What Is The Most Popular Genre of Books [For Writers]?

Written by Gary Smailes

book genre

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 '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. 

Is the most popular book genres fiction or non-fiction?

It appears 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 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 skeptical, but let’s plow on. 

What's the most popular fiction book genre

This is a bit more straightforward... 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%.

Romance 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 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 textbooks and educational books.


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. Your route to publication also matters, be that self-publishing or traditional publishings. They are both different animals with different rules. 

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 books, 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.

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