What Is The Best Book Genre To Write?

Best book genre

So you are an unpublished writer and you want to get published. What is the best book genre to write if you are serious about landing a book deal? Is there even such a thing as ‘best book genre’?

The premise of this article is that the more popular the book genre, the more books that are published and the higher the chance of you landing a book deal. The evidence for this article is all based on a Harris Interactive report based on US reading habits.

Best Book Genre – Fiction or Non-Fiction?

It appears that, of the people who buy at least one book at year, 8 out of 10 buy a fiction book.

Great, fiction must be the best 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 sceptical, but let’s plough on.

Best Fiction Book Genre

This is a bit more straight forward, of the people buying at least one fiction book a year, just under half (48%) buy what is classed as Mystery, Thriller and Crime.

This is a pretty broad spectrum but gives us some indication of buying trends. 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% and Romance is worthy of a mention with 21% of the market.

Best Non-Fiction Book Genre

So for Non-Fiction, of the people buying at least one fiction book a year, the biggest selling book genre was history, perhaps no surprise, with 31% of the market. A close second was Biographies with 29% of sales. In third place 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 text books and educational books.

Conclusions

My thoughts are that this report simply doesn’t give us enough data to make a definitive decision on which is the ‘best 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. If nothing else passion for a particular book genre goes a long way. I can use myself as an example of an alternative approach. I write children’s history book, with a target audience aged 9-12, and a focus on reluctant readers. Yes, this pigeon holes me and yes it cuts down the readership, but it does allow me to work closely with my agent, whilst developing good relationships with publishers who are interested in this book genre.

Any thoughts?

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  • http://twitter.com/AnneLyle Anne Lyle

    Science fiction is actually quite a hard sell at the moment – if you want to get published, you’re much better off writing fantasy. I suspect that, lacking a “fantasy” option on that poll, readers may have ticked the SF box instead.

    Always check the source data for inadvertent bias…

  • Brian Clegg

    In my experience it is a LOT easier to get published in non-fiction than fiction. There are two reasons:

    1) You don’t need an agent. The majority of non-fiction books are sold direct to the publisher. This is one less hurdle to overcome.

    2) Big fish in small pond. If you write fiction, you are going up against every other fiction writer. Even if you write genre fiction, they are very big pools. If you write about 19th century history, say, it’s a much smaller pool. The downside of this is many pools are so small that publishers won’t be interested. But as long as you have the expertise/knowledge to write non-fiction on a subject that will get an audience, you are more likely to get the attention of a publisher.

    I admit the second reason doesn’t apply to everyone – if your only non-fiction is a memoire of life as a shopworker (say) you need something very special to get noticed. But if the second reason does apply to you on a topic with more specialized expertise but a good audience, non-fiction is definitely easier.

  • http://www.lostinthewriting.net Lori Lopez

    I’ve always held to the believe to get published, first have a good, well-though out story line, but even that isn’t enough, it’s all in the execution and editing but most important it seems is persistence. 

  • Jäääärne

    While I don’t claim to know things better than the next person, I’m still convinced that this is an entirely wrong approach. If a person’s sole reason for writing is landing a deal and getting published, from which everything else stems, then they should not bother at all. The end product won’t be good if the author is not interested in what they’re doing. And I don’t think that the publishers are that easy to trick, if the book itself is just not good enough.

  • Anonymous

    Agree… the article is intentionally provocative. However, it was written to try and force writers to consider the market in any writing project they consider.

  • http://bubblecow.net BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    I think we have said on this blog more than one that being in the correct place at the correct time is an essential part of any writers journey.

  • http://bubblecow.net BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    I agree — I would also add that many non-fiction publishers are able to ‘guess’ the potential commercial value of a book with relative ease. This means that book’s content is more important then the writer (to an extent).

    Do people agree?

  • http://bubblecow.net BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    All genres have phases.

  • Jäääärne

    Of course, the market should be considered if an author wants to be able to reach the people who’d want to read their book. However, in this case it probably should be the second step, not the first, and probably should be done a bit differently (say, the author could focus on finding the right agent/publisher for what thee have in mind instead of trying to find the genre that would sell).

  • Alex Washoe

    There’s something very cynical about asking “What genre should I write in to get published”.  In the genres I read, I don’t want to read books by someone who just chose that genre because they thought it was lucrative.  I want to read books by the writers who had an idea and a vision that they were on fire with and wrote it no matter what genre it was.  And by the same token, I don’t want to write in a genre I don’t like or respect just because it’s easy to get published there.  I don’t think fiction worth reading is written this way.

