Top selling book genres 2020

Top selling book genres 2020 DEFAULT

List of the Top #100 Most Competitive Amazon Kindle Bestseller Categories

There are over 10,489 bestseller lists for Amazon Kindle books. Some of them have less than 100 books on the list, meaning any book you add to that category would technically become an “Amazon bestseller” as long as you sell at least one copy.

Other categories are so competitive that only a small fraction of the books in those categories make the Top #100 spots on the list.

Amazon Kindle Bestseller Categories

Choosing the right categories on Kindle for your book is really, really important. You might find hundreds or even thousands of new readers just by having your book listed in the right category on Amazon. But how do you know which categories are right for your book?

First of all, your category should obviously match your book. If your book is a romance novel, I wouldn’t recommend listing it in the Nonfiction -> Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian Living -> Spiritual Growth list. But you probably already knew that.

What you may not know is that only the Top 100 books in each category get featured in that category. That means if your book is ranked #101, you get absolutely no exposure from being in that category. So you need to pick categories that you can actually rank your book on.

The less you’re currently selling, the lower your sales rank will be on Amazon and the less competitive categories you should choose. As you gain more sales momentum and better sales ranking, you can switch your categories to more competitive ones which will send you more traffic and sales.

But which categories can give you the most sales possible on Amazon Kindle? We did a little digging and found out.

Here’s a list of the Top #100 most competitive and high traffic categories on Amazon Kindle. If you’re lucky enough to get your book ranking in one of these categories, you can get a lot of extra exposure and sales.

But first, a little breakdown of how the table works.

Kindle Store Category (Bestseller List)

The #1 most competitive category on Amazon Kindle is Romance -> Contemporary. On the Kindle store, this list actually displays like this:

Kindle eBooks -> Romance -> Contemporary

To make the list easier for you to read and understand, we removed the “Kindle eBooks -> ” text string from the data in the table.

Just know that all these bestseller lists are for the Kindle store, NOT the “Books” category on Amazon (which includes paperbacks, hardcovers, ebooks and audiobook sales). This list here is purely for Kindle ebooks and Kindle sales.

Kindle Category Rankings

We tracked rankings for 3 different books in each category: The #1 book which is selling the most, the #50 book in the middle, and the #100 book which just barely made the list. We ranked the lists based on 1) how hard they are to rank for and 2) on how well the average book is selling on the list.

For example, at the time we collected this data, the #100 book in Kindle eBooks -> Romance -> Contemporary was ranked at #459 in the Kindle store. That means that if you wanted your ebook to appear on that list, you had to have a rank of #458 or better just to make the #100 spot!

