Publisher’s Weekly has provided their annual breakdown of print Book Sales by category for 2014. While they use BookScan numbers, which aren’t perfect, this is probably the best “state of the market” data we get. They also exclude e-books, which clearly accounts for a good chunk of the SFF market. Still, this is what we’ve got, and the ratios between SF and Fantasy probably extend into the e-book world.
For 2014 Adult Science Fiction, PW reported 4,142,000 sales, which is down 7% from the 2013 number.
For 2014 Adult Fantasy, PW reported 7,526,000 sales, which is down 13% from the 2013 number.
Those declines are substantial. Part of that may be readers moving to e-books, although PW has reported that e-book sales are either flat or dipping. I think some of this can be explained by the huge expansion of the Juvenile category:
For 2014 Juvenile Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic, PW reported 45,511,000 sales, a 38% increase from last year.
That number boggles the mind. The adult SFF market is 11.7 million sales; the Juvenile market is 45.5 million. Are readers moving from Adult SFF to Juvenile, or is something else happening? When someone reads The Maze Runner or Divergent, does this mean they skipped reading an adult SF novel? Or should this be understood as an expansion of the marketplace? Do readers of Juvenile SFF novels ever translate to readers of adult SFF novels?
PW doesn’t give us enough data to really tell. That 45.5 million juvenile number includes some books we probably wouldn’t consider as part of the SFF marketplace. Here’s PW’s take on why this is the biggest segment:
The segment, which was the largest juvenile genre segment last year, is home to such 2014 blockbusters as the Divergent trilogy, the Frozen franchise, and the novels of James Dashner and Rick Riordan.
Are Frozen tie in novels for children really in the same market space as YA dystopias? It would be nice if PW broke these categories up, but we’re lucky to have any sort of numbers.
Back to the Adult numbers: SF made up 35% of the speculative market, and Fantasy 65% of that market. Should that ratio be reflected in the number of Hugo and Nebula nominations?
It’s also a little frightening to think of how small that 11.7 million number truly is. The 2014 finale of The Walking Dead grabbed 14.8 million viewers in a single night. A year’s worth of SFF fans only bought 11.7 million print novels.