YA/kids book sales are up

Via Sarah Weinman the latest stats on book sales in the US of A:

The Children’s/YA Hardcover category rose 62.1 percent for the month with sales of $67.1 million, and sales for year-to-date were up by 46.4 percent.The Children’s/YA Paperback category was also up by 13.4 percent in February with sales totaling $41.6 million; sales increased by 17.4 percent for the year.

YAY! W00t! *dance of joy* I am especially fascinated by the big jump in hardcover sales. Runs contrary to the idea that pbs will sell better in a downturn. I wonder what’s going on there? Interesting . . .

On the other hand:

The Adult Hardcover category was down by 0.9 percent in February with sales of $77.8 million; year-to-date sales were down by 17.7 percent. Adult Paperback sales decreased 38.8 percent for the month ($79.7 million) and decreased by 29.5 percent for the year.The Adult Mass Market category was down 18.3 percent for February with sales totaling $48.8 million; sales were also down by 14.7 percent year-to-date.

I wonder how much the increase in kids/YA book sales has to do with the lower price point? Standard YA hardcovers are at least $5 cheaper than adult hardcovers. Could it be that the rise in YA/kids is at the expense of Adult? I.e are a growing number of people (teenagers and adults) realising that there are fabulous books being published in YA and buying them in preference to Adutl? Or is it simply that teenagers read way more than adults? Or is it solely the Stephenie Meyer effect?

Anyone else got any thoughts?

Whatever is going on it does feel like very good news for my corner of the publishing world. Fingers crossed it will continue for some time. Or at least until my mortgage is paid off . . .


  1. Ted Lemon on #

    It has a *lot* to do with the lower price point, at least for me. $20+ for a hardcover is just too much for me. I don’t mean I can’t afford it – I just can’t justify it. A hardcover YA from an author I like is still a little spendy, but I’ll usually spring for it.

    OTOH I passed up Nevada Barr’s latest paperback in the bookstore because it was one of those tall/skinny price-enhanced paperbacks – $9.99. So $13 is technically above my breaking point as well. I think maybe it feels better because YA hardcovers are usually smaller, which means more pleasant to hold while reading, and they’re usually attractive art objects, which the Nevada Barr book wasn’t. So possibly the design of YA books has something to do with it as well.

    I remember when I was a kid and at some point I graduated to reading “novels” as opposed to “books,” one of the big things I had to overcome was my attachment to books being pretty. Kids books were usually pretty; adult books were usually ugly, or at least not as pretty. Maybe that’s shallow, but I don’t care. :’)

  2. Bill on #

    There’s a saying in the science community: nobody ever changes their mind about anything… you just wait for the old guys to die, which leaves the scientists who grew up believing in the theory in charge.

    Less morbid in the case of YA, but the current crop of teenagers were learning to read when their older sibs were inhaling Harry Potter and talking about it to anybody who would listen. They’ve learned essentially from the cradle that YA is cool. Now Twilight (Uglies, Crank, etc) is reinforcing the concept.

    The pre-Harry teens (who didn’t think books were cool) are too old to matter to the current crop, who have grown up knowing there’s good stuff in the bookstore.

    Plus, consider the tremendous amount of text they voluntarily absorb, from texting to twitter to blogs, etc. They get 10 times the reading practice their ancestors did just keeping up with their social circle. (Not spelling practice, more’s the pity) They’re more comfortable with a daily diet of written words than any generation since the rise of television.

    I say yay! 25 years too late for me, but my kids will benefit from it. 🙂

  3. HWPetty on #

    Loves it!!

    This is especially good news for an aspiring YA author. Hopefully this will translate into more contracts.

    Um… please? ahahahaha

  4. Reverie Books Reviews on #

    that is great news. As a YA blogger we like those stats. Means there’s a growth in readership, Makes our job more fun, when we have more readers of the books we review.

  5. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    This is the best news ever! If this trend is stable, my dream may not be so far-fetched after all! (Dream is to open children’s and YA only bookstore. Cool idea, yes?)