Kindle Store Category#1#50#100
1. Romance -> Contemporary4230459
2. Literature & Fiction -> Contemporary Fiction -> Women11435992
3. Romance -> New Adult & College235451053
4. Literature & Fiction -> Contemporary Fiction -> Romance47081424
5. Literature & Fiction -> Women -> Romance317111703
6. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Coming of Age249492046
7. Romance -> Mystery & Suspense -> Suspense411122540
8. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Paranormal & Urban214822686
9. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Erotica5011823275
10. Literature & Fiction -> Women -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Women Sleuths1616683297
11. Romance -> Romantic Comedy1717783724
12. Literature & Fiction -> Literary Fiction -> Literary812943755
13. Literature & Fiction -> Contemporary Fiction -> Literary814463841
14. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> 1916104465
15. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Epic8325874649
16. Romance -> Fantasy4025764679
17. Romance -> Paranormal -> Werewolves & Shifters5523615000
18. Romance -> Holidays9024605126
19. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Mystery -> Police Procedurals21829115374
20. Literature & Fiction -> Humor & Satire -> General Humor1623665672
21. Romance -> Westerns5133785821
22. Biographies & Memoirs -> Memoirs3131636285
23. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Science Fiction2029316377
24. Romance -> Paranormal -> Vampires5533556575
25. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Sagas4024416723
26. Nonfiction -> Biographies & Memoirs -> Memoirs3430456848
27. Romance -> Inspirational -> Romance4450886921
28. Romance -> Collections & Anthologies5724076976
29. Health, Fitness & Dieting -> Diets & Weight Loss -> 20932947031
30. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> Science Fiction2031007039
31. Romance -> Mystery & Suspense -> Mystery1736577148
32. Literature & Fiction -> Religious & Inspirational Fiction -> Christian -> Romance3346447255
33. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Thriller2127747445
34. Romance -> Historical Romance -> Regency19739767585
35. Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian -> Romance4349487632
36. Teen & Young Adult -> Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure328457767
37. Teen & Young Adult -> Romance -> Paranormal & Fantasy11940777793
38. Literature & Fiction -> Religious & Inspirational Fiction -> Romance3350417829
39. Literature & Fiction -> Literary Fiction -> Historical2336077847
40. Nonfiction -> Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian -> Romance3449658051
41. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Thrillers -> Psychological7539158129
42. Literature & Fiction -> United States -> American2135488708
43. Romance -> Military5433358969
44. Literature & Fiction -> Contemporary Fiction -> American1936349038
45. Literature & Fiction -> Historical Fiction -> United States2339739050
46. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Mystery -> Private Investigators13345639067
47. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Thrillers -> Espionage943339084
48. Teen & Young Adult -> Romance -> Contemporary1442319133
49. Literature & Fiction -> Women -> Sagas7031649133
50. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Urban68049359302
51. Teen & Young Adult -> Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Paranormal & Urban9144299322
52. Romance -> Sports8841219544
53. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Post-Apocalyptic37454110210
54. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Sword & Sorcery426486510219
55. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> Fantasy88589810693
56. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Suspense21429011169
57. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Mystery21477211363
58. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Mystery -> Hard-Boiled114500111392
59. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Dystopian37500611453
60. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Space Opera71577511691
61. Literature & Fiction -> African American -> Romance689593011705
62. Romance -> Romance583533611764
63. Literature & Fiction -> United States -> African American -> Romance680584911775
64. Literature & Fiction -> Short Stories -> Single Authors56719512051
65. Literature & Fiction -> African American -> Urban689604112147
66. Literature & Fiction -> Literary Fiction -> Women31546712182
67. Nonfiction -> Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian -> Historical34666012206
68. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Thrillers -> Legal7447512230
69. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> War20587412393
70. Romance -> Paranormal -> Witches & Wizards135552412500
71. Literature & Fiction -> United States -> African American -> Urban680622912573
72. Gay & Lesbian -> Fiction -> Romance -> Gay457801112850
73. Literature & Fiction -> Religious & Inspirational Fiction -> Christian -> Historical33685612998
74. Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian -> Historical43675213061
75. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Fiction -> Gay444823813208
76. Romance -> Gay455821713693
77. Teen & Young Adult -> Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Dystopian3363013913
78. Gay & Lesbian -> Fiction -> Gay457805713922
79. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Thrillers -> Crime292569314320
80. Literature & Fiction -> Historical Fiction -> Religious33742114560
81. Literature & Fiction -> Religious & Inspirational Fiction -> Religious33742114560
82. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Fiction -> Romance -> Gay444755814604
83. Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian Living -> Spiritual Growth385650214759
84. Self-Help -> Personal Transformation320720514985
85. Nonfiction -> Health, Fitness & Dieting -> Diets & Weight Loss -> Diets -> Weight Loss259736015155
86. Nonfiction -> Health, Fitness & Dieting -> Diets & Weight Loss -> Diets -> Weight Maintenance259735615316
87. Nonfiction -> Self-Help -> Personal Transformation300750515378
88. Nonfiction -> Self-Help -> Motivational300781115629
89. Literature & Fiction -> Historical Fiction -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense110866815687
90. Literature & Fiction -> Horror -> Occult3787715805
91. Self-Help -> Motivational331764215869
92. Romance -> Multicultural & Interracial116736216209
93. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Fairy Tales187876516514
94. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Historical45831216819
95. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> War & Military211032917364
96. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Mystery -> Historical1101168917840
97. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Mystery -> British Detectives410936818014
98. Romance -> Historical Romance -> Scottish880797118100
99. Literature & Fiction -> Literary Fiction -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense41629518718
100. Nonfiction -> Religion & Spirituality -> Christianity -> Christian Living -> Spiritual Growth471669018765

If you like this post, you might like our post on the 100 least competitive Amazon Kindle categories as well.

Note: Amazon’s sales rankings are updated hourly, so if you check the store right now, the numbers may have changed. This list is just to give you a general idea of what the most competitive Amazon Kindle bestseller lists are.

What You Can Learn About the Kindle Ebook Market From This List

You might have noticed that the list is dominated by fiction categories. There are only 12 non-fiction categories out of the Top 100 most competitive categories on Amazon Kindle, and the Top 21 are all fiction!

That just makes sense because the fiction market is so big.

The #1 most competitive nonfiction list is Biographies & Memoirs -> Memoirs, which is dominated by celebrity memoirs like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

What you might also notice if you start browsing these categories on Amazon is that many of the top books in these competitive categories are by self published and independently published authors. The big publishers aren’t dominating like they used to.

New self published authors like Hugh Howey, J. S. Cooper, H. M. Ward and countless others are outselling traditionally published authors in many cases on Amazon Kindle. So you don’t have to have a big publisher behind you to become a bestselling author.

It’s a whole new world out there for authors…

Not Sure Which Categories to Select For Your Book?

