Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 4, Issue 7

Audiobooks Continue Their Hot Streak

The Audio Publishers Association reported sales numbers for 2022 at approximately $1.8 billion – a 10% jump over 2021. That was the 11th consecutive year of double-digit growth for the audio segment—the current belle of the publishing industry ball. That followed a blistering 25% jump in 2021 over 2020. The group’s survey of Americans 18 and older showed that 53% of American adults have listened to an audiobook, up from 45% last year. That’s some incredible saturation.  

So Much for the Sunny Side of the Street

According to the good people at BookScan (I still can’t remember how to spell their new moniker), unit sales for the first half of 2023 finished down 2.7% to 353.5 million.  After a flat Q1 2023 (helped by a one-time prince), Q2 tipped us into the negative – and that’s compared to the first half of 2022 which fell 6.6% below the pandemically inflated first 6 months of 2021. By way of an equalizer, the slowing numbers from the first 6 months of 2023 are still 12% above the same period in pre-COVID 2019.

In the Y&Y-focused religion segment, the news is worse. The Association of American Publishers (the AAP, not to be confused with the above-cited APA) reported that sales revenue from religious books dropped 6% in 2022 from the same period in 2021. That is compared to the 2.6% drop for the industry as a whole.  

On that prayerful note, HarperCollins announced last month that it would not be renewing office leases for its current Grand Rapids and San Francisco-based imprints—both home to religion imprints. 

Back to the Sunshine

Our friends at Publishers Lunch, who have a self-reporting system for tracking book deals (contracts signed between an author and a traditional publisher), reported that the total number of deals in Q2 of 2023 was up 2.7%. Even better, if you’re a best-selling author, six-figure and mid- to upper-six-figure deals were up even higher (7% and 25%, respectively).  Let’s hope that’s a leading indicator for future unit sales.

Welcome Back USAToday

USAToday announced last month that it is bringing back its industry-darling bestseller list. Its list has historically been less politicized—and less criticized—than another more well-known editorialized list…I mean, curated list. While the USAToday list doesn’t break down sales by genre, it does aggregate print copies with digital unit sales, giving industry analysts and book fans alike a more well-rounded snapshot of what is actually selling—without bias.

OK, I’ve said my peace.

As S&S Turns

With the current industry juggernaut (that apparently isn’t doing enough to keep from being jettisoned by video-loving parent Paramount) back on the auction block, the suitors for Simon & Schuster this time around include HarperCollins, again (though they might suffer the same fate as the Penguin), hedge fund KKR, and most recently an investment group backed by the Abu Dhabi royal family.

Speaking of Penguin Random House, it recently offered early retirement to anyone over 60 with at least 15 years at the company.  


Did you really think we’d get through a whole issue of the Update without talking about Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House? That’s cute. Wait…we didn’t say anything about Amazon!!

I guess there’s a first for everything. 

Weekly Numbers

Here are the weekly results for June: 

          Week ended June 10, 2023:  Down 5.8%

          Week ended June 17, 2023:  Down 3.6%

          Week ended June 24, 2023:  Down 4.8%

          Week ended July 1, 2023:  Down 4.7%

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