Romance has increasingly gone indie over the past decade as more authors discovered they can reach readers without having to go through a publisher. As a result, trade publishers such as Harlequin have seen steadily declining romance sales, but according to NPD that trend reversed itself this year.
NPD released data yesterday which showed that US sales of trad pub romance titles rose along with the rest of the market this spring, with the genre closing out May with sales at 0.1% onver the same period in 2019.
“With brick-and-mortar retail bookstores closed in the U.S. this past spring, e-book sales, which have always been stronger for romance than in other categories, really took off,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “Print romance books also rose slightly, as newly housebound readers looked for fun and immersive germ-free reads while waiting out the pandemic.”
Romance book sales, which had fallen 11% in January 2020 over the previous year, began trending upward in March. As you can see in the chart above, this was largely the result of a very pleasing increase in ebook sales. Unit sales for trad pub romance ebooks increased 17% from January through May 2020.
In all, 16.2 million romance ebooks and print books were sold during that period, with ebooks making up 60% of trad pub sales in the genre.
Historical romance was the top growth subject in the romance category on a unit basis, in both print and e-book formats, but top-selling e-book titles differed from print book sales leaders. “Golden in Death” (Macmillan) led e-book sales in the overall romance category, followed by “Hideaway” (Macmillan), and “Chasing Cassandra” (Harper Collins). Print book sales were led by “Window on the Bay” (Random House), followed by “Every Breath” (Hachette Book Group), and “Country Strong” (Harlequin).