We can pick the best categories for your book! Our book promotions manager will hand-select the best 10 categories for your book. Purchase our Amazon Bestseller Category Selection Package here.

Want to learn more about how to get your Kindle and Physical books to rank well in the Amazon store?

Learn more about The Simple System for Getting Your Kindle Ebooks to Rank on Amazon’s Bestseller Lists with Bestseller Ranking Pro.

Bestseller Ranking Pro Amazon Bestseller List Market Research Tool

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Tom Corson-Knowles

Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.


Best-selling Book Genres For 2021 – What Your Readers Love?

2020 is that year that brought unexpected situations, events, and changes in almost every aspect of our life. And the world of writing – from the book genres to reading and publishing does not make any exception.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, multiple lockdowns and social distancing measures, people were forced to move dramatically towards the online channels, both for the purchase of various goods and entertainment. As a response, many industries had to take massive, urgent, and previously unthinkable actions to move into the digital world, too. A McKinsey Global Survey shows that COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by 7 years globally, while the situation is not much different by geographical regions.   

However, unlike many other industries, the publishing world has faced these changes for almost a decade now. According to the recent data provided by Statista, a total of 191 million e-books were sold in the United States in 2020. The sharp increase of 21 million e-books sold in just one year (2020 compared to 2019) could be the direct result of the coronavirus outbreak, which led to a large growth in online media consumption.

Direct access to bookstores was one of the last big advantages of the traditional publishing houses, but it has now been lost due to blockages around the world and to the public’s effort to stay home whenever possible.

This is good news for the online bookstores and self-publishing platforms, and bad for physical libraries. In addition to the social distancing measures during the Coronavirus crisis, many other factors influence the increased adoption of the e-book market and the publishing industry trends:

  • The constant sophistication and technical development of reading devices provide an experience similar to that of reading a paper-printed book and are the key factors influencing the global e-book market. Increasing the use of smartphones, tablets and the multilingual feature of e-books is an essential advantage that determines the increased global demand for e-books.
  • Online applications or services provide easy access to a wide range of e-book libraries, thus emerging as cheap alternatives to the traditional method of delivery. The services available for these e-books, such as e-loans, have also supported the adoption of e-books worldwide.
  • Publishers and libraries are also noticing increasing demands for e-books. Hachette Book Group, one of the major publishers, announced that in 2019 the publishing company generated EUR 2.38 billion, representing a 5% increase over 2018.
  • Environmental protection campaigns by governments around the world, especially to reduce paper consumption and save trees, also increase the demand for e-books.
  • Libraries around the world have closed most of their services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But many of them still offer access to reading electronic materials. Besides, due to the low cost of e-books, librarians can now buy more copies, thus contributing to market growth.

In those circumstances, it’s not a surprise that smartphones have become even more of a lifeline than before. A recent We Are Social research reveals that 5.22 billion people all over the globe use a mobile phone, representing an increase of 93 million since January 2020.

best-selling book genres 2021 - We Are Social

All these data suggest that content for smartphone users is a great focus for your digital publishing efforts this year. However, the same report indicates that around 66% also use laptops or desktops for browsing and reading, meaning you shouldn’t ignore other platforms.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter how people access the books. The most important thing is that, regardless of their format – from hardcovers to softcovers to e-books and audiobooks, bestsellers belonging to all book genres manage, in one way or another, to reach their readers in all corners of the globe.

Thus, it seems the pandemic hasn’t changed just the way people read and buy books, but it also affected the book categories, because since 2019:

  • nonfiction for young readers saw the most increase in the book publishing industry, maybe also because the schools were closed and much of the education happened at home
  • books about social issues and social justice also gained popularity in 2020
  • for childrens’ nonfiction categories, education/language/references, and hobbies/games/activities were the most popular subcategories. 

Still, no matter how trends change in one context or another, several book genres typically produce bestsellers, and at least for 2021 are trending categories.

Best-selling book genres in 2021


In terms of book sales, romance novels are one of the most popular genres of fiction books. As human beings, we look for love stories and romance book lovers invest a lot of money in their reading habits. That’s why romance fiction is a billion-dollar genre, with estimated sales of $1.44 billion including self-published titles in 2016 – according to Bookstats. In addition, the Author Earnings’ annual report shows that in the last nine months of 2017, were sold 50,957,116 units of romantic e-books for a total value of $ 162,028,816.90.

However, romance will continue to be the most loved and profitable genre in 2021 too, as readers tend to remain loyal to their favorite authors within the romance category. Popular romance subgenres include inspirational romance, romantic suspense, young adult, contemporary romance, and historical romance.


Many popular mystery books attract a large number of readers, standalone and series alike. The structure of the mystery novels is basically simple: they start with an exciting hook, keep the audience interested and engaged with specific suspenseful pacing, and draw a conclusion that answers all the readers’ questions.      

