What are the most popular book genres to write if you are serious about landing a book deal?

Is there even such a thing as 'bestselling book genre'?

Do you have to write books with popular genres to be successful?

The premise of this article is that the more popular the genre of the book, the more books that are published and the higher the chance of you landing a book deal.

Some evidence for this article is based on this Harris Interactive report where 2183 adults were surveyed on US reading habits. 

Most popular book genre?

The survey stated that, of the people who buy at least one book a year, 8 out of 10 buy a fiction book.

Great, fiction must be the most popular book genre… but wait.

It is also the case that out of the same group of people, 8 out of 10 will also buy a non-fiction book.

OK, good news I suppose, suggesting that fiction and non-fiction are equally popular in the fight for best book genre. I am a bit skeptical, but let’s plow on. 

What's the most popular fiction book genre?

This is a bit more straightforward. The most popular fiction book genre is mystery, thriller, crime at just under half (48%).

This is a pretty broad spectrum but gives us some indication of the most popular book genre.

Yet, I suspect this will be no surprise.

The figure did leave me wondering if mega-writers such as Dan Brown altered buying habits.

For example, how many people bought Dan Brown because he is a best seller, but not because they are a fan of his book genre? The same goes for J.K. Rowling, I bet a lot of readers buy Harry Potter but no other fantasy.

The second most popular book genre was science fiction with 26% of readers buying sci-fi books.

Literature was close on its heels with 24%.

The Romance book genre is worthy of a mention with 21% of the market.


What's the most popular non-fiction book genre?

So for non-fiction, of the people buying at least one fiction book a year, the most popular book genre was history, perhaps no surprise, with 31% of the market.

A close second was biographies with 29% of sales.

In third place the most popular book genre was religious and spirituality with 26%, though I suspect this percentage will be smaller outside the US.

The remainder of the marketplace was split between self-help, current affairs, true crime, business and ‘other non-fiction'.

For me, the surprises in non-fiction were the fact that self-help made up just 16% of sales and business a measly 10%.

My instinct prior to reading this survey was that these would both sell more. The survey also seems to not include textbooks and educational books.

Best Selling Genre of Books 2020

When debating the best selling genre of books, Amazon is a good place to start. Check out this graph of their recent growth, some of this is down to their share in book sales.

(Source)

Amazon's 100 best sellers of 2020 so far, shows the variety of genres popular within the public. Some non-fiction books. Some children books. Some fiction books. Amazon pretty much run the show in book sales online, so it is an excellent indicator for the best selling genre of books at the moment.

Top Ten Amazon Best Selling Book Genres 2020:
  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Crime)
  2. My First Learn to Write Workbook by Crystal Radke (Children)
  3. The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (Young Adult)
  4. Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Spiritual)
  5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Spiritual)
  6. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (Spiritual)
  7. School Zone: Big PreSchool Workbook by Joan Hoffman (Children)
  8. If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul (Children)
  9. American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club) by Jeanine Cummins (Thriller)
  10. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Non-Fiction)

Conclusions

My thoughts are that this report simply doesn’t give us enough data to make a definitive decision on which is the 'most popular book genre'.

Clearly for fiction, writing ‘mystery, thriller, and crime’ will give you a bigger fan base and more potential book deals. The same is true for history in non-fiction.

Yet, this is a dangerous approach.

So many factors go into securing a book deal that simply picking a book genre because it has the biggest market is a little bit silly. Your route to publication also matters, be that self-publishing or traditional publishings. They are both different animals with different rules. 

With many options to choose from, the internet has allowed sub-genres to flourish. Don't feel constrained to the most popular book genres. If nothing else passion for a particular book genre goes a long way.