The Deal for Frankfurt: Fiction Surges On Romance Boom
With the Frankfurt Book Fair about a week away, it's time for our regular look at dealmaking patterns and trends in advance of the show. As usual, we try hard to let the data tell the meaningful stories.
If you had asked for our impressionistic view based on the recent deal report flow and community chatter, we would have said that the flow of newsmaking nonfiction deals has seemed higher and that fiction--at least for unexpected new properties--has seemed light, with few new properties driving a lot of talk and intense rights sales.
But the actual data tells a somewhat different story. (As a reminder, our data is our own US deal reports at Publishers Marketplace. They capture only a portion of the market, and a smaller portion of pricing data--but the reporting population and patterns have been pretty stable, we always analyze over time looking for general changes, and the data pool is certainly substantial. We use the month of September, to normalize over time for exactly when FBF and Labor Day fall. There is always substantial additional activity between the beginning of October and the beginning of FBF.)
What we see in the September data is:
- A busy marketplace that is a little softer than last year's peak (about 5 percent fewer deals overall, but the second-busiest year of the past 6)
- A surge in fiction, driven by romance & women's fiction (which doubled). September fiction was up 25 percent from last year, the highest total ever for this month. Similarly, domestic fiction sales are up 23 percent for the year-to-date
September 2012 US Fiction Sales, By Genre
- Overall nonfiction sales were back to their 2009 levels after two years of increases. That's consistent with the pattern for the first nine months of 2012, in which nonfiction is the only declining section, with 3.5 percent fewer deal reports.
- Children's sales dropped considerably, back closer to their historical pre-Frankfurt levels after a big surge last year. And reported six-figure children's sales were down significantly. For the year so far, children's deal reports are up 16 percent--but six-figure sales are down by 40 percent
As far as reported sizable advances, six-figure fiction deals have also bounced back--driven by that surge in romance. Five of the major deals were women's fiction (none were last year), in multi-books deals, as were three of the significant deals. So far we have logged only two six-figure debuts, which drives a lot of the talk and impressions. (This time last year it was M.L. Stedman's now-NYT bestseller THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS and Rachel Joyce's THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY leading the bid-for debuts).
September 2012 Six-Figure US Fiction Sales
There is still about a week of Frankfurt dealmaking to come, and we don't want to get locked into assumptions about what that will bring, particularly after recording 36 US transactions just since yesterday. But the historical data from the past four years for the first week of October is quite consistent with the September data samples shown above.