As mystery books can be easily adapted into Netflix films and series, graphic novels, comic books, games, and interactive stories with reading apps, they get great help in becoming one of the best book genres. The best-selling mystery subgenres include cozy mysteries, police procedurals, true crime novels, hardboiled detective stories, and scientific mysteries.

Due to their speculative literary character, thriller and horror genres usually overlap with mystery and fantasy. Both categories are read throughout the year because people are always obsessed with the paranormal/supernatural and the dark side of human life.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Despite their differences, book genres fantasy and science fiction (sci-fi) are closely related in multiple ways. Both genres tend to have an extensive number of imaginary and creative elements, and both are considered speculative fiction.

Even if many sci-fi stories can take place in a dystopian past, most of them are set in a frightening and insecure future and have to deal with unexpected events generated by the ramifications of scientific and technological development.  

Fantasy subgenres include steampunk, urban and high fantasy, dark fantasy, epic fantasy, and sorcery and sword. At the same time, certain fiction genres like magical realism blend the pure attraction of fantasy with the challenging techniques found in literary fiction. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is a good example of this idea.

Thriller and Horror

Authors like Dan Brown and David Baldacci dominate the list of best-selling thriller books, while Stephen King is recognized as a master of contemporary horror.

Young Adult

As young adult (YA) fiction brings popular adult genres into literature for teen audiences, these book genres will continue to sell like hotcakes in 2021. From sci-fi to romance, murder, or fantasy, the best books in the YA fiction genre include the same powerful stories and characters that are found in books for older readers. Often, themes for teenagers, such as adulthood or rebellion, overlap with existing literary tropes. J.K. Rowling was hugely successful in this niche with her Harry Potter series, as well as Suzanne Collins with The Hunger Games or R.L. Stine who through the series Goosebumps and Fear Street brings horror fiction for the audience of children and teenagers.

Best Themes for Book Genres In 2021

Pandemic: In the following years, the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis generated by it will influence the works of many writers. Elements and themes such as global isolation, panic, natural disaster, and socio-political disorders and transformations caused by diseases and health crises, will appear in fiction and non-fiction books.

Dystopian: Usually a popular item of (social) fantasy and science fiction, dystopian elements will be used in many other book genres in the next years, including YA fiction. Due to the actual medical, social, economic, and political context, dystopian literature became very popular during the pandemic and for sure will inspire future works.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Humanoid robots that also own human intelligence have always represented popular and catchy characters in sci-fi. Due to the development of robotics and AI, readers will see an increase in literary works dealing with artificial intelligence that takes different forms.

Women: Even if they have been a trend for a while now, female writers will continue to take the publishing world by storm. There are already published many works belonging both to the book genres nonfiction and fiction that present strong and independent female characters but also there are female writers who publish in sci-fi.

Bottom line

We don’t suggest you decide to write a romance novel just because it’s the most popular book category. The best option is to write the book you want to write and will best represent you. But it’s also important to know where your fiction might fit into the marketplace. Knowing which book genres are popular will help you to make the right decisions about who your readers might be and the channels you might end up using for distribution and promotion.

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Which Book Genre Is The Most Popular In 2021?

The most popular genre of books depends on the format and situation. The bestselling book genre is romance and the most profitable fiction book genre. Religious & inspirational books are the most popular non-fiction genre, whilst thrillers are the most popular audiobooks. 

As a writer heading into a world where over 1 million books have already been self-published, it is important to get any edge you can. 

Therefore, it is only natural to ask the question - which book genre is most popular? 

However, to answer this question we must delve a little deeper. 

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • A list of most popular book genres.
  • The bestselling book genres.
  • Book genres that make the most money.
  • Most Competitive book genres on Kindle.
  • Least Competitive book genres on Kindle.

Before we look at book genres in detail, let’s first examine the best selling fiction books and non-fiction books. 

Please note, that the publishing industry refers to the groups into which books are grouped as ‘genres’. However, if you look at Amazon you will see that these are called ‘categories’.

There are some differences between the publisher’s genres and Amazon’s categories, but for this article, they have been used interchangeably. You may also find that some people group books slightly differently, but in most situations the meaning is clear.

Most Popular Fiction Genres

  • Fantasy.
  • Science Fiction.
  • Dystopian.
  • Adventure.
  • Romance.
  • Detective & Mystery.
  • Horror.
  • Thriller.
  • LGBTQ+.
  • Historical Fiction.
  • Young Adult (YA).
  • Children’s Fiction.

