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What are publishers looking for in 2023?

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

It has been a busy year in publishing – and its only July. The good news is that reading has not been hit by the two years of lock downs, in fact the pandemic drove an increase in book sales. But now, after two straight years of solid growth, print book sales fell 6.6% in the first half of 2022. Sure, we are only halfway through the year and there are some MEGA books coming out. But longer statistics can’t hide the fact that, over time, reading has long been losing ground to other forms of entertainment. YouTube, television (remember that old tech) Netflix, TikTok and other screen-based entertainment grabs more and more of our time. Readers increase as population grows, but book’s share of the market decreases. Despite this larger trend, books publishing statistics show increases across the board. Here’s what you need to know if you are writing to be published in 2023 / 2024

Non Fiction sells more books Non fiction outsells fiction by a margin of nearly 3-to-2. Religious and inspiration books are the bestselling nonfiction genre ($720 million). ​50% of all published books are related to education and science.​ I noticed a strong trends in publisher for Wilderness , Nature and Science Books look at books like Wilding, Isabella Tree’s bestselling book and Land Healer: How Farming Can Save Britain’s Countryside by Jake Fiennes (yes, he one of THOSE Fiennes’) The big novel genres always dominate sales The genre fiction categories that generate the most sales are:

  1. Romance ($1.44 billion)

  2. Crime/Mystery ($728.2 million)

  3. Science fiction/fantasy ($590.2 million)

  4. Horror ($79.6 million) Despite the fact non fiction outsells fiction, funnily, all of the titles in Amazon’s 2022’s bestsellers so far are novels, with only two nonfiction titles in the top 10 overall—James Clear’s Atomic Habits at #4 and Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart at #9. See image at bottom of this post for the full list. Romance! Rules! If the figures above are confusing in any way, let me reiterate that romance novels are the bestselling fiction genre and sell more than DOUBLE the next genre, which is crime. Women account for nearly 80% of fiction sales in the US, UK, and Canada. The publishing industry’s call for contemporary romances never gets old. I am not just talking about the endless appetite for stories from the Harlequin / Mills and Boon, Silhouette stables, but also all strong trade publishers all love a solid commercial romance. A reminder, and I quote directly from a recent call for submission, that “in order to qualify as a romance, the story must focus on the development of a central romantic relationship and have a happily ever after or happy for now ending.” Black authors rise The demand for more diversity and representation in literature have grown stronger in recent years and publishers are working hard to find and publish more diverse and inclusive voices and stories. These can be novels featuring racially diverse characters or subjects or simply books by black or marginalised voices. Racial diversity in children’s books has been picking up since 2014 but it takes years to get these illustrated books to market so we are finding the faster production of novels and memoir are moving faster towards some representation. Self-publishing books is huge (but do they sell?) In 2010 there were approximately 153,000 ISBNs assigned to self-published books. By 2018, that number was 1.6 million books. In 2020, the pandemic and the popularity of e-books seemed to push the trend even further. Currently 700,000 to 1,000,000 new book titles appear every year. But the truth is that half of these are self-published and only sell a handful of copies (under 20). Mythology – Retold? London Book Fair showed a trend for novels telling new versions of popular – and obscure – tales from Greek and Roman times. Watch out for stories like Son of Nobody, a retelling of the Trojan war by Yann Martel (Life of Pi’s). The Guardian has a great piece on the trends spotted there eBook’s and Audio are rising This won’t help you in the writing process, but good to know. Look, print books are still the most popular book format by far with 65% of the market. eBooks still make up only 21% of total book sales but that is rising. eBook sales increased 16.5% last year, with more than $956 million in total revenue, driven mostly by Amazon's Kindle. When Jeff Bezos started Amazon out of his garage is 1994, he sold books and only books. Amazon is still the biggest seller of books online. Industry reports show that sales of audiobooks have seen steady and rising growth since 2012. Interestingly, eBook sales are actually still outperforming audiobooks but this may change. Political / Journalistic or Current Affairs There is an endless and ongoing publishing demand to 'keep up with the changing world'. Books that record it, question it or comment on it are always wanted. Publishers are currently scrambling for abortion stories or commentary on it, stories from the Ukraine. Still dominating still are book( by or about) Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Donald Trump and anyone with the last name Obama. Comic books and their more distinguished counterpart, graphic novels — saw a massive increase during the pandemic, especially in anime comic books. More book summary platforms emerge We’re seeing a growing number of platforms and services designed to summarize nonfiction book content. Blinkist with 18 million users is one of the leaders in this space. A newer offering called Mentorbox offers summaries, but also courses designed from books. The publishing industry is using AI technology Most of the ways have to do with marketing and selling books. This is changing the ways books are sold, but not written. BookTok, first chapters being read on live feeds as well as publishers are tracking consumer behaviour and data. Colleen Hoover’s mass adulation on BookTok has lead to shooting into the bestseller charts in YA and romance genres. Don't know her? Watch out she is mega.

photo credit: Source: NPD BookScan

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