Fiction Genres: what sells?

Bookshelf Genres

If we can’t tell who is going to be a bestseller anymore just by the author, can we tell what genre of book or story will be a bestseller? It’s easy to say that a good book will sell itself, but that’s simply not the case. Sometimes a certain genre will become very big very quickly and authors can capitalise by having written the right book at the right time. Sometimes an author will turn out to be their own most astute and talented marketer whereas others with original great ideas will fail. But sometimes there are patterns, and that’s what we’re looking for in the data.

What’s in a Name?

Some categories are more open to success for first-time authors than others. Some aren’t. Take books by celebrities, for instance. Unless you just helped console Robert Pattinson or Justin Bieber after a breakup or were declared Britain’s funniest woman last year, you won’t be making the list purely on the basis of your own name.

Right Genre, Right Time

A great way of selling your book would be to be ahead of the curve, as they say, with what you’re writing. Wouldn’t it be great if you were first past the post to take advantage of the new trend, let alone setting the trend? Of course most of us only know what the trend is about 2 years too late. Then it would take us at best 6 months and more likely 18 to pen a bad derivative, with another 18 months to sell it. That’s not much good to us now, is it?

2002 Vs 2012: A Decade of Change… but Patterns Rule

Broad categorisation would tell us that crime or romantic fiction are more likely to get a wide audience than historical fiction or the literary inner turmoil of washed-up university lecturers. But let’s look at what genres are selling, through crude and argument-inducing generalisations.

More to the point, what are the breakout novels? Who made it for the first time during the year? And what was their book about?

Loose categorisations are as follows:

  • General & Literary Fiction
  • Crime/Thriller
  • Romance
  • Historical
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • (PRETEND NEW FOR 2012!) Sex with a bit of Romance
  • Miscellaneous made (more) famous by Film or TV*

*(This takes liberties with genre I know. A sort of data dustbin, sweeping up lazy generalisations. But c’mon, that’s what I’m here for. You’ll thank me later. Smiley face, etc.)

A quick look at the bestseller list for 2012 yields the following: the table consisted almost entirely of 1) Sex with a bit of Romance and 2) Fantasy genres.

 2012 Bestseller Genres

In 2002, crime definitely paid: thrillers were the way to go.

   2002 Bestseller Genres

It’s interesting that only the 2 breakout novels in 2002 could not be categorised easily in anything other than the sweeping General & Literary Fiction. Maybe trend predictions can only be based on the outliers. Although things change so quickly in the world of the internet that almost as soon as a trend or meme is identified it becomes obsolete.

But book sales do follow patterns, and if that book you have gathering cyberdust on your harddrive fits in with a current trend, it’s important for you and your novel to grab the nearest surfboard and ride that wave now.

  2 comments for “Fiction Genres: what sells?

  1. carolannwrites
    July 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Grabbing my surfboard… 🙂


  2. Joan Brady
    July 15, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    So like if I put a bit of sex into my bit of romance I could be surfing that wave……hmmmm


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