As we count down to the new year, it’s a good time to consider how the events of the past twelve months have influenced the publishing industry. Did lockdowns, variants, anxiety, and social media upheavals result in additional drama or phenomenal flops? The research experts at Writer’s Relief have been tracking the publishing industry for over twenty-seven years and crunched the current data to bring you some relevant statistics for the 2021 publishing year in review.
The 2021 Publishing Year In Review
Publishing and Sales
In 2021, a sense of normalcy finally began to tiptoe back into our everyday lives. And one of the habits we collectively picked up during the 2020 quarantine continued in 2021—reading more books and getting lost in a good story! In fact, print book sales in the US climbed 18.5% in just the first half of 2021 alone.
2021 is also the first year in recent times during which print publishing flourished while digital books took a hit. More readers found their way back to traditional print media: Only one in every six books sold in the US during the last twelve months was an e-book. Adult fiction was the most popular genre in e-books, accounting for 41% of total sales.
While adult fiction has always captured the hearts of readers, there were some surprising genre shakeups. Manga, a type of graphic novel originating in Japan, saw an increase of 178.5% in sales and accounts for 20% of all adult fiction books sold in 2021 (compared to 9.3% in 2020). At book retail giant Barnes & Noble, graphic novel sales are up nearly 500%!
However, when it comes to books, Amazon continues to outsell Barnes & Noble. Amazon sells a whopping 4,000 items every minute, and a good portion of that number is books! Interesting tidbit: Amazon actually began as a digital bookstore back in 1995.
The jump in book sales isn’t limited to the United States—the global book market is booming. Experts report an expected increase from $87.92 billion (2020) to $92.68 billion (2021) in book sales across the globe. We all spent a lot of the past year reading to pass the time!
Books That Rose To The Top In 2021
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead is the number-one book among Amazon editors of 2021 (so far)!
Honorable mentions from Barnes & Noble’s 10 Best Books of 2021:
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Author News In 2021
2021 was also a good year for the authors behind the pages. New York Times best-selling author James Patterson, famous for his rapid book releases, has penned over 200 books to date, and fifteen of those were released during 2021. J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved Harry Potter series, sees continued success even though the first book in the series was published all the way back in 1998. As of 2021, she officially has a net worth of $1 billion.
In other author news, George R.R. Martin still has not released the sixth book in his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, perhaps best known as the foundation for HBO’s Game of Thrones. 2021 officially marks the ten-year mark from his previous release from the series, A Dance with Dragons, in July of 2011.
While the ending to Game of Thrones still leaves many fans divided, television dramas based on books and literary characters continue to thrive. Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, based on author Leigh Bardugo’s book of the same name and the follow-up book, Six of Crows, was one of the most-viewed series of the year—over 1.2 billion minutes were streamed by viewers all over the world. Lucifer, another Netflix hit based on a literary character created by author Neil Gaiman, premiered its sixth season in 2021 and was viewed for more than 1,588 million minutes. We love watching our favorite books as much as we enjoy reading them!
More Good News For Writers Closer To Home
Even during the uncertainties of a year unlike any other, we’re happy to say our writer clients also had a very good year! Writer’s Relief clients garnered 1,318 acceptances and agent requests in 2021 (and we’re still counting!) for a total of 23,078 since 1994. And eleven of our clients earned Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominations.
We’re looking forward to another great year with lots of publishing acceptances for our clients in 2022!
(If you’d like to be one of those writers getting more acceptances in 2022, why not submit your writing sample to our Review Board today?)
Question: What hopes do you have for the publishing industry in 2022?