Category Archives: Lists

Most Popular Book Categories & Genres

It’s hard to find conclusive information on this topic, but this is what I’ve found in my research.

Going by physical shelf space in chain bookstores, which I guess is largely Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, these are the most popular categories:

General Fiction (includes mystery, suspense, and thrillers)
Non-Fiction/Religion/Inspirational
Romance (including historical romance)
Historical
Children’s (chapter books to middle grade)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Young Adult
Biographies
Travel
Foreign Language
Graphic Novels
Horror

According to TheRichest.com, the following genres make the most amount of money:

Romance/Erotica
Crime/Mystery/Thriller
Religious/Inspirational
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Horror

According to Amazon, and here is where things get more interesting, sales breakdown in the following way:

Traditional Published
Literary Fiction
Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense
Children’s (including YA)
Nonfiction
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Romance

Indie Published
Romance
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Non-Fiction
Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense
Children’s (including YA)
Literary Fiction

More Kindle-specific analytics point to the following categories as being in the top ten, going by sales per day on Amazon according to k-lytics.com:

Romance
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Young Adult
Religious/Spirituality
Children’s
Self-Help
Biographies/Memoirs
Health/Fitness/Dieting
Business/Money
History

According to BookBub’s subscriber list (a popular freebie and discounted ebook marketer) via Quora.com, the following genres have a subscriber count of over 100k people, with romance toping 270k and Mystery/Thriller topping 360k:

Mystery/Thriller
Romance
Historical Fiction
Biographies/Memoirs
Literary Fiction
Fantasy
Religious/Inspiration
Women’s Fiction
Cooking
Science Fiction
Young Adult
Action/Adventure
Horror

What I guess we can gather from all this, is that if you write in the following fiction genres, you have the highest potential for success if you’re striking out on your own: 

Romance
Fantasy
Young Adult
Science Fiction
Historical
Children’s (largely middle grade)
Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers

A Look At Subgenres

Fantasy and Science Fiction are so often lumped together, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Fantasy is the more popular of the two, taking a cue from BookBub and merging that data with information I found on other sites that also broke them apart. Since fantasy includes high concept fantasy like Game of Thrones, urban fantasy, dark fantasy (which includes supernatural horror), and paranormal, this sparked me to delve into how this and other genres break down by popularity and sales. With the help of some opinions, sales figures from 2014, 2015, and 2016, and resources that I found around the web, I was able to find enough evidence to break the subgenres down in the following ways:

On Fantasy:

Historical
Urban Fantasy & Paranormal
Alternative History
Epic Fantasy
Contemporary
Traditional
Sword & Sorcery
Dark Fantasy & Horror
Superhero

On Romance:

Contemporary
Historical
Romantic Suspense
Regency
Erotica
Paranormal
New Adult
Young Adult
Western
Gothic
Christian

On Science Fiction:

Time Travel
Post-Apocalyptic & Dystopian
Space Opera
Hard Science Fiction
Alternative History
Steampunk
Military
Alien
Cyberpunk
Romantic Sci-Fi
Soft Science Fiction

On Mystery:

General
Noir/Hard-Boiled
Police/Detective
Cozy
Hobby
Historical
Paranormal

On Thriller:

Crime
Historical
Military
Psychological
Conspiracies
Environmental/Science
Supernatural
Legal
Espionage
Medical
Political
Technothriller
Terrorism

On Historical:

Women’s Historical Fiction
Fictional Biographies
European
African
Mysteries, Thrillers, & Suspense
Romance
Regency
Family Saga
Nautical & Pirate
Alternative History
Fantasy
Multi-period Saga
Western
Christian

I don’t pretend to know what all of these are. I did look up environmental thriller, and the best I could come up with are things like Jaws, The Revenant, Deep Blue Sea, Twister, The Day After Tomorrow. Things that have to do with man versus nature.

It’s impossible to get things in the exact order of popularity, as it varies, but this should offer some direction on the most popular breakdowns in each category and genre. I didn’t break down YA and MG, as pretty much nothing I looked at broke these categories down by genre, but I did find enough information to point to YA trending similarly to adult books, with romance and fantasy being on the top, and MG trending towards fantasy being on the top.

It’s also going to vary via route. The traditional route and what’s popular looks a little different than the indie and self-published route, but thrillers, romance, fantasy and science fiction, and historical are still at the top of both lists, minus literary fiction, which appears to be big in traditional publishing only. The children’s markets are also gaining a lot of ground in indie publishing.

Anyway, I thought this was fascinating and wanted to share my findings. ^_^

Also fascinating is this chart from AuthorEarnings.com (updated February 2017):