  • Alex Washoe

    There’s something very cynical about asking “What genre should I write in to get published”.  In the genres I read, I don’t want to read books by someone who just chose that genre because they thought it was lucrative.  I want to read books by the writers who had an idea and a vision that they were on fire with and wrote it no matter what genre it was.  And by the same token, I don’t want to write in a genre I don’t like or respect just because it’s easy to get published there.  I don’t think fiction worth reading is written this way.

  • Alex Washoe

    There’s something very cynical about asking “What genre should I write in to get published”.  In the genres I read, I don’t want to read books by someone who just chose that genre because they thought it was lucrative.  I want to read books by the writers who had an idea and a vision that they were on fire with and wrote it no matter what genre it was.  And by the same token, I don’t want to write in a genre I don’t like or respect just because it’s easy to get published there.  I don’t think fiction worth reading is written this way.

  • Alex Washoe

    There’s something very cynical about asking “What genre should I write in to get published”.  In the genres I read, I don’t want to read books by someone who just chose that genre because they thought it was lucrative.  I want to read books by the writers who had an idea and a vision that they were on fire with and wrote it no matter what genre it was.  And by the same token, I don’t want to write in a genre I don’t like or respect just because it’s easy to get published there.  I don’t think fiction worth reading is written this way.

  • Michela

    It would be my guess this is not often the case, in fact I wonder if there are really writers out there so cold and calculating to be able to sit down, work out what sells and write it. There might be, I certainly know none.
    I write what is known as Women’s Fiction (one of the many definition of Romantic Fiction) and it’s definitely a genre that can sell well, but also one that is overcrowded and standing out it’s a hard task. But I write the stories i want to tell, with passion, and as much as I can dream of getting a book deal and go on to have a best seller, that is not what spurs me.

  • Lucas

    Very good article!  Clear and impartial and it gave me exactly the information I was looking for. Now about my point on the topic… Yes, it’s sad that a writer has to consider these facts, but I really don’t believe one can go too far from the genres they like and continue to write something worth-reading, so in the end, I believe the point is finding the best way to “focus” what we already plan on writing, somehow, «not» completely switching genres.
    What I mean, in short, is… many people will read a whole book, but readers and publishers won’t do it without having first been caught by the “cover” (or title, first paragraphs, comments, etc). A writer should try to tell the reader “you are going to like this book”, regardless of the genre, and this is about how to achieve such thing. That’s my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/taralazar 匕คrค lคzค尺 ツ

    The best genre to write is the genre you write best. Because the books with good writing are what get bought. A writer cannot force herself to write in a genre for which she feels no passion.

  • http://bubblecow.net BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    I agree with this but some genre sell more than others. Woman’s Fiction sells a lot more books than Literary Fiction.

  • Lisa

    Um I’ve always read that 43% of all fiction sold is romance.

  • http://bubblecow.net BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    Thanks for the comment. I used this data for the post – http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/mid/1508/articleId/578/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/Default.aspx

    Do you have a link to the article where you saw the 43%? I would love to add it to the comments.

  • Ashley

    I would definitely say mystery. Many books are turned into TV episodes, especially British mysteries. They are extremely popular and people love them. Many are set in the 1920′s, 1930′s, 1940′s because these are the eras that the author’s lived in. Most people I know LOVE murder mysteries or crime fiction. I would also have to say that urban fantasy is very popular. Romance novels were once popular many years ago, but I feel women felt obliged to only read these kinds of books. I think the older generation of women like these kinds of romance books. Books from the 70′s like Harold Robbins etc were considered “naughty”, but not by today’s standards. Mysteries with multiple murders, a good plot and characters and sex thrown in always sell. I actually don’t read fiction books anymore, but prefer non fiction. If I was to write, it would be a mystery. You need to do a ton of research though, you would be surprised at how much to be authentic and true to the language of that time and the history. Romance novels are the easiest to write

  • garysmailes

    Thanks for the comment.

