Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 2, Issue 5


Can you believe Q1 2021 is already behind us? Time flies when you’re having fun—i.e., selling lots of books!

Where Are They Gonna Put All that Money!?

SHOCKER: Amazon sets another sales record. For the quarter ending March 31, 2021, Amazon posted a massive year-over-year increase in revenue of 44%, or $108.5 billion, over Q1 2020. And profits more than doubled to $8.9 billion. The “online store”—what we all think of when we think of Amazon—saw revenue jump 44% to $36.6 billion, while the revenue from third-party sellers exploded—up 64% over Q1 2020. Yes, anyone can sell on Amazon, and clearly, a lot of people started to do just that when the pandemic hit—and they seem to be sticking with it (and why not). With no signs of slowing, Amazon is forecasting revenue increases of 24%-30% next quarter when compared to Q2 2020 when everyone was buying EVERYTHING on Amazon.  It's good to be the king.

The Rest of the Numbers

More than just Amazon made out big in the first quarter of this year. Unit sales of all print books rose 29.2% in Q1 2021 compared to Q1 2020, according to NPD BookScan—and everyone got in on the action. All six major categories had double-digit growth:

  1. Adult fiction: up 34.7%
  2. Adult nonfiction: up 24.6%
  3. Young adult fiction: up 62.8%
  4. Young adult nonfiction: up 42.9%
  5. Juvenile fiction: up 39.6%
  6. Juvenile non-fiction: up a mere 11.7% (but this is the category that had the biggest jump when the pandemic started, so it is up against stiff prior-year competition—and still outpaced it)

So, we’re off to another banner year…except for brick-and-mortar. Groundhog Day continues for our bookstore friends, with February’s year-over-year sales sliding 22.3% (after being down 16.7% in January). This is compared to the full retail sector that has recovered sufficiently to be tracking 2.9% ahead of last February’s pre-pandemic tallies.

What A Waste of a Beautiful Lobby

Penguin Random House announced last week that it intends to be a “remote-friendly” company going forward. Noting that all plans are “written in pencil,” PRH US CEO Madeline McIntosh told employees that while the company will provide an office for “anyone who needs or wants one,” employees who can and want to work from home can continue to do so. For the foreseeable future, that will include the CEO and the board. The announcement seemed to indicate that such a policy includes the ability of some employees to relocate to a different geographical location if their job responsibilities allow. So that’s a bad omen for commercial real estate in New York. McIntosh did mention the US headquarters at 1745 Broadway (pictured above, as it looked on January 29, 2020 – the last time anyone from Y&Y visited PRH HQ), saying that “a significant redesign” is possible in the future.

Disney(land) is Back

Yes, Disneyland reopened last weekend for the first time in nearly 14 months, but this is a publishing industry update, so Disney’s re-entry into adult book publishing is bigger news. The Walt Disney Co. announced that 8 years after selling all its adult publishing titles to Hachette, it is returning to adult book publishing with Hyperion Avenue. The new imprint will release its first books this summer. It aims to release 50-60 books a year within five years. Senior VP and Publisher Tonya Agusto says that the imprint will tap into other Disney properties like ABC and ESPN, and will publish fiction, memoir, and non-fiction titles in areas like self-help, sports, lifestyle, pop culture, and humor. Agusto also said that Hyperion Avenue is “100% in acquisition mode.” After years of mergers and consolidations, that’s music to an author’s ears (pun intended—hopefully you all envisioned an author wearing Mickey Mouse ears).

Disney continues to publish for kids and teens under the Hyperion label with includes sub-imprints like Disney Press, Marvel Press, and Lucasfilm Press.

Fun Fact

Endeavor Group Holdings, the entertainment and talent representation company that includes WME, as well as IMG and UFC, is going public on the NYSE—how’s that for a tongue twister? The projected stock price is $24 per share, in case you wanna get in on the action.

Maybe Y&Y will be next….

But don’t count on it.

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