By Aimee Haldron, Nicole Haynes, Emma Rogers and Rosie Pinder
Nielsen BookData was first established in 1858 and provides the book industry with information on the distribution and sales measurements of books across the UK and Ireland. Annually they release their BookScan, examining trends and popular titles across the publishing industry by considering consumer markets. This article will explore the coverage of children’s and YA books in the 2022 BookScan, delving into what was popular last year and what that might mean for children’s books as we head further into 2023.
Children’s fiction was off to a strong start at the beginning of 2022, helped significantly by the ongoing popularity of book content on Tiktok. Nielsen reported that in the UK, books that proclaimed TikTok and ones that used TikTok/BookTok in the keywords sold 2.2 million copies in the first four months of 2022. That’s huge!
TikTok has also impacted backlist sales. In 2021, Nielsen noted that 42% of the top 5,000 revenue in 2021 came from titles not published that year. Last year, it noted that this percentage of revenue increased to 47% of titles published pre-2022. Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End sat at the top of the list for YA novels. The novel was originally published in 2017 but saw a resurgence in the past year after the BookTok community picked it up. Silvera has since published a prequel to the novel, The First to Die at the End. If this backlist surge continues, it could alter the perception that some hold that the publishing industry is mostly frontlist-orientated, and could strongly impact every aspect of the publishing process from acquisitions to marketing campaigns for future titles.
It’s not just TikTok that had an impact on the children’s book industry, though. TV and film adaptations have always had a big effect on the sales of corresponding books and this was no different in 2022. In July, for example, Nielsen named Alice Oseman as the fourth-highest author across the ten markets it studied (UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico), with cumulative sales of 1.3 million. The release of the Netflix adaptation of Heartstopper no doubt played a large role in this and we predict that Oseman’s success will continue when the second season is released later this year.
In line with this, graphic novels, as well as YA fiction and activity books, all saw increased sales in 2022. Oseman’s Heartstopper series has contributed to a record year for graphic novels for both adults and children. Similarly, children’s non-fiction saw increasing sales with the market hitting revenues of nearly £60 million. Expanding from traditional, children’s top-selling non-fiction focused on topics such as mental health, mindfulness and climate change, to name a few. Young readers are clearly interested in learning more about the issues affecting our society.
Nielsen not only sheds light on what was read in 2022, but also where the books were purchased or loaned. The report shows that it was not only bookstores where children got their books from last year but libraries too! Library borrowing for children’s fiction went from 1.2 million across eight weeks in 2021 to nearly 1.4 million from 17 July to 10 September 2022. This is fantastic to see and shows that libraries are still very much vital to young readers. We hope they won’t be going anywhere in 2023. Daisy Meadows, the author of the Rainbow Magic series, was the most popular children’s fiction writer through libraries with more than 400 titles borrowed at least once, adding up to over 80k total borrowings.
Julia Donaldson, arguably the nation’s favourite children’s writer, unsurprisingly reigns supreme as the UK’s top author overall though. Having earned eight figures through Bookscan for the thirteenth consecutive year, Donaldson’s top spot is established through her children’s classics and 2022 release The Baddies. Her loveable characters continue to appeal to children and families, with her recent book The Smeds and The Smoos being adapted into a BBC production, broadcasted on Christmas Day. 2022 was a momentous twelve months for Donaldson as by the summer she had surpassed Jamie Oliver to become the second-biggest-selling author since records began. And just a few weeks later she became only the second writer to exceed the TCM £200 million mark.
However, Jamie Oliver will try to strike back when his first picture book, Billy and the Giant Adventure, publishes in April 2023 with Puffin. He won’t be the first celebrity chef to try out being a children’s author – Joe Wicks’ The Burpee Bears series hasn’t been doing so great but with a World Book Day 2023 title in the works for Wicks, this could be a game changer for the chef. Other children’s authors in the top fifty are Tom Fletcher, Holly Jackson, and Karen M. McManus to name a few.
It will be interesting to see if these big names maintain their prominence in 2023 and what trends may emerge over the coming months. One thing that Neilson does show regardless, though, is that the children’s book industry is a very exciting landscape that commands some impressive figures!