Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 2, Issue 2

Welcome back to our latest issue of the Yates & Yates Author Coaching monthly newsletter providing a brief update of the current state of the book publishing industry. As always, feel free to share.

THANKS, OBAMA! (for 2.5 million unit sales)

With the final 2020 year-end numbers now in, it’s official: 2020 was AWESOME!! Who’s with me?!

Well, at least it was for the publishing industry…and our 44th President. The year that none of us saw coming – nor will we ever forget—has turned in a surprising, record-breaking performance for book sales. With NPD BookScan reporting an astounding 942 million combined units sold of print and ebooks, 2020 finished 9% above good ol’ 2019 and tallied the most book sales ever in a single year since BookScan started in 2004. Print sales were up 8.2%, at 751 million copies—the most since 2009 (one year before the true emergence of the ebook). Likewise, ebooks were at their highest level since 2015, up 12.9% over 2019.

Interestingly, backlist titles (the common term for a book that isn’t “new,” i.e., 0-6 months old) were a primary driver of 2020’s record-setting performance. Backlist sales accounted for 67% of all print sales last year, up 64% from the prior year. Some industry experts surmised that the backlist growth was in part a result of the pandemic-related increases in online sales. A brand new ex-president’s memoir has the same “shelf-space” on Amazon as a 100-year-old biography about President William Henry Harrison (Billy didn’t have a chance to write his own memoir and cash in on that 31-day term as Commander-in-Chief).

Sales hit their COVID low in mid-April at 3.5% below 2019 (“45 days to slow the spread,” am I right?). But, the rest of the year saw a steady rise, with the all-important 9-week holiday period finishing off 2020 with a 12% trashing of that “Wimpy Kid” known as 2019.

THE WASTE LAND: BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORES (more apologies to Elliot)

As we have previously noted here, the bright days of 2020 did leave some in the shadows, namely, bookstores. November 2020 bookstore sales fell far short of the erstwhile maligned 2019—21.5% to be exact. And for the first full 11 months, last year trailed the prior period by a brutal 30%.

The fullest brunt of those declines fell directly on bookstore employees. Barnes & Noble eliminated a third of its staff, issuing pink slips to 7500 employees, including 125 at the corporate headquarters in New York. Airport stores were also hit hard, with channel captain Hudson permanently laying off 40% of its staff. Similarly, college bookstores, gift shops, and museum stores took a beating.


More apologies, this time to Admiral Farragut. But 2021 has come out with guns ablazing. The week ended January 9 was up nearly 25% over our dear, departed 2020. The first full week of our new bestie, 2021, logged the highest book sales in history for that week at over 17 million units. The week ended January 25 shared the wealth by boasting the unusual stat of double-digit increases in all major categories above 2020 figures.

Probably not gonna see the Reddit crowd going after Amazon or any publishing company’s shares anytime soon.

2021 Fun-Fact: George Orwell’s 1984 was the top-selling adult fiction book last week. I’ll let each of you ponder that without any editorialization here.


In Case You Missed It…. Be sure to catch the replay of our free webinar, 5 Essential Dos and Don’ts to Getting Your Book Published. You’ll learn:

  • How to stand out in front of publishers and agents
  • What best-selling authors do to make their books SELL and IMPACT lives
  • Why and how to plan, practice, and hone your book writing
  • The motivation and encouragement you need to finally write that book and get it published
  • How to overcome rejection and persevere, and much more!

NOTE: Discount offers and bonuses mentioned in the encore replay are no longer valid.


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