Which Book Genres Sell The Best?

Book Genres

Let’s get this out of the way right now – none of us really write for money. It’s easy to recognize a book that was written just to earn the author some money. It’s usually called something irresistible and ideal, such as How To Write A Book In 10 Minutes And Get Rich Within A Day. I exaggerate, of course. But I will bet you there were at least three books on that basis that you’ve had in recommendation the last time you visited Amazon. There, check it out.

It doesn’t work that way in the real world. It’s something that gets written and swamps our screen for a couple of days and then is forgotten. To be honest, there are books that deal with writing process in depth that are meant to help. Even I’m working on an outline. But those books won’t ever tell you you’ll be famous and rich as soon as you read them.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that people are writing and trying. But there’s just too much sensationalism on the covers and it’s inescapable. Those are the kind of books I can tolerate as gifts when I subscribe to a site – but I know there is no formula for a perfect book. There’s just a set of principles, and all we, bloggers, do is explain the principles from our perspective and we give a bit of flavor to the approaches that are universally recommended.

But there must be some pattern in writing and earning money!, I hear you say.

First off, I’m a huge believer in self-publishing. I like the control and freedom authors have in the process and I like keeping an eye on things. I recommend everyone who writes in a language eligible for KDP – a problem for me since I write fiction in Serbian, so my sweetheart is translating, then I edit, then I edit again the finished manuscript – see how much I go through? But I love it!

What sells?!

Okay, I’m getting to it. I’ve researched the market and I wasn’t surprised. Nothing has changed in the last decade. So, here are:

5 Genres That Sell The Most

I’ve made a few calculations based on the reports I could find and I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 genres that make the most revenue.

5. Horror

This genre is worth just under $80 million. And trust me, that’s not a big number compared to the rest. But, genre’s lead by Stephen King whose profit is estimated to be at $400 million.

If you’d consider yourself to have a wild and a bit twisted imagination, you won’t regret writing a horror. But, exactly because this genre is popular, the readers have a certain standard and they do have expectations. So, read horror and see what you can do differently, see new ways to scare people. Some are scared by what they don’t know while others fear the reality – pick one and stick with it!

4. Sci-Fi and fantasy

fantasy-castle-1216237-1920x1440.jpgI hope you’re sitting down. This genre is worth just over $590 million. Good old J.K., Tolkien, Suzanne Collins and George R.R. Martin are the first names that come to my mind when I think of fantasy. Of course, fantasy and sci-fi genre a great place for imaginative authors to write but it’s not easy.

Nevertheless, this genre is wildly popular since it can be made into films and TV series, so the money keeps coming. It’s very dear to children and teenagers but I don’t mind reading exciting fantasy neither. In fact, I love reading it and hope even to write it when I feel I’m ready.

3. Religious and inspirational

Surprised? So was I, but we shouldn’t be. With horror you scare people, with fantasy you detach them from the reality for a minute, but this genre helps them face that reality with confidence. No wonder it is worth $720 million.

If you’re not particularly religious and prefer writing fiction, then best avoid any attempts at writing in this genre. But people do need a boost from time to time, so self-help books are popular enough to make sure you get some cash. Still, I wouldn’t recommend writing to earn some quick money. It helps your wallet but it could potentially ruin your reputation.

A very important fact is that every hotel buys The Bible so that helps boost this genre a bit. It’s the most printed book and the first printed by Gutenberg, so it does have its audience. Many, dare I say it, spin-offs were quite popular as well.

2. Crime and mystery

Just a bit above the religious books, this genre is worth a bit over $728 million. It’s a predictable spot but you know how it is – people love getting confused and reading to find out if they were right. If you’re particularly good at this genre you’ll have no problems here.

People love clever twists and surprises and so do I. It’s a perfectly natural sensation. As a reader, it might be my ego, but if you outsmart me I’ll love you to death! And I’m not trying to say that I’m the cleverest person in the world, just that I like guessing the answers and searching for clues. So, a good story, fine writing and a clever twist is what sells your book.

Of course, it has to be mentioned. These are a sort of books I’d read on a beach, once, and I probably wouldn’t re-read them. But if you’re really good at it, it will be noticed and your readers will be the next one as well.

1. Erotica and romance

Surprise, surprise. Who’d have known that sex sells? After all, Orwell’s 1984 showed how we can be distracted from anything by some steamy erotica. This genre is estimated to be worth a staggering 1.4 billion!

Free us, oh Lord, of our philosophical minds for a minute so we can enjoy in erotica! There is no need for some deep thoughts and examinations of life’s worth when writing in this genre. But don’t overdo the sex thing, it gets boring after a while. If you have some ideas that would tickle your readers’ minds, by all mean do it – write erotica. It indeed is a great way to relax a bit and shut down the other senses. This genre has a large market and the quality of works can be debated, but I’m not going to. I like writers, I like readers, I like books.

