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The Basic Facts of Fiction Sales: Why Aspiring Writers Cannot Afford to Ignore Romance


As you may have discovered for yourself, finding hard facts and statistics about book sales and the book selling industry (especially in specific genres) is challenging. In my opinion, this is because that information is a very valuable commodity. Here are the top three sources for accurate, up to date information on book sales and book buying statistics:

1. BookStats

The Association of American Publishers,  and the Book Industry Study Group put out this report, which is basically an overall review and synthesis of various reports and statistics from the AAP. The entire report can be purchased, or a basic summary of the annual report. If you happen to have some money to burn, $99 will get you the bare-bones summary, $2395 will get you the current year’s report, and last year’s report is available for about half the price of the current year ($1195). The BookStats 2011 Release can be purchased here:

2. The 2010–2011 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review

 Bowker, a company that specializes in consumer information gathering tools for book related industries (publishing, bookselling, libraries), uses their PubTrack Consumer tool to put out this annual review. This is a comprehensive, easy-to-understand, categorized report on book buying behavior. You can find demographic information, information on format (e.g. mass market paperback, ebook, hardcover, audio, etc.), a break down and comparison of information within genres, etc..  If you happen to have even more money to burn, you can buy the “2010–2011 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review” for the bargain sale price of $849.99 here:

3. The Global Professional Publishing 2010-2011 Report—

This report is put out by Simba Information, a company that specializes in market information, analysis, and forecasts for the publishing and other media industries, and includes information about book sales reported by the Association of American Publishers, among other things. If you really, really, really need to see everything for yourself (and are prepared to pay the oh-so-reasonable price of $3195) you can get the Global Professional Publishing 2010-2011 report here:


For those of us who can think of better things to do with our hard earned cash, Romance Writers of America  publishes some of the more pertinent statistics found in the official reports for – get this—FREE. The RWA website is one of the only places on the net you can find some of the hard findings about book sales that are published in those expensive official reports. Which brings us to the second part of this article… why aspiring writers should not ignore the romance genre. Here’s the run down:

Women are responsible for about 67% of mass market paperback purchases. They are also more likely to be book buyers (in general) than men (about 62% of women are book buyers, as opposed to only about 44% of men). Also, a woman is more likely to purchase multiple books per year than a man.

In 2010, romance fiction made about $1.358 billion in sales. The same year, Science Fiction and Fantasy made about $559 million, mystery made about $682 million, literary fiction about $455 million, and Inspirational fiction made about $759 million.

What this means, boiled down to the nitty gritty, is that romance fiction accounts for 55% of the money made by all fiction. Clearly, not a genre that should be ignored!

The simple truth is, happily ever after sells. Romance is the leading genre in fiction sales, and has been for quite some time. Changes in the conventions of the romance genre have turned the typical romance novel into an extremely empowering story combined with the happily ever after ending—an appealing combination, particularly during challenging economic times. Gone are the weak-willed, doormat heroines of the 70s and 80s. In the present day conventions of the genre, both the female and the male lead are strong individuals. The characters improve lives that feel somehow incomplete by merging their lives and futures with a partner– falling in love, and managing to develop a strong relationship without compromising their fundamental core. This is particularly important in the heroine, who’s sense of self and identity is enriched through the romantic development, rather than squashed.

Even writers who never plan to write romantic fiction would benefit from studying the most popular fiction genre, if only to observe how the stories function structurally and thematically. These aspects drive book sales, and an understanding of the fundamentals that drive sales for the majority of fiction consumers would be beneficial to most fiction writers, regardless of genre.

Happy writing and reading until next time!




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