U.S. Harry Potter print sales down in June 2020, according to recent figures
Amid an industry-wide sales boom in the U.S., sales of print books by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling lagged, according to recent figures.
Variety reported on numbers from NPD BookScan, which saw fiction print book sales increase 31.4% in June across children’s, young adult and adult fiction. Sales of print books by Rowling, however, saw a rise of just 10.9%, with sales of Harry Potter print books rising just 7.7%.
They point out that this lag in June is not consistent with Rowling’s print sales for the rest of the year, up 26.5% compared to the first half of 2019. As the industry as a whole experiences a surge of print sales, Rowling’s works, and sales of Harry Potter books (including licensed titles), have seen a sudden drop.
This reported U.S. print book sales drop in June coincides with controversy around tweets and statements made by Rowling via Twitter from June 6 onward. Speaking on the topics of sex, gender identity and transgender women, Rowling posted various threads to Twitter, as well as a statement on her own website explaining her point of view, with the caption “TERF wars”. Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts stars (including franchise leaders Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Eddie Redmayne), as well as long-standing members of the Harry Potter fandom, spoke out on the author’s statements. Various developments continue to take place, the latest being an open latter on Harper’s, published July 7th, signed by Rowling, condemning “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity”.
No comment has been made by Rowling’s U.S. book publishers. It is worth noting that NPD BookScan figures do not account for eBook, audiobook sales, or sales to libraries and direct publisher sales. Harry Potter at Home, a free initiative by Wizarding World Digital in collaboration with Pottermore Publishing, Bloomsbury, Scholastic, Overdrive and Audible, have seen eBooks and audiobooks being pushed in particular since April, with the first book being offered free in eBook and audiobook formats in an effort to provide material to those at home during Covid-19 lockdown measures.
The recent free celebrity chapter readings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone released on WizardingWorld.com as part of the Harry Potter at Home initiative, took a brief hiatus in June (following Rowling’s controversy on Twitter).
Kristen McLean, analyst and executive director of business development at The NPD Group, declined to speculate on this decrease in sales, citing a lack of consumer research, but explained:
“Looking at [Rowling’s] performance against the rest of the market, especially as benchmarked against her performance in 2019 — which was very consistent with the rest of the market — I think she’s down.
“She’s certainly underperforming the rest of the market, comparatively, by two thirds.”