What INDIE AUTHORS are writing and what GENRES are TRENDING

by Peggy on June 2, 2017

Is your genre a best seller?


 Print Book ISBNs Issued to Self-Published Authors 

Bowker.com, the ISBN issuing agency in the United States, has just released a multi-year report of print book ISBNs issued to self-published authors between the years 2002-2012. The report also includes projections for 2013. The numbers, broken down by genre, are interesting. The data is three years old, not exactly hard data for today, but useful to study the rise and fall of particular genres. Keep in mind; these are not necessarily the book genres’ that are selling. These are the book genres that indie authors are writing.

Bowker.com listed 26 genres from Agriculture to Travel. On the chart below, I have listed the genres that are most popular today and how the numbers looked in 2002, 2010, 2012, and Bowker’s projections in 2013.


Bowker numbers ISBN


If you are writing thrillers or memoir, you will be lumped under fiction. Regardless, lets take a look at the data. Fiction has grown by 101% in eight years, but Bowker projected a downward trend in 2013. Self-published authors are writing a lot of fiction. The next two growing categories are cooking and business. Non-fiction books are trending upward and have been for years. If  you are wondering why all the hoopla about print books … millennials, the largest cohort ever, surpassing even the baby boomers, prefer print!

Lit-tra-shah better known as literature, also performed well. A 37% increase is a strong, consistent trend. Could it be that some traditionally published authors who write in this genre may be trending in the world of self-publishing? Perhaps they are learning like the rest of us … making a living and having people read your work is its own reward.

If you write poetry, religion or science, again, the news is positive. For those of us who mentally checked out of math class at a very tender age … a picture is worth a thousand blah, blah, blahs. Here is chart that reflects graphically, the same information.

bowker ISBN stats 2012-2013 chart

The three big winners are Juvenile, Fiction, and Sociology|Economics. Who were the biggest losers? The Language genre took first place in the big “L” category with a decline of 24% since 2002. Five minutes on any social media platform, talking head comedy show, or MTV will confirm this decline. Another loser was travel books.

The Highlights

Here are some of the conclusions from Bowker after parsing the data:

  • Since 2010, ISBNs for indie authors have increased by 375%.
  • In 2015, authors assigned 727,124 ISBNs compared to 152,978 ISBNs assigned in 2010.
  • Between 2014 and 2015, self-publishing grew by 21.24 percent.
  • More writers are taking advantage of traditional publishing AND self-published content.
  • Libraries and booksellers are actively seeking self-published content.
  • Indie authors on bestsellers lists are on the rise!

According to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, the top 5 selling genres in 2016 were:

  1. Romance|Erotica is number one at $1.44 billion in annual sales. E L James, the author of 50 Shades of Grey is worth $60 million, give or take a few million. Her book was originally self-published on a Twilight fan fiction site. Go figure (pun intended).
  2. Religion clocks in second with $720 million, no doubt bolstered by the Bible, the bestselling book of all time.
  3. Number three is Crime|Thriller|Mystery at $728.2 million.  Stieg Larson, (now deceased) the author of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, collected a cool $50 million
  4. Coming in at number is Science Fiction|Fantasy. Leading the way is first billionaire author, J K Rowling, who lived on government assistance before selling fabulously successful Harry Potter series. Walt Disney was right, ‘dreams really can come true’.
  5. Last in our line of stellar genres is Horror which sold $79.6 million in 2016. The two powerhouses in horror, Stephen King and Dean Koontz, continue to rake in career profits of  $400 and $125 million respectively. Makes you want to re-read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, doesn’t it?

Hope you enjoyed the information and the read. Send me your thoughts.

Peggy DeKay,  Speaker, Author, Book Coach 



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