2021 Book Market Report by PublishDrive

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, digital has become the norm. In the book industry, physical bookstores suffered damages. But its counterpart self-publishing has fared exceptionally well. And for that, we can thank the growing demand for digital formats like ebooks and audiobooks. Below, we share an overview of the book market trends and results in 2021.


This analysis looks at comprehensive book sales performance from over 20K authors and publishers on self-publishing platform PublishDrive. Data is pulled from January 2021 to November 2021. Do note that sales reporting from a few of our stores is still underway.

Book market growth overall

Some quick highlights:

  • The book market is worth $150BN right now.
  • Since 2020, print book sales grew by 5.5% in the U.K. thanks to print-on-demand tech (most book shops were closed during this period).
  • Ebook and audiobook sales increased by more than 30%. 

Sales growth (via PublishDrive) 

PublishDrive’s book sales doubled in 2021 compared to 2020. (This is amazing because in 2020 our indies made 85% more sales on average!) There were more authors and publishers who joined the platform. But also, we’ve seen a bump in more uploaded formats like print-on-demand and audiobook. Plus, more releases overall.

Bestselling book categories  

The bestselling categories based on sales value are Fantasy, Romance, Erotica, Business, Comics, Self-help, Psychology, and Thrillers. When it comes to growth opportunities, we've got Light Novels, Comics, Fantasy, Action & Adventure, and Art.

With these growth areas, we can see how traditionally print-heavy genres like Comics and Art are now increasingly digitizing their content. More book types and titles are being digitized. With ongoing economic uncertainties, print-on-demand continues to grow in popularity for authors and publishers.

Bestselling countries

PublishDrive indies are truly global. 40% of our authors and publishers are based in the U.S. The rest are around the globe like the U.K., Hungary, Singapore, Romania, Germany, Canada, Australia, and France. We also work with local retailers who have close relationships with their local readers.

Based on our numbers, the biggest growth opportunities come from the U.S., the U.K., India, Serbia, Austria, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Australia. 

Bestselling store types & retailers

Digital book sales performed great in all markets. But the best goes to retail stores which hiked by 164%. Subscription stores hiked by 27%, particularly audiobook formats. Libraries saw 17% more growth. However, many institutions make their biggest library orders at the end of the year (literally at the end of December!) So we expect a bump by 2022.

When looking at individual stores, major retailer Amazon grew tremendously. We also saw way more publishers start selling on Amazon via PublishDrive.

P.S. With PublishDrive, manage all your self-publishing needs under one roof. One click, distribute to thousands of book stores.

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Top digital book formats 

Audiobook sales hiked by 320% in 2021. Print-on-demand book sales by 258%.

Many audiobook stores were a part of this rapid growth: Google Play Audio, Storytel, Kobo Audio, Findaway. With a growing number of audiobook platforms appearing on the market, the competition is getting bigger. The actual value of book sales, however, is still lower compared to ebook sales.

It is important to note that Audible (a major audio channel) is not included in this analysis since our partnership started in 2021. There are no sales data in 2020 to compare to.

With print-on-demand, Amazon Print achieved the highest performance. Like Audible, we couldn’t include our recent partnership with Ingram which started in late September 2021. Here’s our 2022 prediction: we’ll see print-on-demand balloon.

Where do our bestselling publishers come from? 

Most of our bestselling publishers are based in the U.S. But we’ve got international highlights. In Europe, our top publishers are based in Hungary, Romania, France, and Germany. English speaking countries like Canada and Australia land in our top 10 list. When it comes to growth opportunities, the Indian market is the one to look forward to.

Best marketing strategies 

Here are thetop  three book marketing tactics we recommend:

  • Publish in all book formats: ebook, audiobook, print-on-demand. This is about not only diversifying but maximizing your reach. 
  • Continue to publish new books. Go for book series.
  • Amazon Ads. There is a learning curve here. It also doesn’t hurt to start experimenting with a budget as low as $10.

Where to focus in 2022

Whether you’re a new author or publisher, check out which genres are trendings. We saw that 2021 was a strong year for the U.S. and Indian market. Shout out to Graphic Novels, Fantasy, and Art. Plus, consider self-publishing in all book formats, stores, and countries.