10 Best Selling Non-Fiction Book Topics

 

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?

The 5 Most Popular Non-Fiction Book Topics

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?

Most Bestselling eBooks are Fiction

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 most of us 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.


Geoff Affleck is a 5-time #1 bestselling author and creator and facilitator for the eBook Bestseller Bootcamp for aspiring self-help authors.

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Post a comment below. I’d love to hear our thoughts on this.

5 Comments on “10 Best Selling Non-Fiction Book Topics

  1. Geoff, nice piece! This is intriguing and your analysis seems right to me. I’ve seen similar (albeit more general) studies and the results are similar re genre popularity. This is the first I’ve seen re the print vs ebooks and it makes sense. Your conclusions re female ebook buyers is sound. My work in non-fiction hits self-help, parenting and relationships and education and teaching(and my approach to self-development is differentiated and solid that it focuses on self-knowledge, the core of self-development, so I should be able to get some traction. I have just started publishing fiction with a lead generator of a short story.I have a novella and novel finished and in the pipeline once I get a respectable number of subscribers. I have 300 on my NF list and 100 (in ten days with some promotion) on the fiction list. (Not going to scare anybody!) I do not have any physical, or audio versions of the books yet but they are coming. Do have translations of some of my self-knowledge books (self-development ) in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. We do what we can, as we can! Your advice re writing is what is important to you is right, I think, although considering directing your interests to the market is necessary as well. I do not agree with some coaches who advocate just examining the bestseller lists and writing in those genres–unless you know what you are talking about and have a personal interest in the field.

  2. I would like to add an interesting statistic to the mix: In nearly 64% of the 10 000 categories we track at Kindle Ranker, books ranking below the 50th position sell less than 1 book a day.

    More than half the categories one Kindle are just not worth the effort because there is not enough demand. On the other hand, a few are so competitive that it is plain suicide to list their book in them…Authors need to find that sweet spot where they can easily hit the front page of a best seller list and thus gain maximum visibility on the Kindle store!

    Kindle Ranker (https://www.kindleranker.com) eases the way by tracking 10 000 categories and 200 000 best sellers!
    For each category, Kindle Ranker displays the number of sales needed to get to the front page, the average price, % of indie releases, % of new releases, etc.
    Of course you can search through this data using advanced queries like: List categories where book title contain”Love affair” and “Romance”, etc.

  3. I would like to add an interesting statistic to the mix: In nearly 64% of the 10 000 categories we track at Kindle Ranker, books ranking below the 50th position sell less than 1 book a day.
    More than half the categories one Kindle are just not worth the effort because there is not enough demand. On the other hand, a few are so competitive that it is plain suicide to list their book in them…Authors need to find that sweet spot where they can easily hit the front page of a best seller list and thus gain maximum visibility on the Kindle store!
    Kindle Ranker (https://www.kindleranker.com) eases the way by tracking 10 000 categories and 200 000 best sellers!
    For each category, Kindle Ranker displays the number of sales needed to get to the front page, the average price, % of indie releases, % of new releases, etc.
    Of course you can search through this data using advanced queries like: List categories where book title contain”Love affair” and “Romance”, etc.

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