So, there you have it. The top 5 genres that bring money. Of course, drama is nowhere near this list because life gets rough and it isn’t easy reading about it. That’s why we read it in high school, before it gets as rough for us – just to get to know the genre.

I must repeat, once again, don’t pick a genre because of its worth. Pick a genre because of your worth, the intellectual worth. If you like writing drama and tragedy, there is an audience for it. Don’t sit down and write to become famous and rich. The readers are clever – they will sense that you wrote something just to become popular and earn money. Write when you have something to say, write when you feel like you have a good story!

Author: Mladen Reljanović

Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.

16 thoughts on “Which Book Genres Sell The Best?

  1. I find fantasy, science fiction and horror are my favorites to work in. Allows you to be more imaginative, in my opinion. Difficulty with fantasy and science fiction is trying to be more original but also making a fleshed out world with consistent rules. Good to know it’s on the list regardless.

    1. Exactly, those are popular genres and I love reading the as well. Alas, I still can’t start writing in those genres. A lot of work on my skills is needed.

    2. Coming up with rules of a world as well as things like names and the like is actually a lot of fun. Never thought I’d be able to write a whole other language, but once you figure out a syntax and and sentence structure, it’s as easy as plugging in the words.

    3. I agree. I’ve always loved playing around with rules, names, words, history et cetera, but I never seem to go all the way with it. I have some dusty projects I’ve been developing that await some better days 😀

  2. I must admit, over the years I was hoping I would be some sort of intellectual author of sorts, but I believe writing chooses the author. As it turns out, I am a romance author. Not paperback erotica or anything. Just romance. At first I was afraid to admit it was my niche, because it is so frowned upon, but I am coming around to loving myself for it. It’s who I am. Everywhere I go, all I see are romance stories to be written.

    I think one of the biggest ways to make money as a writer is to find your genre. People can tell when the writing is forced vs when it comes from you and is a part of you.

    1. I absolutely agree and I think you should never be ashamed or afraid to admit it. I’ve always liked romance, I’m a romantic myself but couldn’t write good romance. The only thing I dislike in a way is actually the flat out porn (if you’ll excuse) in books (such as the ever-popular late saga on that subject).

  3. Devoted readers of the Bible (like me) might feel you minimized it in this post. But…I don’t feel like I need to defend the biggest, longest lasting bestseller that has been outlawed, smuggled in and bled for. Other than this…your blog is super helpful & practical. Respectfully, Lisa

    1. I understand your point completely but I was aiming for the whole genre with mentioning the Bible as the most printed book ever, but in the genre are, as it happens, included all religious texts from around the world.
      Thank you for a kind comment, I’m glad you find my writing helpful 🙂

  4. It’s strange but this kind of post really can motivate us, knowing what people like and what sells isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we don’t write mystery only because it sells; but knowing the fact it sells very well we are inspired to write it more than we were. Know the feeling? 😀

  5. I like what you say about crime and mystery though I think your comment about ‘if you’ll outsmart me, I’ll love you to death’ applies to all genres esp the more popular writers like Jilly Cooper recently reviewed in the LRB 🙂

  6. As someone who has written more than 20 bestselling romance novels, I have to comment. Yes, sex sell. However, I think part of why romance is the biggest piece of that pie is because “romance” is a HUGE blanket word. In romance you have so many genres: contemporary, historical (which can even be split into several–Victorian and Regency, but two name just two hot historical categories), western, young adult, new adult (yes, there’s a difference), romantic comedy, love inspired, Amish, etc, etc. There’s actually a good number of genres that make up romance. Of those, in the past 10 years, I’ve seen the several shifts in which sub-genre sells best. It all ebbs and flows.

    If you’re a writer, write what you love. Write what calls to you. Don’t be afraid to own it–even if it’s romance. There are readers in every niche and usually they like more than one niche, so you’re not limited. The pie is big enough for everyone to have a slice. 🙂

    (By the way, for most of those sub-categories of romance I mentioned, there is an erotica section, too. Not sure about love inspired or Amish, but definitely all of the others have erotica.)

    1. This is a good comment. Well done on bestsellers by the way. But you can split any genre to what suits the readers. Fantasy can be split in so many subgenres.
      The point is, concerning romance, the number listed above is a collective of all the subgenres where erotica earns the most (according to some of my sources). Now, it wasn’t me who calculated this so I won’t push it too much.
      Nice job on actually shedding light on the important thing – there are readers for any subgenre 🙂

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