U.S. Book Market

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U.S. Book Market

Market research firm The NPD Group, publishing industry analyst Author Earnings, and the American Association of Publishers (AAP) are the experts tracking the book publishing industry in the United States. Reputable media outlets with access to the paywalled reports and databases of these experts offer data suggesting that the book genres that are on track to grow the most in succeeding years are the science fiction and fantasy, adult non-fiction, children's and young adult fiction, self-help, home, wellness, cooking, political, and dystopian fiction genres. Although, in general, self-published books are on the rise and e-books are on the decline, there are certain e-book genres that are experiencing growth.

FAST-GROWING GENRES

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
  • Historical sales of books in the science fiction and fantasy (SF&F) genre suggest that this genre is likely to grow significantly in the next five years. Author Earnings reports that since 2010, sales of science fiction and fantasy books have doubled.
  • Opportunistic authors who would like to try their hand at science fiction and fantasy are advised to look at urban or paranormal fantasy. According to Author Earnings, this was the science fiction and fantasy e-book sub-genre that sold the highest number of units during the period May 2017-April 2018. Sales of this e-book sub-genre were nearly twice the sales of the epic fantasy, the next best-selling science fiction and fantasy e-book sub-genre.
  • This growth is caused by an increasing number of non-traditional publishers (self-publishers) of SF&F who earns the much bigger share of the revenue compared to traditional publishers. Additionally, self-publishers of SF&F genre can sell their e-books at an average price of $3.20 compared to an average price of $8.04 from traditional publishers, causing its growth.

ADULT NON-FICTION AND CHILDREN'S/YOUNG ADULT FICTION
  • The adult non-fiction and children's/young adult fiction genres appear on track to grow. According to the AAP, between 2013 and 2017, the category of traditionally-published adult non-fiction books has grown by 28.4%, and the category of traditionally-published children's and young adult fiction books has grown by 11.3%.
  • Sales of adult non-fiction e-books also increased by 3% between 2016 and 2017, according to The NPD Group, a market research group.
  • Young adult fiction genre got its popularity because of its appeal to film producers and TV executives. Thus, the movie tie-ins (e.g. "The Hunger Games") and television tie-ins (e.g. "The Vampire Diaries) drives the books' audience to increase.

SELF-HELP
  • Traditionally-published books about wellness, comfort, self-help, home, and cooking appear on track to grow in popularity as well. According to Kristen McLean, a books industry analyst at The NPD Group, these genres demonstrated strong growth in 2018.
  • McLean said, "part of this growth aligns with a rise in people doing more to stay comfortable and cozy at home — what the Danes call ‘hygge,’ -- but books themselves also support self-soothing impulses, as people seek more control and tranquility in their lives.

POLITICAL
  • There are signs that traditionally-published political books will grow too. Political book titles are selling better, as can be seen from how political books had fared before the 2012 and 2016 elections, respectively.
  • In 2018, it was reported by publishing industry expert Jane Friedman that sales of political e-books were up by 22% despite the overall decline of e-book sales.
  • The growth in political books can be associated to the fact that readers are becoming more interested in the "insider accounts of political intrigue" with much focus on governance and political theory.

PERSONAL GROWTH, INSPIRATIONAL/MOTIVATIONAL
  • Traditionally-published personal growth, inspirational/motivational, and dystopian fiction books are on course to grow as well. According to Friedman, these genres are seeing double-digit growth in sales.
  • NPD attributes the growth in the self-improvement genre to Millennials and their "adulting with attitude."

PRINT BOOKS VS. E-BOOKS

  • In the science fiction and fantasy category, there are indications that sales of print books and sales of e-books will grow in opposite directions. According to Author Earnings, since 2009, sales of science fiction and fantasy print books have declined by 50%, more than twice the drop the whole print book category has experienced. Sales of Amazon-published and self-published science fiction and fantasy e-books, on the other hand, have increased since 2010, and they now account for around 48% of science fiction and fantasy book sales.
  • In the children's or young adult category, there are signs that sales of e-books will continue to drop. Every year since 2015, sales of children's e-books and young adult e-books have experienced double-digit drops. This has been observed by both the AAP and The NPD Group.
  • In the romance category, there are indications that e-books will flourish. According to Author Earnings, e-books accounted for 90% of romance book sales in the second to fourth quarters of 2017.
  • In the adult fiction category, data shows that sales of e-books are on course to decrease. According to The NPD Group, sales of adult fiction e-books dropped by 14% between 2016 and 2017.

SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS AND E-BOOKS

  • Available data suggest that indie- or self-published books will only grow in popularity. In the last three quarters of 2017, indie- or self-published books were responsible for 22% of e-book dollar sales and at least 38% of e-book unit sales. Author Earnings also reports that indie's share of the e-book market has grown.
  • Author Earnings' paid service Bookstat indicates that, in 2017, there were around 500,000 self-published authors who "sold at least one book" and there were 240 million units of self-published e-books sold. Sales of self-published books that year amounted to $875 million, and around $700 million of these sales were accounted for by e-books. Self-published books account for a very small portion of audio books and print books, but they account for nearly half of e-books.
  • However, both AAP and NPD report that sales of e-books published by traditional book publishers are on a downward trend. The NPD reports a 10% drop in e-book unit sales and a two-percentage-point drop in e-book market share in 2017, while the AAP reports a 4.7%-drop in e-book dollar sales in 2017.
  • Measurement firm Nielsen also reports that sales of e-books are declining. According to this firm, sales of e-books has decreased gradually since the peak year 2013.
  • Self-published poetry books, romance novels, and books about witches appear on track to grow according to self-publishing specialist IngramSpark. Poetry books have recently figured among bestsellers in online stores and bookstores.
  • Self-published romance, horror, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction books are projected to grow in popularity as well. Based on data from Author Earnings, "self-published romance, mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy all sell better from indie authors or Kindle imprints than they do from traditional publishers."

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