Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 13, 2013

2012 High Book Sales

dowcalendar winter
This January illustration was sent in by Dow Phumiruk who is a pediatrician with a passion for art.

Using Nielsen BookScan dara, Publishers’s Marketplace takes their annual look at the top sellers in multiple categories. (Nielsen tracks print book sales only, at the point of sale.)

Total print book sales for 2012 as recorded by BookScan were 591 million units, down 9.3 percent compared to 2011 (and those sales were down 9.25 percent from 2010). The 2012 data reflects both the absence of Borders from the marketplace, as well as the harder-to-quantify increase in ebook sales. Year-to-year comparisons are tricky, since the 2011 data included the deeply discounted inventory from the Borders sell-off (Nielsen BookScan tracks unit sales, but not dollar expenditures)–and next year’s comparison will also be difficult since Nielsen is growing the data pool significantly for 2013 with the addition of WalMart data.

Trade paperback sales declined more in 2012 than in 2011, down 8.6 percent. Hardcover sales fell 5.7 percent and mass market paperbacks were down 20.5 percent.

EL James’s Fifty Shades books sold over 14.4 million prints units, and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books sold over 9.6 million print books. Collins’ 2012 total is only slightly lower than  all the top 15 children’s books in 2011,which sold roughly 10.2 million books altogether.

On the children’s list, Collins taking 6 places left fewer slots for Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, who occupies 3 places this time around, compared to 6 books on the 2011 list. and 2 for Rick Riordan.

2012’s Top 15: Juvenile

1. THE HUNGER GAMES*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; trade paperback 9780439023528) 2,810,000
*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; hardcover 9780439023498) 2,612,000
3. MOCKINGJAY*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; hardcover 9780439023511) 2,302,000
4. THE THIRD WHEEL, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover 9781419705847) 1,402,000
5. THE MARK OF ATHENA, Rick Riordan (Hyperion; hardcover 9781423140603) 705,000
6. THE HUNGER GAMES*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; hardcover 9780439023481) 652,000
7. THE HUNGER GAMES*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; trade paperback 9780545425117) 631,000
8. THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; hardcover 9780545265355) 599,000
9. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID # 6: CABIN FEVER*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover 9781419702235) 584,000
10. ELF ON THE SHELF, Carol Aebersold (CCA&B; hardcover; 9780976990703) 467,000
11. THE WIMPY KID DO-IT-YOURSELF BOOK*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover 9780810989955) 446,000
12. THE SERPENT’S SHADOW, Rick Riordan (Hyperion; hardcover 9781423140573) 440,000
13. THE LORAX, Dr. Seuss (Random House; hardcover 9780394823379) 368,000
14. OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!, Dr. Seuss (Random House; hardcover 9780679805274) 359,000
15. GREEN EGGS AND HAM, Dr. Seuss (Random House; 9780394800165) 348,000

*These editions were first published prior to 2011; underscored books appeared on the 2011 list in the same edition +Means the title was on the 2011 list in a different edition.

2012’s Top 4: Adult Fiction

1. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, EL James (Vintage; trade paperback 9780345803481) 6,345,000
2. FIFTY SHADES DARKER, EL James (Vintage; trade paperback 9780345803498) 3,834,000
3. FIFTY SHADES FREED, EL James (Vintage; trade paperback 9780345803504) 3,441,000
4. FIFTY SHADES TRILOGY, EL James (Vintage; trade paperback 9780345804044) 787,000
5. GONE GIRL, Gillian Flynn (Crown; hardcover 9780307588364) 701,000
6. THE CASUAL VACANCY, JK Rowling (Little, Brown; hardcover 9780316228534) 590,000
7. THE RACKETEER, John Grisham (Doubleday; hardcover 9780385535144) 553,000
8. BARED TO YOU, Sylvia Day (Berkley; trade paperback 9780425263907) 506,000
9. THE LAST BOYFRIEND, Nora Roberts (Berkley; trade paperback 9780425246030) 319,000
10. THE LUCKY ONE*, Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central; mass market 9781455508976) 317,000
11. WINTER OF THE WORLD, Ken Follett (Dutton; hardcover 97805259529232) 315,000
12. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST*, Stieg Larsson (Vintage; trade paperback 9780307454560) 309,000
13. CALICO JOE, John Grisham (Doubleday; hardcover 9780385536073) 308,000
14. THE GREAT GATSBY*, F. Scott Fitzgerald (Scribner; trade paperback 9780743273565) 301,000
15. NOTORIOUS NINETEEN, Janet Evanovich (Bantam; hardcover 9780345527745) 290,000

2012’s Top 15: Adult Nonfiction

1. NO EASY DAY, Mark Owen (Dutton; hardcover 9780525953722) 908,000
2. KILLING KENNEDY, Bill O’Reilly (Holt; hardcover 9780805096668) 861,000
3. KILLING LINCOLN*, Bill O’Reilly (Holt; hardcover 9780805093070) 781,000

Talk tomorrow,



  1. It’s amazing how only 4 authors dominate 15 spots in “Juvenile” (sorry, but imo, ELF ON THE SHELF does NOT belong there!), but happy to see Suess is still up there 🙂 I was also amazed to see THE GREAT GATSBY there, too! Classics are still big sellers 🙂


  2. actually I got a good feeling about printed books vrs ebooks from this article too….for kids books particularly. Seems the slide has slowed, and people are somewhat remembering how much more fun it is in MANY cases to hold a paper book. 😉


    • Christina, maybe I wasn’t interpreting this properly, but it sounded like print books were dropping over the past couple of years due to e-books 😦


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