Most Popular Nonfiction Genres

  • Memoir & Autobiography.
  • Biography.
  • Cooking.
  • Art & Photography.
  • Self-Help/Personal Development.
  • Motivational/Inspirational.
  • Health & Fitness.
  • History.
  • Crafts, Hobbies & Home.
  • Families & Relationships.
  • Humor & Entertainment.
  • Business & Money.
  • Law & Criminology.
  • Politics & Social Sciences.
  • Religion & Spirituality.
  • Education & Teaching.
  • Travel.
  • True Crime.

When you look at best selling fiction books and non fiction books on Amazon and consider the numbers of books sold, the popularity of books genre differs between paper books and ebooks. 

The top five selling categories for hard copy books on Amazon are: 

  1. Memoirs and Biographies.
  2. Self Help.
  3. Religion and Spirituality.
  4. Health, Fitness, and Dieting.
  5. Politics and Social Sciences.

The top five selling categories for ebooks on Amazon are: 

  1. Religion and Spirituality.
  2. Biographies and Memoirs.
  3. Business and Money.
  4. Self Help.
  5. Cookbooks, food, and vine.

Since different book genres have different expectations from readers, some genres are more profitable per book than others. This means that whilst a genre might sell fewer books, they may be more profitable. 

A recent report examined the overall profitability of each book genre. 

The top five more profitable categories on are: 

  1. Romance/Erotica ($1.44 billion).
  2. Crime/Mystery ($728.2 million). 
  3. Religious/Inspirational ($720 million).
  4. Science Fiction/Fantasy ($590.2 million). 
  5. Horror ($79.6 million). 
In recent years, audiobooks have become increasingly popular with the success of services such as Audible (LINK). A recent report (, showed audiobook sales increased by nearly 25%between 2017 and 2018, and total sales approached nearly $1 billion.

The top five bestselling genres of audiobook are: 

  1. Literature & Fiction.
  2. Fiction % Literature.
  3. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.
  4. Science Fiction
  5. Fantasy.
  6. Romance.
  7. Business & Money.

Some writers are interested in the competitiveness of certain book genres and show interest in learning where publishing opportunities might exist. 

The top ten most competitive Amazon categories are: 

  1. Romance -> Contemporary.
  2. Literature & Fiction -> Contemporary Fiction -> Women.
  3. Romance -> New Adult & College.
  4. Literature & Fiction -> Contemporary Fiction -> Romance.
  5. Literature & Fiction -> Women -> Romance.
  6. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Coming of Age.
  7. Romance -> Mystery & Suspense -> Suspense.
  8. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Paranormal & Urban.
  9. Literature & Fiction -> Genre Fiction -> Erotica.
  10. Literature & Fiction -> Women -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Women Sleuths.

The top ten least competitive Amazon categories are: 

  1. Nonfiction -> Science -> Experiments, Instruments & Measurement -> Microscopes & Microsocopy.
  2. Nonfiction -> Business & Money -> Taxation -> Corporate.
  3. Business & Money -> Taxation -> Corporate.
  4. Science -> Experiments, Instruments & Measurement -> Microscopes & Microsocopy.
  5. Professional & Technical -> Engineering -> Civil -> Hydrology.
  6. Nonfiction -> Professional & Technical -> Engineering -> Civil -> Hydrology.
  7. Nonfiction -> Science -> Experiments, Instruments & Measurement -> Weights & Measures.
  8. Science -> Experiments, Instruments & Measurement -> Weights & Measures
  9. Nonfiction -> Crafts, Hobbies & Home -> How-to & Home Improvements -> Masonry.
  10. Crafts, Hobbies & Home -> How-to & Home Improvements -> Masonry.
Book Genres

List of best-selling books

Wikipedia list article

This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by adding missing items with reliable sources.

This page provides lists of best-selling individual books and book series to date and in any language. "Best-selling" refers to the estimated number of copies sold of each book, rather than the number of books printed or currently owned. Comics and textbooks are not included in this list. The books are listed according to the highest sales estimate as reported in reliable, independent sources. This list is incomplete because there are many books, such as The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and The Lord of the Rings[1] (which has been sold as both a trilogy of books, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King, and as a single issue) by J. R. R. Tolkien, that lack comprehensive sales figures.

According to Guinness World Records as of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed.[2] Sales estimates for other printed religious texts include at least 800 million copies for the Qur'an and 190 million copies for the Book of Mormon.[3] Among non religious texts, the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, has produced a wide array of sales and distribution figures — with estimates ranging from 800 million[2] to over 6.5 billion printed volumes.[4] Some claim the distribution ran into the "billions"[5] and some cite "over a billion" official volumes between 1966 and 1969 alone as well as "untold numbers of unofficial local reprints and unofficial translations."[6][7] Exact print figures for these and other books may also be missing or unreliable since these kinds of book may be produced by many different and unrelated publishers, in some cases over many centuries. All books of a religious, ideological, philosophical or political nature have thus been excluded from the below lists of best-selling books for these reasons.