  • GhostWriter

    For all the people who proscribe to the “Write what you want to read” is a good outlook for personal enjoyment. However, how many of the writers who proscribe to this are actually published or successful? I’m willing to bet not many. I agree with the overall sentiment that there is plenty of “genre fiction” out there that’s just terrible enough to get published by view point of quality of pros, however it’s out there and being read because that’s what some people want. If you hope to be published, you need to consider all the angles no matter how “Distasteful” it might seem. I’m not advocating poor pros in writing, the trick would be that writing what you love, is also loved by millions of others, and so It’s important to consider your reader base’s wants if you wish to be more than an unpublished weekend novelist. Publishers, want to make money, period. They don’t care about your ground breaking story of “rags to riches”, or “Triumph of the human spirit”, unless the masses do, and in turn, makes them lots of money. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming publishers for being greedy, or misguided, for them, it’s simply business: and that’s the cold hard truth. One could potentially write the world’s most important story to mankind, and if no one wanted to read it, it would most likely remain unpublished and obscure. Unfortunately, the consumer is always right, they are however not so at the same time.

    No matter how many opinions there are regarding what makes the perfect novel, it is in large, subjective. To the publisher, the best of novels, are the ones that line their pockets. To the writer, it’s the content of their story to tell, and how it is delivered. Passion is good, an unquenchable urge to write, and stubborn perseverance is king. having the first without the latter will almost never result in being a financially successful writer. There are exceptions to some degree, but you’d be hard pressed to find any published writer that does not possess an unearthly sense of perseverance and long suffering to go with their passion.

    Again, I’m not advocating poor pros in “Genre Fiction” as so many people guess belong in that category. I’m a fan of well written books that transcend categorization as much as the next, many of the greatest works are as such, having a message that transcends the ages. I believe that is the responsibility of the writer in of it’s self, and if your readers are somewhat undistinguished, favoring “monster trucks” over “Shakespeare”, however unlikely or not, (depending on if you have the patience to understand “Middle English” or not) it is the writer’s job to ever so slightly influence the reader to favor well written pros over status quo trash that was just good enough to get published.

    In short, the questions in this article are warranted, and useful for writers in general. Also as he has stated, more information would be good. There is no good reason to not to look at these factors in consideration of writing your novel, as It may help to sell your own book, and in the vary least it will be educational. to quote the over used adage “Knowledge is power”.

  • http://bubblecow.net BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    I agree 100% with the thrust of your comment. However, I feel that we often get ‘good writing’ and ‘popular writing’ mixed up.

    Let’s take 50 Shades of Grey as an example. The novel is technically very poor indeed (not my view alone, many people have written extensively as to why it is technically poor), but is has sold millions of copies. Does that mean it is a good or bad novel? Does it matter?

    When I wrote this article I hoped to show writers that not all genres are created equal. If you write Literary Fiction you will, all being equal, sell less copies that a Thriller novel. Therefore, if you wish to make a living as a writer, you are better writing certain genres.

  • Lisa

    LOL Michaela.

  • Lisa

    Well I’ve always heard it from everyone in the industry. Even the Wikipedia article on genre fiction says it’s the biggest seller http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genre_fiction
    I’m wondering if that data is now excluding books sold as ebooks and if the romance genre has moved a vast portion of its sales to ebook. I myself write for a pioneer independant publisher with multiple romance books that have hit the NYT best seller list in ebook form before even going to print. (my publisher always puts it’s romance novels out as ebooks at least ten months before print release)

  • Lisa

    Not persistence, research.

  • Gary Smailes

    Lisa – I think what is fascinating is the blurring between paper book and ebook. I suspect you are correct in that certain genres are better read on the Kindle. I wonder if this is down to demographics? Are certain people more likely to buy a Kindle and therefore, certain genres become more popular?

    Gary

  • chocolatechinchilla1012

    Hi! I’m chocolatechinchilla1012. I’ve always had a thing for writing. My preferred genre to write in is realistic fiction, but I can write in almost everything. What’s your favorite genre? By the way, I loved your tips! They helped me so much. :) But, I still need one more from you, BubbleCow: how do I get my writing out there more? I mean, how do I let more people know, “Hey, I have a book for ya!” Thanks again for your genius tips!
    P.S. I’m 10 years old! :)

  • Andrew

    That is true.

  • Ellen Dudley

    This reflects on the quality of readers; low quality book= low quality reader. You wouldn’t catch these readers with a copy of Iliad would you.

    I write what I want to write, sci-fi – fantasy, crime and drama. My books don’t sell in the UK and I write usinh US and UK grammar. The only book selling at the moment is a tale of the holocaust. How strange.

