Book industry seeing boom in sales amid COVID-19 pandemic

BySandy Kenyon WABC logo
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Book industry seeing boom in sales amid COVID pandemic
Sandy Kenyon reports the book industry has seen a boom since the start of the pandemic.

NEW YORK -- The coronavirus pandemic hasn't hurt the sale of books.

In fact, "Publishers Weekly" reported in October that sales of books for the first three quarters of this year were up by more than 6% compared to 2019. A run of summer bestsellers, demand for parents for more children's books and a surge in interest in books about social justice are just some of the reasons for the surge.

I am married to an author: novelist Eileen Goudge, and when I learned what her agent told her about how the pandemic has increased book sales, I decided to call her representative Paula Munier and find out more.

"In times of trouble, nothing is more comforting than a good book," Munier told me via zoom from her suburban home.

She is a former publishing executive who is also an author herself, and she has been busy.

"People have rediscovered their love of reading," Munier said. "A lot of people who haven't read for years are reading again now."

When Munier calls pitching her clients' manuscripts, publishers have been receptive. She has found certain titles do especially well during the pandemic.

"It's been great for brand name authors," Munier said. "It's been great for anything that makes us feel good, right? Women's fiction, romance."

Escapism sells.

"For all the people who are missing a big part of their lives like travel and sports, they're looking for books about those things," she said. "And, then there are readers who seem to feel what makes them feel better is: it could be worse, so horror for example, is trending up because it could be worse. There could be zombies or aliens or homicidal dogs."

You won't find any of them around Munier's tidy office, but there's no question the pandemic has been good for the book business. However, not all titles appeal equally in troubled times.

Munier represents a lot of crime writers and she is finding it difficult to sell stories that are police procedurals, gritty cop stories right now.

"I think that's simple a function of the world we live in," she said.

Stories about cops may be a tough sell, but publishers are eager for titles about social justice.

"Stories by diverse authors representing different points of view from different backgrounds," Munier said.

Munier has a long history representing and advocating for diverse authors, and she finds publishers are more willing to listen to her pitches for different voices. She told me the industry is more "open-minded" today.