Which non-fiction book topics are the most popular? And, if you’re writing a non-fiction book should you choose a best selling genre that has an established audience or risk lower sales by publishing a book in a less popular category?
One of my mentors once told me that the five most popular self-help book topics are money, success, happiness, relationships, and dieting.
While this makes sense intuitively (most of us aspire to the things that these books promise), I wondered if there was any empirical evidence to support her suggested list. So I decided to do some research to find out what the best selling non-fiction books are today on Amazon.
I looked at ten major non-fiction categories and noted the Amazon Bestsellers Rank for each of the top five books in each one. For example, in the Biographies & Memoirs category, the top five books had Amazon Best Seller rankings of #3, #6, #7, #16 and #20 (the lower the number, the higher the book’s ranking). The highest ranking non-fiction book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait has an Amazon Best Seller ranking of #3 as of today.
Then I calculated the average ranking for each category to see which Amazon category is the most popular. I did this for both print Books and Kindle eBooks. Here are the results:
The Top 10 Non-Fiction Categories on Amazon in Print Books
This is the top ten list for print book categories (paperbacks and hardcovers) on Amazon.com on November 17, 2017. The number in brackets is the average Amazon ranking of the top five books in each category.
1. Biographies & Memoirs (10)
2. Self-Help (15)
3. Religion & Spirituality (20)
4. Health, Fitness & Dieting (22)
5. Politics & Social Sciences (24)
6. Cook Books, Food & Wine (39)
7. Business & Money (46)
8. Parenting & Relationships (120)
9. Education & Teaching (168)
10. Crafts, Hobbies & Home (212)
It’s easy to see that we are captivated by biographies and memoirs of famous people. On this week’s best seller list are books about Barack Obama, Bobby Kennedy, Leonardo DaVinci and General Ulysses Grant. Does that mean you should publish your memoir? If you’re a famous American politician or historical figure, then yes!
A quick scan of Amazon’s best seller chart for non-fiction books for this week confirms my findings. In the top 20 are five biographies, four self-help books (including the classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People) two from the Spirituality category, two more from Health, Fitness & Dieting, four books on politics, two business books, a cookbook, and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
I chuckled when I noticed that two of the top 20 non-fiction best sellers this week have the word “f*ck” in the title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck. Maybe my next book will be called “Write Like You Give a F*ck”. We’ll see.
I was curious to see if the best sellers list was the same for print books and eBooks. It wasn’t.
The Top 10 Non-Fiction Categories on Amazon Kindle (eBooks)
This top ten list is for eBook categories on Amazon.com’s Kindle store on November 17, 2017. The number in brackets is the average Amazon ranking of the top five books in each category.
1. Religion & Spirituality (61)
2. Biographies & Memoirs (96)
3. Business & Money (123)
4. Self-Help (146)
5. Cook Books, Food & Wine (171)
6. Politics & Social Sciences (180)
7. Health, Fitness & Dieting (202)
8. Parenting & Relationships (327)
9. Crafts, Hobbies & Home (1,309)
9. Education & Teaching (1,483)
Print Books vs. eBook Sales
The biggest differences are in Religion & Spirituality (#1 in Kindle vs. #3 in print) and Business & Money (#3 in Kindle vs. #7 in print) while average Self-Help rankings fell from #2 in print to #4 in Kindle.
The other notable difference is the average ranking across the board of the top five books in each category for Kindle compared with the top five print books. Print books rank much higher overall than their eBook counterparts. For example, the top 5 Self-Help titles have an average Amazon Best Seller rank of #15 in print books versus #146 in Kindle eBooks. Why is this?
I scratched my head for a moment and then inspiration struck. I took a quick look at the overall Amazon Kindle Best Seller list and it hit me: only six out of the top 100 eBooks on Amazon are non-fiction. The other 94 books are fiction titles. This compares with 36 non-fiction books out of 100 best sellers in print books.
It seems that people prefer their non-fiction books in print over the eBook format. A closer look at the eBook list reveals that no less than 25% of the eBook titles are Romance, Women’s Fiction and Teen novels – the kind with ripped, bare-chested hunky men on the cover.
Can we conclude from this that the majority of Kindle eBook sales are to women and teens reading trashy romance novels? These readers seem to like the low cost and discreet convenience of reading steamy stories and thrillers on their mobile devices. Whereas readers of biographies and more “serious” books prefer to have the physical book in their hands.
If you’re writing a non-fiction eBook, don’t be discouraged by these statistics – the market is huge for non-fiction eBooks that are well-written and solve specific problems for their readers. At the end of the day, you should write about what’s important to you, not what’s popular.
Post a comment below. I’d love to hear our thoughts on this.