Book Sales in Australia & Australian Publishing Industry 2023 Statistics

Book Sales in Australia & Australian Publishing Industry 2023 Statistics

November 24, 2023

Do you ever ask:

  • How many books will I sell?
  • What makes a bestseller in Australia?
  • Can I make money from writing fiction or non-fiction?
  • What’s are the hot book categories right now?
  • What are readers gravitating to and buying?
  • What authors are doing well?
  • Which publisher should I send my manuscript to? Or should I self-publish?

We authors and publishers have so many questions and it’s why I absolutely love Nielsen BookScan’s annual presentation at the Small Press Network Conference. Claire West and Olivia Johansson of Nielsen BookScan are book data magicians who fill in so many knowledge gaps.

Here are some of my top takeaways from the Nielsen BookData Update: State of the Market for 2023 as measured by Nielsen BookScan Australia.

Note from me: This data does not include direct sales from indie authors, only books sold via real world stores, or bought from online bookstores with an ISBN number and sent to an Australian address.  

Overall Market

A downturn of -0.3% downturn in book sales in Australia (YTD Oct 2023) is not such bad news believes Claire West of Nielsen BookScan, speaking at the 2022 Small Press Network’s (SPN) Independent Publishing Conference. That’s because the previous year, 2022, was a significant record-breaker for book sales in Australia. And, when compared to pre-pandemic sales in 2019, 2023 is still significantly higher with very healthy 16% growth.

FYI: There was 2% growth in adult fiction between 2022 and 2023 meaning an extra six million dollars for that category.

Number of books sold YTD in Australia (1 Jan 2023 – 7 Oct 2023) (NielsenBookData)

  • 47 million books sold in Australia
  • $903 million in value
  • Average sale price of $19.17
  • Average of 29% discount off RRP

Note from me: seeing the discount average is really interesting to me (it also is terrible for authors as royalties are based on the sale price so that is a 29% drop in potential author earnings). The discount relates in some ways to how the industry works, but also to…

Books and the Economy (Nielsen BookData)

  • Inflation is affecting spending, for example, a basket of goods in 2021 that cost $100, in 2023 now costs $118.
  • BookScan has noticed a shift to book sales in discount department stores. In 2022, 31% of print books were purchased at stores such as Big W, Kmart etc but YTD 2023 it has risen to 33%. In order of volume, the book sales going through the discount department stores are mostly childrens’ titles, followed by fiction, followed by non-fiction.
  • Black Friday promotions have a big effect on book sales, with 440,000 more books (approx 32% more) being sold during the week of Black Friday than in the average week of the previous 4 weeks! (Claire also noted that consumers were tending to shop earlier for Christmas and stock up when goods were on sale.)

Note from me: It’s interesting to look at volume sales of the top 10 books in Australia to get a handle on the fact that most authors will not be able to earn a decent living from writing. And for indie authors, no, it’s probably not a good idea to do a first print run of 1,000+. More sensible perhaps to test the market with a box of books via print on demand (POD) or a print run of 500 and then reprint as needed. You can find out more about self-publishing strategy via the comprehensive Look-It’s Your Book!

Top 10 Books in Australia & How Many PRINT Copies Sold in Australia YTD 1 Jan to Oct 7, 2023 (Nielsen BookData)

  • Recipe Tin Eats: Dinner (Nagi Maehashi) 177,395 copies sold
  • Spare (Prince Harry) 139, 158 copies sold
  • Atomic Habits (James Clear) 108,621 copies sold
  • The Bookbinder of Jericho (Pip Williams)  106,605 copies sold
  • It Starts with Us (Colleen Hoover)  99,579 copies sold
  • It Ends with Us (Colleen Hoover)  97,295 copies sold
  • Fourth Wing (Rebecca Yarros)  92,001 copies sold
  • Icebreaker (Hannah Grace)  80,955 copies sold
  • Lessons in Chemistry (Bonnie Garmus)  78,840 copies sold
  • Homecoming (Kate Morton) 77,677 copies sold

What Book Categories Grew the Most in Value between 2022 and 2023? (Nielsen BookData)

  • Atlases, Maps & Travel (+29% but still only 1% of the market)
  • Genre Fiction (+10% and 17% of the market)
  • Humour, Trivia & Puzzles (+7% and 1% of the market)
  • Sport (+7% and 1% of the market)
  • Food & Drink (+3% and 4% of the market)

Top 10 Australian Book Sales from Small Independent Australian Publishers

Nielsen defines these publishers as having an annual turnover under $10m, not owned by any other larger publisher (however may be distributed by them) and Australian owned. The following list is related to the VALUE of the books sold, not the volume. ie: some books sell at higher prices.

  • Did I Ever Tell You This? (Sam Neill) Text Publishing
  • The Best Ever Air Fryer Cookbook – Herron Books
  • Bulldozed (Niki Savva) Scribe
  • Limberlost (Robbie Arnott) Text Publishing
  • The Best Ever Keto Cookbook – Herron Books
  • Cold Enough for Snow (Jessica Au) Giramondo
  • The Ulysses Contract (Michael Kemp) Major St Publishing
  • Self-Care Journal (Herron)
  • Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe) Magabala Books
  • Alexander McQueen – NGV

Note from me: The Nielsen team also discussed the importance of metadata as being a vital component of book marketing. I totally agree on this (you can read more on metadata in Look-It’s Your Book!). Ensuring your book’s metadata is clear, consistent and up to date in Nielsen Title Editor, IngramSpark etc is crucial for book sales into stores and libraries. 

I hope that gives you some insight into how many books are being sold in Australia, and the type of books being sold in 2023. It’s important information to know if you’re preparing a book proposal for a publisher, or researching the viability of your planned book idea. You can sign up for Nielsen BookScan Australia service to find out weekly sales of all titles and to add to your knowledge of comp titles (competing and complimentary titles to your planned book), but for many authors and indie authors, it may not be financially viable to do so. 

Happy writing and publishing from me.