  6. James A. Owen on #

    Totally with you re: the price of YA books. At book festivals where the distinction isn’t really made between YA authors and everyone else, people are constantly surprised by the price of the books in hardcover. And often they’ll choose a HC over a PB when they realize it’s only eight bucks difference.

    Side by side with a thinner hardcover that costs nine bucks more, a solid YA fantasy looks like a great buy.

  7. Diana Peterfreund on #

    I think that SOME of this might be due to the Twilight effect, since i think the last two books are still only in hardcover, but the price of YA hardcover is probably more recession-proof.

    Especially since I just found out they are selling my slim adult paperback for FIFTEEN DOLLARS. (the three preceding this were $10). Yowza! My YA hardcover, by comparison, is 30k longer and only $1.99 more.

  8. Zach Bohannan on #

    I may be a bitter cynic, but besides the recession and pricing differences, I’ve been thinking that part of the change since the Harry saga is due to American reading levels. YA are generally targeted at middle schoolers and young high schoolers, who happen to have the same reading level as the majority of Americans. The average Americans used to not read, and now they’re reading things that are cheaper than “adult” books and written to their level.

    This isn’t to disparage YA books in any way, in fact, I admire them more for conveying a message to an audience that generally doesn’t look for literary messages. Not to mention they’ve made reading cool again!

  9. Diana Peterfreund on #

    “Reading level” is a myth based on some obscure mathematics of syllables-per-sentence and certain vocab keywords. Most books that are published as adult novels have low “reading levels” too. Stephen King is at an 8th grade “reading level” when you do this faulty math.

    Consequently, YA novels and adult novels have the same “reading level.” Means squat.

  10. Justine on #

    What Diana said. There’s no correlation between so-called reading age and what category a book is published in. James Patterson’s adult books are all classified as having low reading ages. So what?

  11. Temoca on #

    I know I am one small person, but this school year I have seen I huge increase in my students reading. We TALK about books. I read something and I run back to class to tell my kids about it. They run out to buy it, read it, and ruch to talk to me about what they think. It’s fantastic! I recently finished a book that is totally inappropriate for my middle school class, but I told the kids about it, told them I couldn’t give it to them, but if they somehow found a way to read it, ask their parents and pick it up they would not regret it. I had three kids run out that night and buy the book. As teachers we have to inspire them, hook them, listen to their book reviews and I think we will continue to see an increase in books sales. Yay books!

  12. Justine on #

    Temoca: That’s wonderful! I love hearing such stories. Yay, you. Yay, teachers!

    I’m dead curious about what that books was, but.

  13. Lauren McLaughlin on #

    I’m curious. What’s a “literary message?”

  14. Gina Black on #

    Sounds like reading is the new cool.

  15. Georgiana on #

    USA Today said one in seven books sold last quarter was from the Twilight series, two of which are still in hardback. That has to have had a huge impact on the overall numbers.

    I’d like to see what the numbers look like without Ms. Meyer’s books, just as an intellectual exercise. It would be exciting if YA was still doing so well.

  16. J on #

    Yeah, people have ACTUALLY started reading at school. I mean, unlike me, they don’t inhale books (lucky them. all the books on my reading level are boring.) but they are reading. And Twilight is mostly responsible. they have made people realize that there are books out there, and they are GOOD. (sighs) i, on the other hand, might have to resort to adult books (John Grisham, mostly) because i am a “fast reader”. or i could be writing one of my novels, or finishing my short story (I am so close!) like i SHOULD be doing. *Laughs nervously* but the YA books are just so much more interesting. the ideas are pretty much new, and the plots unexpected. you get so attached to the characters. i know many YA books that are downright adicting unlike some adult books.

  17. NOtanotherexit on #

    I used to read adult books, but with the exception of a few, they’re beginning to feel “all the same.” And they cost more!

    So I read YA, which isn’t always perfect, but isn’t afraid to do new things, and isn’t afraid to let their characters do something BESIDES angst.

    I buy a lot of books, and I know others who do who are the same way, as of late. Adult books can still woo me–Kim Harrison, Rachel Cain and so on, anyone?–but most just don’t. And yeah, I agree with what someone said earlier. They’re just not as pretty.