Having sold more than 500 million copies worldwide,[8][9][10]Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling is the best-selling book series in history. The first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, has sold in excess of 120 million copies,[11] making it one of the best-selling books of all time. As of June 2017, the series has been translated into 80 languages,[12] placing Harry Potter among history's most translated literary works. The last four books in the series consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books of all time, where the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, sold roughly fifteen million copies worldwide within twenty-four hours of its release.[13][14] With twelve million books printed in the first US run, it also holds the record for the highest initial print run for any book in history.[15][16]



List of best-selling individual books

More than 100 million copies

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

Between 10 million and 20 million copies

List of best-selling book series

See also: List of best-selling comic series and List of best-selling manga

More than 100 million copies

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

Between 15 million and 20 million copies


The Perry Rhodan series has sold more than 1 billion copies,[301] but is not listed because that figure includes magazine sales, not novels alone.[citation needed] Similarly, the Jerry Cotton series has sold over 300 million copies, but most of these were in magazine format.[302]

The figures given for some books are for the number printed instead of confirmed sales.[which?]

List of best-selling regularly updated books

More than 100 million copies

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

Between 10 million and 20 million copies

BookAuthor(s)Original languageFirst publishedApproximate sales
The Joy of CookingVarious authorsEnglish193618 million[325]
スーパーマップル (Super Mapple)Various authorsJapanese1991–present18 million[326]
チャート式 (Chart Shiki)Various authorsJapanese1927–present17.44 million, only for the first grade of high-school[327]
英語基本単語集 (Eigo Kihon Tangoshu) "Compilation of basic English vocabulary"Yoshio AkaoJapanese, English194217.2 million[327]
Merriam-Webster Pocket DictionaryEnglish (Up to 1965) 15,110,000[328]
試験に出る英単語 (Siken Ni Deru Eitango) "English vocabulary in examinations"Ichiro MoriJapanese, English196715 million[329]
新英和中辞典 (Shin Eiwa Chu Jiten) "New English-Japanese Dictionary"Shigeru TakebayashiJapanese, English196712 million[330]
広辞苑 (Kōjien)Izuru ShinmuraJapanese195511.9 million[331]
旺文社古語辞典 (Obunsha Kogo Jiten) "Obunsha Dictionary of Archaisms"Akira MatsumuraJapanese196011 million[332]
Hammond's Pocket AtlasEnglish (Up to 1965) 11,000,000[333]
三省堂国語辞典 (Sanseido Kokugo Jiten) "Sanseido Dictionary of the Japanese Language"Kenbō HidetoshiJapanese196010 million[334]
家庭に於ける實際的看護の秘訣 (Katei Ni Okeru Jissaiteki Kango No Hiketsu) "Key to Practical Personal Care at Home"Takichi TsukudaJapanese192510 million[335]
C程序设计 (C Program Design)Tan, HaoqiangChinese199110 million[336]

See also


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Selling genres 2020 book top

Book Genres That Make The Most Money

by Dakotah Jennifer

Photo by Parth Shah from Pexels

As a writer, getting your book published and making your writing profitable can be difficult. There are so many genres and so little time to write. When you sit down to write, a few things may come to mind: What do I want to write about? What is my story? Do I want to write fiction or nonfiction? Fantasy or Mystery? Romance or Horror? Will people enjoy my book? And even once you know what topic or genre you want to focus on, the questions can still pile up: Will people like my story? Will it sell? How do I know if people will be interested in my book? How much money does this genre usually make? How do I get a book publishing deal? How many books of this genre are actually popular? Worry no more, we’re here to help. Here’s a list of the five most profitable literary genres:

Romance & Erotica: the romance novel industry is worth almost 1.5 billion dollars, with the highest earners grossing between 50 and 150 million dollars. Danielle Steel, the best-selling romance writer, has sold over 800 million copies. The genre itself has many off-shoots and sub genres, including paranormal romance and historical romance. Young adult sci-fi novels are also often included within the genre, as many of them have romantic sub themes. Though the genre has the highest amount of revenues, the books are most often purchased in e-book format, whereas, crime novels and other genres are most often purchased in paperback.

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Mystery & Crime: Mystery and crime novels have been very popular since Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes in 1892. A 730-million-dollar industry, the mystery and crime genres are the second highest-earning genre. In recent years, fiction bestsellers have been mostly crime thrillers, and Hachette and Penguin Random House holds 75% of the market on the genre. Within the top 20 best-selling books of all time, Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” is #7, with 100 million copies sold. Classic and intricate mysteries like the Sherlock Holmes stories stand the test of time. A good mystery can always draw a crowd.

