Below is a table of book sales figures in 2014 and 2015 by category from our friends at Publishers Weekly:
|House & Home/Gardening||2130||3184||49%|
|Total Adult Non-Fiction||240130||256042||7%|
|Total Adult Fiction||138712||141690||2%|
|Total Juvenile Non-Fiction||48882||54624||12%|
|Total Juvenile Fiction||176685||171383||-3%|
Generally speaking, adult nonfiction outsells adult fiction nearly 2 to 1. Among juvenile titles, fiction outsells nonfiction 3 to 1. Focusing in on the adult fiction categories, occult/horror/psychological, fantasy, and mystery/detective categories — three areas we publish heavily — have been in decline. Fiction on the rise includes science fiction, suspense thrillers and graphic novels. If you are a fiction writer thinking about switching to juvenile fiction, think again — overall this is in decline — probably due to the lack of a category-killing best-seller.
Among adult nonfiction, everything is on the rise except for computer and humor books. Thus, it is fertile ground for the vast majority of new titles.
I had mentioned in prior newsletters about our movement at Sunbury Press to balance out our fiction / nonfiction offerings. In the past, we published 70% fiction, but found our sales were 70% nonfiction. The overall market bears this out.
So, what to do? A typical fiction title costs a little less to produce, but sells a lot less most of the time. It seems like our decision to mix in more nonfiction makes more sense.
But, given the number of returns, and the low sales, is fiction really worth the risk? If you are a fiction author, you should be asking yourself this question.
While we have no intention to eliminate our fiction categories, we clearly have to keep up or get ahead of the trends. Some of our fiction authors should consider writing in more desirable fiction categories, if they are so moved. Also, a fiction author might find more success converting to nonfiction — write that history book or self-help book you’ve been thinking about.
The other thing to think about is format. The fiction that does sell, sells better in ebook format than print, whereas nonfiction sells better in print. Thus, fiction seems better suited for a low-risk, no returns, ebook-focused online marketing campaign, whereas nonfiction is best suited for more traditional discovery through earned media and SEO.
While some of this has been evident for a number of years, it is really hitting home as we deal with other changes in the industry. As the ebook business continues to consolidate and Amazon favors the big publishers and star authors (as I mentioned last month), there is less and less opportunity for the upcoming fiction writer, who is lost among a sea of low grade self-published material subject to steep discounts and turned-off readers. We need to cycle through this generation of free rubbish until the good independent press author can rise again. In the meantime, we must together hack away at this jungle and find our way through!