Port Washington, NY, February 24, 2023 – According to research from The NPD Group Prince Harry’s memoir “Spare” is in good company as one of the top ten bestselling U.S. print biographies and autobiographies since 2004, and in the top three for best-selling week one sales in print. The highly anticipated release sold 629,300 units in its first week; only Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” and Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” outsold “Spare” in week one, with unit sales of 831,300 and 645,900 respectively.
While “Spare” was unable to claim the top spot, the release has focused a spotlight on the biography category, which is the second-largest adult non-fiction print category by volume, behind religion. In 2022, biography print sales value declined by 3%, with a decline in units of 6%, but “Spare” has helped the category return to growth in 2023. Year-to-date sales in the biography and autobiography category are up 59% on a print sales value basis, and 33% on a print unit basis in January compared to the same period in 2022.
Print Biographies With Highest First Four-Week Sales
Despite the overall declines in 2022, there were pockets of growth led by front list releases in the personal memoir and entertainment categories from authors including Michelle Obama, Jennette McCurdy, Matthew Perry, and Viola Davis.
While sales for print biographies declined in 2022, they were an area of growth in the audiobook market. Audiobook biography sales increased 37% year-over-year, outperforming the rest of the adult non-fiction digital audiobook market, which declined 1% in the same time period. Titles with the highest growth were all narrated by the authors, as readers gravitated toward the elevated reading experience provided by these high-profile voices. While audio growth for this category has been significant, the numbers don’t completely offset the declines seen in the print market; however, some of the decline seen in print are the result of reading behavior shifting to audio.
“The biography and autobiography category is incredibly important to the U.S. publishing market, because of the high cultural profile of many of these authors, and the high advance rates that go with them. A successful book in this category can make a publisher’s year, but at the same time these books carry some risk in a tough economy because of their high price-points.” said NPD Books analyst Kristen McLean. “We’ll be tracking this category closely in 2023, because it has important implications for the industry’s bottom line.”