Publishing Market Update; Vol. 3, Issue 10

We all love the fall.  Crisp temperatures, colorful trees, and—best of all—football.  But this year, it’s more than just the leaves that are falling.

3rd Quarter Results Head South for the Winter

The early results are in (who’s ready for election season?!), and the good people at NPD BookScan are telling us the results are not good. Through the first nine months of 2022, book sales have slid 4.8% below the same period in 2021. Adult fiction readers answered the bell, driving sales up an industry-best 9.2% for the year thus far. But in the all-important category of adult non-fiction, the bestselling book this year is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear—which came out 4 years ago! (I hear it’s pretty good).

At HarperCollins, the fall has ushered in a falling headcount.  In what might be the direst harbinger in this month’s Market Update, the Big 5 publisher (or is it 4 now?) announced an “elimination of a small [undisclosed] number of positions.”  CEO Brian Murray also signaled a hiring freeze, along with reductions for non-essential travel and expenses.

We’ll Always Have 2021

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) have released their final tallies for what can now be accurately described as “the good ol’ days.” After about four years of essentially flat sales reports from 2017-2020 (hovering between $25 billion and $26 billion), 2021 jumped 12.3% to $29.33 billion in total sales.

For the segment most dear to us at Y&Y, religious book sales saw a stratospheric leap of 21.9% to $1.42 billion—and our first gain since 2018.

In the ever-growing digital arena, audiobook downloads saw another huge jump, up 12.8%, while e-books saw a decline of 5%. Overall, ebooks still outsold audiobooks, but in an interesting development, audio books overtook ebooks in the Y&Y-focused religious market.

Spotify to the Rescue?

There’s a new kid in town in the red-hot audiobook market.  Maybe you’ve heard of him (or her?)…Spotify.  Entering the fray with a library of more than 300,000 titles from the likes of Hachette, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, Spotify is hoping that audiobook consumers will migrate to their platform so that they can have all of their listening needs met in one place: music, podcasts, and now audiobooks.  

For now, the content will be offered on an a la carte basis—which is far better for authors than a subscription model like Audible offers.  

Hawaii Trips Canceled

Costco signaled one more leading indicator of tougher times for the industry: all Costco stores in Hawaii (and Alaska) will no longer carry books.  They blame shipping costs, which is hard to argue if you’ve filled your gas tank anytime in the last 6 months. So, if you can still afford to ship yourself to Hawaii (the airline industry reports that airfares are up 42% from a year ago), you might want to buy that beach read before you go.

Pan Up…Judge Florence Pan, That Is

Publishing’s very own Lance Ito, from the industry’s trial of the century, has yet to issue her ruling on the legality of the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster merger. But regardless of what we think about her decision, she’s movin’ on up—to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Any of you court-watchers out there know that the D.C. Circuit is pretty much the bullpen for the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Pan will take over the spot vacated by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Other notables from the D.C. Circuit: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, the current Chief Justice John Roberts – and even storied former Chief Warren Burger and our recently departed friend and client—former U.S. Solicitor General and Independent Counsel Hon. Ken Starr (we miss you, Judge). 

Back to Pan, all that to say, the PRH/S&S trial is not likely going to be the biggest case she decides in her career.

Weekly Numbers

Here are the weekly results for September:

          Week ended September  3, 2022:   Down 2.4%

          Week ended September 10, 2022:  Down 1.6%

          Week ended September 17, 2022:  Down 2.3%

          Week ended September 24, 2022:  Down 4.2%

Take Action: Your Book Will NOT Write Itself. 

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