  • garysmailes

    Hi,

    Most people self-publishing like to write their book and the put it on Amazon for people to buy. This can be a really good way to get people to read your book.

    Gary

  • garysmailes

    I think one thing that has not been discussed is the importance of sub-genres. One thing that self-publishing has allowed to happen is the proliferation of sub-genres that are too small for publishers to consider.

    The result is that you are seeing some writers writing books that many would consider fan fiction, actually selling rather well. Just take a look at Paranormal Romance and its many sub-genres. Vampire Romance is not the same as Werewolf Romance!.

  • chocolatechinchilla1012

    Thanks so much! I’ll try it. :)

  • raju sahu

    i am 100% agree with you.. what’s the point of sharing the ideas which are not coming from your heart but are coming to keep you pocket warm….its a cheat to readers

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    reply to ghost writer, i disagre, even if you spent lots of time finding out what people want, and choosing your writing path based on such, it will most likely be a terrible book, reasearch doesnt provide insight, only expeirance or emotion of love and enjoyment to a subject will yeild good results, j.k rowling came up with harry potter on a train, and she loved the world she had dreamed of so much, it grew on paper and with in herself too, because so much inspiration, love, heart blood and sweat went into her work, because she loved it enough to turn the imagination into not just a reality, but the imagianation to turn human morality almost, into an everlasting work of love, loss, magic, imagination, strengh, courage, basicly, a human soul itself, that is why it is now, the most sucsesful childerens book of all time loved by childeren, and adults alike, it has so many genres wrapped up into one, not because she thought that will work, that will sell well, but because she put her vision, her very soul onto paper, and that is why hundereds of millions love it, fantacy wasnt the best subject back then, even all the publishers she went to in the beggining turned her down, but she didnt change a thing, when a publisher gave it a try, within weeks america offered her millions of pounds for the rights to harry potter, because her work litterally dripped with soul, and magic, and heart and dreams. and now look, everyday over 25.000 people read her books for the first time, and out of that only 100 wont buy more. there the people who brought it because its so big and it will always be, its timeless, if you want to write a book, in a genre your not passionate about, to make a name, to make money, you will never get to the level that j.k.rowling has, yes you may get lucky, you may make a nice bit of cash, but no one will remember your name, not to the extent we writers all dream of, if you want to give your readers what they want, take a genre/genre’s your passionate about, where the words flow from your imagination, filling up each page without much effort, it may take years, it may take a few attempts, but when you do hit the mark, when your readers get all of this out of your work, it will be so much more worth it, not just for the name, the money, but for the love of so many others loving YOUR work, for the amazing feeling and enlightenment you will inturn get from the world loving what you have created, and what is inside of you, i would rather try and try for years, and make it big with what im passionate about, because thats what the readers will find best about your work, the passion, makes it all the more real, alluring to them, rather than doing a quick fix to be recognised, for a short time, with half desent cash and a half decent name that will be forgotten, it dosnt matter how many bad books j.k.rowling does now, she will always be loved, infamous, talked about for the rest of time, but if you publish a book, that gose well for a while, but is not a passionate theme, genre for you personally, the readers, without even knowing why, will forget, and when you do do a passionate amazing book that could one day be loved by millions, you will A. have a hard time being published in the way the book needs, and B. the readers who do remember you, or look you up before reading, will either consiously or subconsiously put up a barrier, at the end of the day, its your desision, but if you want to do well, instead of looking up ays to write a bestseller, how about studying the lives and ways of the actuall best selling authors, because i garentee 9/10 will be passionate, and full of love and soul for what they have done, and the left over 1 person out of ten, would have just gotten lucky. as a fantasy fiction writer, i truly believe that passion is key to everything, to all of our hopes and dreams, and you need to show this if you really want to do even a portion of what people like j.k.rowling has done, or stephanies myer whos writing came from an actual dream, you dont even need to look at authors, even hit tv serieses like charmed, no one thought it would to well, but it is so full of irey passion and imagaination, like an actual on set family, wll thats why they did so well. i wish all the writers out there the very best, and if you live and write with passion real to you, maybe one day you will see your name up there with these amazing writers and creators of dreams. (please excuse any spelling mistakes)

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    harry potter has sold more than any genre, including thrillers

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    i agree, people without passion, will pick poor books, passion drives us all, including the readers, that is what we should cater for, by simply writing what we love.

