The problem with trying to follow trends in book publishing is that by the time industry insiders recognize a trend, it’s often on a downhill slide. However, two trends that seem likely to stick around for the foreseeable future are political books and graphic novels. What has spurred the popularity of these genres, and how can book publishers capitalize on them before they fade?
No matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, there’s no denying that the Trump era has been good for book publishers. Little apathy exists in today’s political climate: People are fired up on all sides, as evidenced by the success of political tell-all titles such as Michael Wolff’s administration-bashing Fire and Fury and Jeanine Pirro’s Liars, Leakers, and Liberals, which takes the opposite slant.
According to a recent Variety article, global information company NPD Group reports that sales of political books are up 25% in 2018. At a time when book sales are largely flat and adult fiction is declining, political titles have risen in popularity. Controversy sells, and there has been no shortage since the 2016 elections, leading to increased demand for books about activism and political engagement.
In addition, Forbes magazine reported in April 2018 that The New York Times’ hardcover nonfiction best-seller list has seen a “Trump-related book at the No. 1 position every week since the middle of January 2018.” Washington Post investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House had the highest first-week sales of any book in publisher Simon & Schuster’s history, with more than 1.1 million copies sold.
With the 2020 elections already heating up, the success of political titles won’t likely be slowing any time soon. But publishers aren’t waiting around to see who wins to capitalize on the political bandwagon.
Although comic strips and comic books have been around for well over a century, the novel-in-comic-strip format has been around for only a couple of decades. However, this format’s popularity has propelled graphic novels into one of the hottest categories in book publishing. The ability to tell a complete story through small bits of easily digestible content combined with graphic representation caters to today’s on-the-run, visually oriented readers.
Graphic novels typically target specific readers at all age levels, which results in a huge diversity of subject matter that is very sensitive to trends, pop culture, and current events. In addition, in the current political environment it’s not surprising that graphic novels are more popular than ever — and their popularity is increasing quickly. Graphic novelists are not afraid of controversy and often use humor and satire to examine and even mock current social and political issues.
Another reason for graphic novels’ popularity is their diversity. They often include characters of color, LGBTQ characters, and people with disabilities. This diversity of content and characters is reflected in Publishers Weekly’s Fall list of top graphic novels. For example:
- Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation — This fully authorized adaptation helps younger readers understand this ever-relevant and important story.
- Flocks — This memoir is about a transgender man growing up in a conservative Christian community in rural Louisiana.
- #Sad! Doonesbury in the Time of Trump — The renowned cartoonist uses his droll humor to tackle the president’s first 500 days in office.
The success of political books and graphic novels in today’s market is a good lesson for publishers. The industry is constantly changing, and publishers need to be forward-thinking and agile in their publishing strategy. It’s important to keep abreast of trends, current events, pop culture, and social and political hot topics. Don’t be afraid of tackling difficult or controversial topics or embracing diversity in all its many forms.
You may be tired of the current political divisiveness in our country, but the book market certainly isn’t. Politics and other controversial topics are driving book sales — and if you’re not pursuing these categories, you’re missing out on a huge market and opportunity.
From print to eBooks and eCommerce, Sheridan has your book publishing needs covered. Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation.