• Richard Lutman

"Patch of Dirt" Books Sold By Category 2014-2015


It's difficult to overstate the impact adult coloring books had on print sales last year, with the coloring-book craze driving large gains in several categories. The hottest category in 2015 was art/architecture/photography, which had a 60% increase in unit sales in 2015 over 2014 at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan.

The category was boosted by a number of coloring books, led by Animal Kingdom: Color Me, Draw Me (Lark), which sold 332,000 copies. Two other adult nonfiction segments that had big gains last year were also helped by adult coloring books: crafts/hobbies had a 35% gain in unit sales, with Johanna Basford's Lost Ocean (Penguin) leading. There were fewer coloring books classified in the self-help segment as in crafts, but their presence was enough to help lift unit sales in the self-help category by 15%.

Adult nonfiction had a good year, with a 7% overall increase and only the health/fitness category having a decline in unit sales last year. The 49% jump in the house & home category was due almost entirely to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which sold about 1.2 million copies. In adult fiction, genres in which sales of print books have been damaged the most by e-books continued to show erosion in 2015, as the fantasy and mystery/detective segments each posted 12% declines in unit sales, and romance sales fell 9%. The science fiction genre had a big gain, led by The Martian, which sold just shy of 1.2 million print copies across all editions.

The classics segment got a nice bump from the publication of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which caused a surge in sales of To Kill a Mockingbird. Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train drove an 8% increase in suspense/thrillers, selling 1.3 million print copies.

The juvenile nonfiction category also benefited from adult coloring books, as many titles, including Basford's megapopular Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, were classified as children's nonfiction books.

Sales of juvenile fiction declined last year, with overall print unit sales down 3% from 2014—perhaps not surprising given the phenomenal year the category had in 2014, when the Divergent series and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars were selling millions of copies. In 2015, the only children's fiction title to hit the million-copy mark was Jeff Kinney's latest Wimpy Kid Book.

2014 2015 % Change

Adult Non-Fiction

Art/Architecture/Design/Photography 6,984 11,172 60%

Biography/Autobiography/Memoir 22,803 23,803 3%

Business/Economics 16,604 17,155 3% Cooking/Entertaining 15,492 15,495 0%

Computers 4,652 4,234 -9%

Crafts/Hobbies/Antiques/Games 8,485 11,486 35%

Health/Fitness/Medicine/Sports 21,574 21,557 0%

History/Law/Political Science 15,220 17,132 13%

House & Home Gardening 2,130 3,184 49%

Humor 4,897 4,660 -5%

Performing Arts 7,706 8,321 8%

Reference 31,989 33,266 4%

Religion/Bibles 35,798 35,930 0%

Self Help 9,848 11,279 15%

Travel 7,417 7,260 3%

General Non-Fiction 28,533 30,009 5%

Total Adult Non-Fiction 240,130 256,042 7%

Adult Fiction

Classics 7,578 9,985 32%

Occult/Psychological/Horror 3,392 2,218 -33%

Religion 4,174 4,414 6%

Fantasy 7,526 6,600 -12%

Science Fiction 4,124 5,964 44%

Suspense Thrillers 20,111 21,783 8%

Action Adventure 2,239 2,285 -2%

Graphic Novels 8,669 10,591 22%

Western 2,232 2,186 2%

Mystery/Detective 14,304 12,533 -12%

Romance 30,885 28,031 -9%

General Fiction 33,524 35,101 5%

Total Adult Fiction 138,712 141,690 2%

Juvenile Non-Fiction

Animals 9,051 10,112 12%

Classics 9,981 10,161 2%

Concepts 8,909 9,307 4%

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic 45,511 44,578 -2%

History/Sports/People/Places 14,107 13,550 -4%

Holidays/Festivals/Religion 8,621 9,418 9%

Social Situations/Family Health 27,815 24,932 -10%

General 52,690 49,325 -6%

Total Juvenile Fiction 176,685 171,383 -3%

A version of this article appeared in the 01/18/2016 issue of Publishers Weekly.


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