August 2020 Book Market Update: Best Book Genres & More

We are paying close attention to the book market this year. Although there can be lots to worry about, we want you to know that digital books are in demand. Especially for those in traditional publishing, transitioning to digital formats has never been better.

We’ve been reporting the trends and data on our blog since March 2020, where indies selling digital books via PublishDrive saw growth by at least 20%. In April 2020, we reported another 23% growth. Fast forward to August 2020, and we’re still hitting monthly growth.

In August 2020, compared to August 2019, there was a 69% increase in sales via PublishDrive. Compared to July 2020, a 5% increase.

In the report below, we give an overview of international digital book sales plus bestselling book genres, book categories, markets, and more. We’ll continue to update this study every 20th of the month. We hope you make the best-informed decisions in your book publishing endeavors.

Digital book sales continued to rise

In 2020, people are seeking more at-home entertainment, prioritizing digital means to get them. Movie-streaming services, video games, and of course, books are seeing significant booms. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, PublishDrive’s digital book sales grew by 20% in March and 23% in April. With the world opening back up, the rates flattened slightly in May and June. Still, in June’s mid-2020 report, we recorded a 66% increase in one year. In July, there was another 20% rise compared to the previous month.

In August 2020 compared to August 2019, there was a 69% increase in sales via PublishDrive. Compared to July 2020, a 5% increase. Usually, after the Christmas holiday season, the summer season during July and August is the strongest for book sales. Our current data shows the upkeep of this trend.

The growing book sales are beneficial for PublishDrive users who keep 100% royalties. Since we don’t take any commission, indies get the same royalties as selling directly to stores. All this growth is 100% theirs.

As the pandemic goes on, we plan on keeping a close eye on book trends for the rest of this year. Based on our mid-month report, numbers are looking great for August.

Non-fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, & thriller genres did great

In August, we noticed a growing trend among fiction books. Action & Adventure, Crime, Thriller, True Crime, Sci Fi, and Fantasy were the most popular genres.

We dug deeper to see which subgenres sold best. In the romance genre, there is lots of growth in Action & Adventure or Time Travel. Within the Thriller genre, Crime, Espionage, Historical, Military, and Psychological grew the most.

Non-fiction titles maintained solid growth, especially Biographies, Body, Mind & Spirit, Business, Family & Relationships, Health & Fitness, Psychology, and Self-help. Particularly in the Business category, Business Communication, Careers, Corporate & Business History, Development, Facility Management, Investments & Securities, Mentoring & Coaching, and Quality Control-related books grew in popularity.

When looking at PublishDrive’s popular book genres and countries with the highest growth rates, we have to note the impressive 600% boost in Technology books via Google Play Books. Also, House & Home started to emerge in popularity via Apple and Kobo. See below:

International growth hasn’t slowed down

Growth in the US market has been stable. Meanwhile, international markets continued to rise (since March 2020). The US captured about 30% of PublishDrive’s overall sales, while 70% came from global markets.

Other English-speaking countries grew steadily from July to August including Australia (12%) and New Zealand (5%). Like the US, the UK stayed steady with 0.5% growth. See our bestselling countries in one month:

The US and the UK have been top-performing countries based on sales value, showing constant growth month by month. Other countries stood out, especially in South-East Asia like the Philippines, and Latin America like Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. In European countries like Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland performed well.

Here’s the global growth in one year:

English-language content is in demand around the globe. For a more detailed country to country analysis:

Digital book sales ballooned

Book royalties come from different sources. In PublishDrive, we categorize these sources as:

  • Retail: Major outlets that reach global readers with the usual one copy purchase business model. E.g. Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, and Kobo.
  • Subscription services: Applications or stores that provide unlimited access to books for a monthly subscription fee. E.g. Scribd, Bookmate, and Dreame.
  • Digital library providers: Book borrowing for not just individuals, but institutions like public libraries, schools, universities, or corporate libraries. E.g. OverDrive, Bibliotheca, Mackin, and Odilo.
  • Regional stores: Outlets that cover a specific region that serves the local community. E.g. Tolion, Chinese stores, Hungarian outlets, and German network.

With book sales, many think of selling only on Amazon. Although Amazon is pretty amazing, there’s an entire mass of readers you can find with other stores and business models.

Reader experience has shifted in the last couple of years. In 2020, more people are using subscription services. We’ve also seen trends in growth ratios by different business models:

Regional stores grew by 95% in one year. Library sales more than doubled (112% growth) in one year. Much of this growth came from Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Mongolia, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the UK.

Subscription models increased by 90% in one year, and by 10% compared to the previous month. Countries that experienced this boost included Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, India, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and the US.

Retailers increased by 61% in one year, and by 6% compared to the previous month. The best-performing countries for retail were Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.

See our top-performing stores:

Price promotion tactics worked better for retail

We analyzed 20 book promotions in August and discovered that successful books in retail were particularly higher-priced ebooks (around $9.99). These price promotion strategies ran for an average of 1.5 weeks before they started to increase sales. On average, we’ve seen 10x growth with effective price promotion strategies.

Running a price promotion campaign is a strong sales tactic. Using PublishDrive’s price promo tool, authors and publishers can set them up wherever their titles are published. We also got exclusive partnerships (like with Written Word Media) which allow indies to run various price promos to outside networks reaching hundred-thousands of readers (see more).

So how’s the book market doing? Very well when it comes to digital.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, it’s a golden time for digital publishing and various types of books. If you’re not selling online yet, we encourage you to do so. And come back to PublishDrive’s blog to get updates on what’s happening in the book market every month.

We encourage you to sign up for our free webinar about increasing book sales with PublishDrive's CEO Kinga Jentetics as well: more info here.

Lastly, are you signed up with PublishDrive yet? Start your free 14-day trial to publish and promote books globally during this lucrative time:

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