Inspirational, Religious, & Self-Help: Though many people steer away from the “Self-Help” section of the bookstore, it is home to the third-largest grossing genre. This genre is usually oriented towards a more specific writer— the most popular books are usually memoirs like “Becoming,” which was on Oprah’s 2019 best-sellers list. The most prominent marketing strategy for these types of novels is simply the reputation, glamour, and popularity of the writer. Seven of the 20 books on Oprah’s list were self-help and/or religious. Two of the twenty have more religious themes, while the other four are mainly self-help or inspirational novels. But some say the genre isn’t as rigid as it seems, even including “The Alchemist” as a transformative book in the religious genre. The genre itself has made more than 720 million dollars in revenue, despite its seemingly “bad” reputation.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction (Mostly Young Adult): Among the 20 best-selling books of all time, about 12 of them were modern novels, and 8-10 of those were in the sci-fi, fantasy genre: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, and six of the Harry Potter books. This genre is a fairly recent and independent money-maker: sci-fi/fantasy book sales have doubled in the last decade and almost 48% of all sci-fi book sales are self-published or Amazon published. As a 590-million-dollar industry, fantasy and sci-fi novels, especially in the young adult sub genre, are very popular, and the industry is ever-growing.

Thrillers & Horror: Much like the crime and mystery genre, many people enjoy a good scare. Usually overlapping with fantasy and mystery, the thriller and horror genre is number five, valued at $80 million because of its smaller, more niche audience. Stephen King, the leading author in horror, has sold more than 350 million copies and made almost 400 million dollars, and runner-up, Dean Koontz, making $125 million. This genre, much like the romance genre, has many sub genres and flexibility. Koontz is well known for incorporating satire, mystery, and fantasy into his horror.

So, now you have some idea of the popularity of the different genres. It is true: we can’t all be Danielle Steel, Michelle Obama, or Stephen King, but who knows what potential your novel has? The romance genre, though it makes the most money, is heavily saturated with self-published books. So, perhaps your romance-thriller would do well through Amazon publishing, and your sci-fi crime novel might be more successful in print. The possibilities are endless.


The most popular book genres: what do your readers want?

When we write, we want to write what we love reading. That may be crime, romance, or something else. But as writers, it's important to ask ourselves: what do our readers want? It’s really helpful to know how what we’re writing will fit into the marketplace. If we’re aiming to write commercial fiction or non-fiction and make money from writing, it’s a good idea to be aware of what’s being read and what the most popular book genres are in terms of sales and readers.


We’re not suggesting you decide to write a crime novel just because it’s the most popular book genre, because it’s important to write the book you want to write. But it’s also a good idea to know where your book might fit into the marketplace. Knowing which genres are popular will help you make sound commercial decisions about where your fiction might end up in bookshops and who your readers might be.


But what makes a book genre popular? It’s a question we often get asked. Is it being most read, most bought or most lucrative? We’ve been trawling through figures and statistics to give you the low-down on the book genres that are most read, most sold and bring in the most revenue.


As book readers, it seems we're obsessed by the dark side of life. In 2017, crime became the UK’s most popular adult fiction genre, outselling general and literary fiction for the first time.

• Readers are flocking to buy books in the crime genre. In 2017, Nielsen BookScan figures revealed that 18.7 million units of crime books were sold, compared to 18.1 million of general and literary fiction. The value of the crime book sales increased from £106.3 million to £117.6 million. The general and litfic sales value was higher, though: at £125.7 million it was the genre that generated the most cash.

• Nielsen BookScan data released at the London Book Fair this year showed that sales of crime fiction in the UK had increased by 19%, to 18.7 million.

• In 2017 Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door sold 404,099 copies, making it the UK’s bestselling crime title of the year, and the third bestselling book.

• Statistica’s research shows that mystery/thriller/crime was the US’s most popular genre too, with 47% of the survey respondents having read a crime book up to July 2015 – and with ebook readers the figure was 50%. According to the 2018 Author Earnings annual report, mystery, thriller and suspense ebook sales accounted for $187,673,043.62 of revenue.

• The popularity of psychological thrillers has given the crime book genre as a whole a huge boost. Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train accounted for 1.3 million print sales and 2.4 million ebook sales in 2015, the year it was published. By 2018 it had been awarded triple platinum status at the Specsavers Bestseller Awards for topping sales of 3,000,000.

QUICK LINK: Plot and execute your bestselling crime novel with expert advice on our creative writing course, How to Write Crime.


We're all suckers for love stories, and romance book lovers are willing to invest serious money in their reading habit. Romance fiction is a billion-dollar genre, with estimated sales peaking five years ago at $1.08 billion according to Bookstats, and $1.44 billion including self-published titles.

• As reported by Nielsen BookScan, romance had a 34% share of the US fiction market in 2015.

