What is trending?
This is a common question no matter what industry you are in. Book publishing is not different. Publishers and authors often want to know what is hot and what is not.
There are a number of ways to find out what is trending. You can:
1. Follow Bestseller Lists.
Looking at bestseller lists is a great way to find out what books are currently in demand and selling well. There are a number of bestseller lists including those hosted by the NY Times, Publishers Weekly, Amazon, Smashwords, and ECPA. Keep in mind, however, that just because a topic is popular today does not predict that the same topic will sell well next year. Trends change.
2. Review Book Sales Statistics
Both NDP BookScan and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) track book sales. Publishers can subscribe to these reports. For those on a budget, each company makes a summary of their findings available to the public.
Which Books Are Selling
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently released its analysis of book sales for 2018. Here is what they found:
- Nonfiction books, both Adult and Children’s and Young Adult, experienced the largest percentage revenue growth for publishers over the past five years. Adult nonfiction revenues grew 22.8 percent and Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction revenues grew 38.5 percent from 2014 to 2018. Unit sales for Adult nonfiction and Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction grew 20.9 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, over the same five-year period.
- Publisher revenue for adult fiction was flat (0.4 percent) at $4.40 billion in 2018, while Children’s and Young Adult fiction grew slightly (1.6 percent) to $3.72 billion.
- Religious presses’ revenue grew 14.7 percent in 2018 to $1.22 billion with 75.7 percent of that revenue coming from print formats.
- Downloaded audio remained the fastest growing format, with 28.7 percent year-over-year revenue growth from 2017 to 2018 and 181.8 percent revenue growth over the past five years.
- eBook sales were down 5.2% from 2017.
The good news is that Religious books are selling well. This report did not break down specifically what type of religious titles are selling well. However, NDP BookScan, recently presented this information in a webinar. BookScan reported that sales of Autobiographies and Biographies are growing, as well as sales of Self-Help books (think Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis).
Popular Book Formats
There has been a lot of talk about the growth of audiobooks—and sales in this category are growing. Yet, audiobooks only make up about 15% of total book sales, while print books comprise almost half of all book sales. Here is the breakdown:
- 45% of publishers’ sales were in trade print formats.
- 24% were ebooks.
- 13% were downloaded audio.
- 2% were physical audio or a different format.
Words of Wisdom
I believe that Christian authors and publishers should be governed less by which books are trending and more by what God is calling you to write and publish. Knowing what is popular can help inform your marketing efforts. But, if you are publishing for the Glory of God, then what he is leading you to put into print is more important than what statistics report is selling well.
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Photo courtesy of geralt.