Over at the “Remainders” section of the industry’s annual national convention, BookExpo America, publishers of discount books have noticed two strong trends in recent years. Fiction sales have fallen sharply, while children’s books have taken off.
Remainders are unsold copies of books that publishers turn over to companies such as Book Depot, which in turn might offer a Stephen King novel or Mitt Romney’s “No Apology” for discounts as high as 90 percent. Like everyone else in the book world, sellers of remainders have been affected by the e-revolution, a topic discussed obsessively this week at the Jacob K. Javits Center.
The three-day convention, attended by tens of thousands of booksellers, publishers, writers and librarians, ended Thursday.
Publishers in recent years have been cutting the number of adult books they print as e-sales increase, reducing the leftover copies a store might return to the publisher. New fiction releases are especially popular in digital format, with half or more the million-selling “50 Shades” trilogy and other hits sometimes selling as e-books during a given week.
Meanwhile, a strong and sometimes overwhelming majority of picture books and young adult novels are still sold on paper. And print runs can be enormous, like the 6.5 million copies just announced for Jeff Kinney’s latest “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” novel, which comes out in November.
That often leads to more volume for remainders companies, although sales also have been strong the first time around. According to the Association of American Publishers, revenue for children’s books was up by more than 70 percent in early 2012 compared to the same time last year.
At Bookworks, in Albuquerque, N.M., owner Danielle Foster recently moved the children’s section to the front of the store.
“It’s a neighborhood store and they’re a great impulse buy. Parents come in and see a title they want for their kids,” said Foster, who mentioned James Dashner’s “The Kill Order” and Lois Lowry’s “Gathering Blue” as books she anticipated selling well in the fall.
The reigning heroine of children’s literature, J.K. Rowling, has written one of the adult books most discussed at the convention: the mystery novel “The Casual Vacancy.” Others favored by booksellers included Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson and Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her.” More than 1,000 attendees filled a banquet hall to hear Neil Young and Patti Smith exchange compliments and chat up Young’s memoir, “Waging Heavy Peace.”
The 66-year-old Young wore a heavy poncho that he seemed to have retrieved from his years with Buffalo Springfield, decades ago. He also wore a poncho the night before at a reception hosted by publisher Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). Saying that finishing the memoir was actually easier than recording an album, Young disclosed that he was already working on a second book, about the cars he has owned.