• The figures for romance genre books do some serious talking. Author Earnings’ annual report notes that in the last nine months of 2017, $162,028,816.90-worth of romance ebooks were sold: 50,957,116 units.

• Statistica reported romance as the second most popular genre, with 27% of respondents having read a romance title, and romance was also the second most popular genre according to Nielsen BookScan, who five years ago reported romance book sales of $1.8 billion.

• Particular titles evoke a passionate response. In 2015 the UK’s top-selling title was an erotic romance novel: 50 Shades of Grey, which sold 1.1 million copies and generated £4.7 million in sales.

• You don't have to be an old hand at romance writing to generate the big sales. Cecelia Aherne may be one of the top names in romance writing now, but PS I Love You was her debut novel. By 2017, PS I Love You merited a Specsavers Bestseller Platinum Award for sales of a million copies.

• Our love affair with books in the romance genre shows no sign of abating. The latest figures from Nielsen BookScan show that in both 2017 and 2018, romance and sagas came in at number six of the top-selling book genres, shifting 5,213,548 units in 2017 and 3,313,444 so far this year.

QUICK LINK:Learn how to write a wartime romance or master the erotic arts with Stef Penney's advice on handling steamy scenes.



It takes a lot of skill to write books that younger readers will love, but if you can write well for children there are hordes of avid young readers (and their parents!) waiting for new books to feed their reading habit.

• Sales for children’s books in the UK increased by 16% in 2016 to £365 million, and in 2017, children’s fiction was the top-selling book genre in the UK, with sales of 19,296,898 units. Picture books were the fourth in the bestseller list, selling 11,100,918 units. YA fiction came in at number seven, with 4,468,538 units.

• In 2017 UK sales of children’s books were worth £239 million. Bad Dad by David Walliams was the UK’s bestselling children’s title, and the second-best selling book in 2017, with sales of 567,818.

• Globally, children’s book sales outstrip adult titles, and continue to grow. In the US, BookScan reports that in 2017, 233 million units were sold compared to 181 million in 2012.

• Particular growth areas are graphic novels for young readers, sci-fi and fantasy novels and what’s called ‘active non-fiction’, ie focussed activity books. Cross-platform products are also increasingly popular with a new generation of digital natives who love reading interactive titles on their screens.

QUICK LINKS:Writing for children is easy? Are you sure you understand what's required in modern children's books? Understand the differences in writing for children and adults with advice from from KJ Whittaker. And when you do, enter our Picture Book Prize Competitition!


Sometimes everybody needs a bit of help to understand the world they live in, and that's were self-help books comes in. You may not see them on the bestseller lists but they're steady sellers reaching a readership happy to pay to knowledge. Self-help, self-improvement and inspirational literature are a growth area for the publishing industry.

• At the end of 2013 the Guardian noted that the self help industry was worth $11 billion dollars a year, with $720 million of that generated by book sales according to TheRichest.

• The bulk of self-help and inspirational literature sales come from the USA, where in 2017 the top four bestselling non-fiction titles were self-help books.


If you write well in your chosen book genre, two of the great rewards (besides sales!) are reader loyalty and reader interest. Science fiction and fantasy fans are always happy to discover excellent new titles in their genre, and spend money on new reading material.

• The loyalty of sci-fi and fantasy readers to their chosen genres is demonstrated by the consistent high sales of titles in these genres. In 2017 it was the third best-selling adult fiction genre in the UK, with sales of 3,225,915 units.

• Sales in these book genres are entirely reader-focussed and have a lot to do with the shift towards indie publishing. Although sci-fi and fantasy sales dropped dramatically in 2009, Forbes reports that combined print and digital sci-fi and fantasy book sales have doubled since 2010, and because genre fiction is a particular growth area in indie publishing, self-publishing and ebook sales account for 48% of SF and fantasy sales across print, digital and audio formats.

• Interest in the sub-genres changes, though. Although epic fantasy and space opera still sells consistently, between May 2017 and April 2018 the most popular sub-genre in ebook sales was paranormal and urban fantasy, and the most popular ebook sci-fi genre was military sci-fi.


QUICK LINKS:Learn from the best: Nebula Award winning Jeff VanderMeer explains the importance of starting strong, Gareth Powell explains how to build a convincing world and RR Haywood explains how to write engaging science fiction.


When you ask yourself, what genre should I write, we’d like to think this information will give you some insight into what’s selling in the book world and helped you to understand the marketplace. Next time you go into your local bookshop, you’ll look at the titles on the shelves with added insight into why they’re there.


Can you imagine your own book on the shelves with the popular titles in that genre? We hope so! And we’d love to see your books and hear your success stories in our Subscriber Spotlight pages and in our Subscriber Showcase. Be sure to benefit from this service when you become a subscriber to our bestselling magazine.



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