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    this is right, i wrote this myself above, the best books, break all the rules, with only passion driving them, now days, all the good books, have a mix f many genres.

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    saying a book is good, with a flashy cover, and first chapter that pulls you in wont do the job, they might buy your book once, but wouldnt buy sequels, or more copies, of even refer it to friends, if it doesnt catch their passion, passion is why we buy books, who could continue to read 600 pages of a author droning on because thats what they think will sell as a genre, you can allure people all you want, but if it dosent catch their hearts by the end, you will never be as loved or known or succsessfull as you want or think you are. and will only leave the reader feeling betrayed.

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    i didnt even read all of this comment, why write a book just to publish it, if most wont red it, if no one enjoys it, if i go to the liabarry or a book shop, because me college works needs say a history book, i wont go on the author, or how new it is, i litterally ask the person running the place for the book that most meets the needs of my perticular work at the time in college and ill get that, in fact, if i or any of my college mates need a book for facts or history or anything like this, we wont buy it at all, we will just go to the liaberry, publishing a book does not make anyone a writer, its the readers that make a writer, nothing more

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    i dissagre entirely!. non-fiction is fact, there are only so many facts in th world, and it has all been covered many times, with non-fiction there is no room to move, your just stuck, and having a family of publishers as relatives, i know that the value non-fiction so much lower than fiction, they say if 100 non-fiction books were written, and one fiction, with out even reading them, i they had to choose one to take a chance on and sell, they would pick fiction, because a good fiction book, will sell better then 100 non fiction books. if publishers could only choose books blind, on-fiction wouldnt come up very much at all. if there is not much room for the author to move around in, then theres not much room for the profits to move around in, etc…

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    if your passionate about it, send copies (after paitenting it) to as many big publishers as you can, if no results work down, through the other publishers, only do self publishing as a last result, or it could take years if at all to take off big, unless your in the lucky 1% of people who managed it. try looking up big publishers who publish more of what you write about

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    i have asked close friends and family who work in publishing, romans fantasy fiction sell’s at 42% in real terms, a book example they gave me, was stephanie myer twilight, books with fantacy and romance is growing alarmingly fast in the past 5 years.

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    well said! this is the best comment i have read so far, if your not passionate the readers wont be, and neither will the publishers.

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    you now, i think 100% you should write what you love, but while your doing so, if you then look at the readers likes and dislikes for what you are already passionate about then if you want you could tweek a few things, and example is, i was showing my 10 year old sister part of my work, and her comment made me change a idea i had had, i had played with the idea, of the protagonist waking at the end and it all being a dream, or that the protagonist was actually in a mental hospital all along trapped in her mind, then my sister (who loves the genres i write most) said something i wouldnt expect a 10 year old to say, let alone my sister, she said that is 100% a middle finger to the readers! lol, and now i think abaout it, back to books i enjoyed in the past with similar endings, i agreed, i was dissapointed, so i changed it not to just suit the readers, but because i know if im passionate about my work and my readers, they will be too, and although im choosing the genre that i love over something i hate just to get published, i still like to think, that i think about where my story is heading, and if as a reader myself, i would enjoy that particular story line or not, as long as we stick to our passions, and the chosen genre we love and want to write about, there is nothing wrong with having a think about what your chosen readers will like and what will dissapoint them x

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    not persistance or reasecrch even though it can help, but passion!

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    absoulutly right, if your living in the 80′s-90′s you may think sci fi is best, but fantacy is the best genre to write, i 100% agree x

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    yes, but look through history, fantacy has been consistant all the way through, starting with folktales, myths, fairytales, etc… and now is becomng all the more alluring as in this hard world, hard life, what do we all crave, escapisum, magic, adventre, that which life denies us, myths tell writers all they need to know, and is also what created folktales and fairytales.

  • KELLY (LIL.MINX)

    your writing an opinion on your feeling not fact. the fact is mystery dose not do well anymore, sure tv does well but not the books. also an above comment hit the nail on the head, it is so out dated now, to talk of, romance, mystery, scifi, fantacy etc… the nature of the world now is mixes, mixes of races, beliefs, themes, and most of all genres, most mystrys have romance, and most fantacy has all the genres in one, adventure, scifi, romance, thriller, crime etc… how ever samell it is, or how ever much of a genre is in the book, it is always now accompanied with other genres. that is what makes books so great to read now, there not as predictable anymore. the key to an amazing book, is mixed genrs and passion for writing them.