According to many writers, self-publishing a book is a bit of an uphill struggle. Before they became best-selling authors, many writers struggled to get the attention of publishing houses and were rejected dozens of times. Fortunately, things have changed a lot since the advent of e-books, making it easier for aspiring authors to self-publish their books, gain some recognition, and draw the attention of publishing houses.
Margret Atwood, Andy Weir, and Beatrix Potter are just three examples of successful self-published authors, and the list is actually quite long. Although there’s a lot of “self-publishing stigma,” if we look at the numbers, independent authors can be very successful and make a lot of money. According to Kindle’s A Year in Review, thousands of self-published authors earn five-figure royalties and can make a very comfortable living without depending on a big publishing house.
That being said, some e-book categories are more popular than others. Although there’s a massive market for fiction books, there are many other opportunities out there, so that, no matter what you want to share with the world, you can find a market for it:
Literature & fiction
Literature & fiction is, by a landslide, the most popular e-book category on Amazon. In 2019, the best-selling books in this category got over 1,200 daily sales, so this is a huge opportunity to tap into. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that you will be competing against established authors. If your novel is good and you market it correctly, you can keep up with them. By marketing it properly, we mean having a good cover and a good synopsis, but collaborations with booktubers and bookstagrammers also help a lot.
As for the literature subgenres that sell the best, according to Amazon data, these are:
- Mystery & thriller
- Fantasy & science fiction
- Young adult
One of the most noteworthy self-publishing success stories is that of L.J. Ross, who sold over 4.5 million copies of his debut novel, Holy Island, and proves that you don’t need the name of an influential publishing house to back you up if you have a good story.
Biographies & memoirs
Readers are fascinated with biographies because they give them insight into the lives of famous people and shed a little light on how some industries work. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need to know a celebrity personally to write their biography (although an interview does help). In fact, the person that the biography is about doesn’t even have to be famous in the traditional sense (i.e., appear on TV). A biography can be about a surgeon who saved hundreds of lives, about a researcher who had a breakthrough in their industry, or about a journalist who was a victim of oppression. People love interesting stories and, if you have one (or know someone who does), it’s worth publishing a biography. Also, if you are particularly interested in a famous personality, you can write their unofficial biography.
Self-help books have always been quite popular but, in the past couple of years, the industry has really taken off. In 2019, the market was valued at $38 billion, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.1% by 2027. Why this popularity? Because modern readers are becoming increasingly interested in self-care, understanding more about themselves, and expanding their skillset – whether that’s becoming better parents or creating career goals. As the leading e-book platform, Amazon is the go-place for people to download e-books because the categories are very well divided, and you can find anything you could ever want. From books about the influence of randomness when making decisions in life to books about how to combat procrastination, the self-market encompasses many categories, so no matter how specific your subject matter may be, you’ll probably find an audience for it.
Some of the most notable self-help categories include:
- Motivational & inspirational books that encourage the reader to slow down and focus on mindfulness or letting go of self-sabotaging behaviors.
- Healthy living books; i.e., healthy ways to lose weight, how to stop eating sugar, how to get into fitness if you hate going to gym, how to overcome eating disorders etc.
- Self-help books that encourage creativity
- Developing new skills
Non-fiction is a broad category that encompasses everything from academic texts to travel guides and how-to manuals. Basically, if you know a topic well enough, there’s a strong chance that people might pay to read your e-book about it. Unlike fiction and self-help books, which are read mostly for pleasure, as a hobby, non-fiction books cater more to the practical reader, who wants to know a topic very well and are willing to pay to gain access to pertinent information.
The best part of self-publishing a non-fiction book is that you don’t necessarily need to be a trained writer to have thousands of downloads (although, as always, thorough editing is a must). You can publish a book about home water softener maintenance, how to grow your own vegetables, or about the types of air conditioners. You can publish a cookbook with your grandma’s famous recipes or a book about the history of your hometown. In general, quality speaks for itself, and if what you write is high-quality and informative, the book will sell for itself. Don’t feel discouraged if the topic of your book is niche: Amazon is a vast marketplace, and you have access to millions of readers.
Despite the assumption that children don’t read books anymore, they do. In fact, the children’s e-book market is growing at a steady pace, and parents will continue to buy books for their little ones. However, what has changed is the kind of e-books that sell best. If a few years ago the most lucrative categories were bedtime stories and nursery rhymes, now, the focus falls on educational and activity books. The best-selling children’s books are about development milestones and books that combine learning with playtime: puzzles, songs, computer sciences for kids, etc.
Markus lives in San Francisco, California and is the video game and audio expert on Good e-Reader! He has a huge interest in new e-readers and tablets, and gaming.