Novel Marketing

Novel Marketing

COVID-19 Kindle Stats: Genre Winners and Losers

May 11, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, I predicted how COVID-19 would change what readers are reading. It was an incredibly popular episode. It was also the first Novel Marketing episode to get a one-star review on Podchaser.

People had strong opinions about that episode. Some of my predictions have been vindicated. For the others, we’ll have to wait to see how they pan out.

To learn about the actual data and sales numbers from the last few months, I spoke with the CEO and founder of, Alex Newton. K-lytics is a leading Kindle market research resource for authors and publishers, and Alex has solid data on the Kindle market. When we want to know about the numbers, we invite Alex to give us the verifiable facts.

Alex’s specialty is Kindle data, but I also wanted to know what he had observed in traditional print and retail sales.

What has been the impact of the pandemic on print books?

Alex Newton: This whole thing started with everybody—including the production capacity of nations—being locked into their homes.

The first thing that happened was the shock and uncertainty that led to the dive in retail consumption over a period of three weeks. The last week of March was the worst week. U.S. retail consumption had dropped by 31%.

After Easter (the weeks of April 4th and April 11th) things were still down 15%-20% compared to the prior year. But in those same weeks, you could already see things starting back up.

But the fact of the matter is that with the decline happening in retail, we saw the print book sales decline according to the association numbers that were reported.

January was still 4%-5 % up versus 2019. February was already in the negative, and March was a 7% decrease from March 2019. If you look at the sheer size of the impact on overall retail, we were surprised to see only -7% in March.

I guess April is going to be even worse for print. But was the starting point for this huge dive across the board.

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: The rule of thumb with traditional publishers is that half of their sales happen on non-Amazon platforms. For every publisher, those numbers are a little different. But in industry associations, that’s the rule of thumb.

A big chunk of the non-Amazon sales are offline sales of print books, and with retail stores closed, those sales were killed. Technically speaking, you could still buy a book at Walmart or Target if your book was fortunate enough to be in their small selection of books.

Traditional and print publishers have been hammered during this time. But the question we’re all wondering about is whether people switched from reading books to watching YouTube? Or did they switch from reading print books to reading ebooks?

Did we see a corresponding boom in ebook sales to match the collapse of print book sales?

Alex: To a certain extent, we certainly did. There were two sales increases. One was for online book sales in general, which can be either print or ebooks. Large online retail market research agencies such as Ruxton Intelligence saw online book sales grow. Amazon saw that increase as well, although they deprioritized shipments of nonessential items, so people did shift to ebooks.

The most striking thing happened on Google and not directly on the Amazon platform. Within the week of March 8th – March 22nd,