in point, the 800-lb. Penguin (Random House) saw sales rise 4.8% in 2022 over 2021.  But that pesky inflation, and some exchange rate shenanigans, left PRH parent Bertelsmann with only bad news for their shareholders, as earnings dropped 11.8%.  The company didn’t blame the massive legal bills or the hefty $200 million kill fee from the failed Simon & Schuster deal, but those couldn’t have helped. 

Deal Reports in Decline

Another less scientific, but leading indicator is the number of publishing deals signed in a given period – and then reported to our friends at Publishers Marketplace (less scientific, because not every agent or publisher reports every deal).  PM reported a 4.4% decrease in reported deals from Q1 of 2022 to Q1 of 2023.  Even bigger was the drop in “six-figure deals” which fell a whopping 29% during the same period, as publishers undertook some apparent belt-tightening.  

Hot January 

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reported that publishing industry sales climbed 3.5% in January 2023 over the prior year.  Adult books jumped 6.2% to help cover the 2.3% drop in the children’s/young adult segment and a 1.8% slip in religious books. Digital audio’s continued tear boosted all 3 of those segments.

Bookstores Keep Cooking

Last month, the Update reported the welcomed news that 2022 brick-and-mortar bookstore sales rose 6.2% over 2021. Well, 2023 is off to an even hotter start, with sales skyrocketing 15.9% in January over the same period a year earlier.

Q1 2023 Unit Sales Steady

The January increases reported above come from revenue numbers that get reported more slowly than unit sales, which get tracked more quickly thanks to our friends at the formerly NPD BookScan—now Circana BookScan (there’s a good chance the Update is just gonna call it “BookScan” from now on).  As you’ll see below, March 2023 wrapped up the first quarter of the year on a 4-week rally. That streak left print unit sales with a negligible 0.3% drop for the first quarter of the year. So, we at the Update are a little bullish on the balance of the year, after all of the post-pandemic normalizing we saw last year.

As always, stay tuned….

Weekly Numbers

Here are the weekly results for March: 

          Week ended March 4, 2023: Down 0.9%

          Week ended March 11, 2023: Up 4.2%

          Week ended March 18, 2023: Up 2.9%

          Week ended March 25, 2023: Up 1.6%

          Week ended April 1, 2023: Up 2.7%

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