  18. Alex on #

    I think that’s fantastic. I know for myself I read almost exclusively middle-grade & YA books, and I buy one book (at least. I may have gone sliiiightly over that at times…) a fortnight. The thing is, whilst I’ve always read MG & YA, I’ve only just over the past year or two (I’m 21) gotten my own income to support my habit. So possibly there are others out there like me who are still reading the books they read whilst teenagers, but can only now buy for themselves the type of book they like at the rate they like.

  19. Shveta on #

    This news makes me so happy. . .:)

  20. Andrew Wheeler on #

    It’s almost entirely a Stephenie Meyer effect this year — remember that her books were 16% of all books sold in the first quarter. (Not “books for kids,” not “novels,” not “books about sparkly vampires” — 16% of all books sold.) That’s a lot of books.

    The rest of the field is healthy, yes — healthier than many adult fiction categories, particularly the more literary end there — but the big jump is all Meyer.

  21. Bree Despain on #

    I went to a YA book panel that discussed this issue last night. Sara Zarr pointed out that many contemporary adult books are quite cynical these days, while YA books are sincere and yet hopeful. She speculated that in today’s economic environment, people are getting weary of the cynics.

    I think a lot of it has to do with price-point too. And the fact that teenagers have way more spending power than they used too. I’m just glad they’re choosing to spend some of their cash on books. Crossing my fingers that trend keeps up through December and beyond.

  22. Amber on #

    If we’re looking at recession-behaviour, I would also consider “I can afford one book right now. Will I buy a book for me or a book for my kid?”

    Also, adult covers not pretty, Ted Lemon? Fie on that. Exhibit A, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany. Exhibit B, Breath by Tim Winton. Exhibit C, I seem to be getting on my high horse. Um, case closed.

  23. Liset on #

    this being said,
    would it be horribly wrong if I were to steal a YA book
    from borders today?

    hmm… i’m mad tempted to read The Forest Of Hands And Teeth….

  24. kathleen duey on #

    I think kids are reading more and writing more–and are more interested in authors and books in general. My email/othermail from kids is way up the past two years. Rowling and Meyer are our shills, and I say double-bless their hearts and their mass-appeal books. Once a person–any age–experiences the joy of reading,they want more. And that can only be good for them and for the world.

  25. Jen on #

    Honestly I wont spend more than 20 on a hardback or 15 on a paperback. Just because I could probably get 2 for that price and there are plenty I could get for that price.

    That being said, a lot of my classmates discovered Reading after Twilight. It was the same with Hp.

  26. jennygadget on #

    I really hope that YA overall is doing well and continues to do well, but I also have to say that as a former bookseller, I’m very interested in what the next set of numbers says.

    Granted, I only know how sales went for the one store I worked at, but they tended to vary a lot from month to month. There were also definite seasonal trends. Although, with that in mind, February was not exactly known as a month in which a lot of kids and YA books got sold compared to adult books – that would be summertime. So… \o/

    “I’d like to see what the numbers look like without Ms. Meyer’s books, just as an intellectual exercise. It would be exciting if YA was still doing so well.”

    I would too, but I also think no matter what, the success if Meyer’s books means YA is doing well and will likely continue to. As with Harry Potter, Twilight has gotten people who would normally never pick up a a kids/YA books to do so. Not all of them will continue to read YA, but I think at least a significant number will.

    It’s been rather interesting watching Twilight grow from something that – back when I was a bookseller – was spread mostly by word of mouth among teen girls to a series that now even my sister’s book club reads – and spends more time discussing than just about any other book they’ve read. While I personally think there are lots better YA books out there than Twilight, I do appreciate the fact that my sister is now much more likely to believe me when I tell her she should give some other YA books a try. That is part of the Stephenie Meyer effect as well.

  27. Justine on #

    jennygadget: What you said. And also what Kathleen Duey said above. Twilight has brought many more readers to the genre and a goodly proportion of them are reading more than just Twilight.

    But, yes, the figures for the rest of the year are going to be fascinating!

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