It is almost every day that we receive a question from you on the lines of ‘Will my religious book sell well in Germany?’, or ‘Do Hungarians read romances?’. So far we had only anecdotal evidence to provide information in this regard. But we thought: our data, at the end of the day, is actually your data. Everything we know today about the industry we know because you have trusted us with your books and sales. So we have partnered up with an amazing data scientist to help us understand what our data actually means. You have asked and we have delivered it: most popular ebook genres per country by unit sold. Special thanks to data scientist Mór Kapronczay for his help in preparing, analysing and explaining the data. (Mór is now part of our team, so there is more data to come.)
We were interested in seeing not only which categories sell well in which countries, but learning whether there are genres that are unexpectedly popular or unpopular in a country.
To assess this, we have counted all sales in 22 countries in the main BISAC categories. Then Mór has assumed independence. This means that he calculated how many books would have been sold in each category in each country if there was no correlation between countries and genres. Then he had assessed the difference and turned it into percentages.
Positive numbers mean that a certain genre is doing better in a country than expected, and negative numbers mean that it is doing worse. For example, let’s say that we sold 30 books of Health and Fitness in Ukraine. (Attention: This is just an example.) In case of independence (if countries and categories would not be related), we would have sold 15. So the difference is 15; it is the 50% of 30 (the total), and will be listed as 50% on the graphs below. But practically it means that we have sold twice as many books as we were expected to sell.
We did take into account the catalogue size per categories per countries as an inclusion criteria to ensure that we don’t analyse countries where no books were sold at all.
Most popular categories across countries
We were interested to see which are the overall most popular categories in the 22 countries we were analysing. Not so surprisingly, Fiction books are responsible for almost three quarters of all sales; the most sales in our database were made by traditionally published international bestsellers, often adapted to the big screen.
Our best-selling self-published authors made in average a sixth of the sales and revenues of traditionally published books. Taking into account the resources self-published authors often have compared to major publishing houses (and the fact that none of our self-published authors got offered a movie deal, at least not that we know of), we are proud to have so talented and successful writers on board.
Fiction is followed by Literary collections like Collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As publishing public domain content is a popular way among publishers and self-publishers to make some extra money, it is the least bit surprising. While everyone loves a carefully curated classic, as these titles are often freely available on the internet, the publisher is responsible for adding some extra content that makes the readers pay for them. Read more here.
Another strong contender is Religion. Sacred texts of all religions are selling well in many languages. The Bible, the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita are all attracting many readers both in their original form and as translations. Many of these books are often offered for free, in order to reach many people. In addition to the sacred texts themselves, popular religious texts also include commentaries of sacred texts.
Biography and autobiography
Our top three countries for selling autobiography were Ukraine, the United States and Hungary. In the United States, autobiographies are twice as popular as it would be expected without correlation; in Ukraine, it is a bit more than three times.
When it comes to negative results, our sales data shows that autobiographies in Brazil are the least popular, followed by Turkey and Russia. The results could be skewed by the fact that while we have many Portuguese language books, we are partnering with a few great Ukrainian publishers bringing biographies and autobiographies of current politicians and public figures, while Brazilians have to choose between Queen Victoria and Robespierre. I understand that they are not thrilled.
Body, mind and spirit
If you are an author writing books in the Body, mind and spirit category, you have a good chance of selling your books in Austria, Hungary and Switzerland: in all three countries, you are twice as likely to sell a book in this category than anywhere else. Our bestsellers in these three countries are mostly in English. Body, mind and spirit books are least popular in Mexico, Spain and Sweden. Popular books in these countries include topics like yoga and pilgrimage.
Books belonging under Body, mind and spirit were selling better than expected in overall 10 countries out of the 22 in question. While it was not our most popular category among all, it looks like there were several countries where these books could reach a high popularity.
Business & Economics
Unlike the categories previously listed, there were no countries where Business & Economics would have been exceptionally unpopular. The top country for this category is Ukraine, with sales almost four times as much as it could be expected, and Brazil and Australia with sales three times the expected. Business books sold worse than other categories in Italy, Romania and Netherlands. Popular topics include the stock market, cryptocurrencies and books on brand strategy and management.
I was very surprised to learn that fiction is selling in every country at about the same level. Romania, Spain and Italy are selling only a fraction more than other countries. If we add additional filters to the search and look only at the self-published titles in English, the most popular books include erotica, romance and paranormal romance among other. This is no wonder: self-published romance novels dominate the market. We’ll publish another article only on fiction titles: stay tuned!
Health and Fitness
And here comes the first category where English speaking countries do best even without filtering for languages. Health-related books sold very well in the United States, in Canada and Australia. Our toplist includes dietary advice and cookbooks, sport advice, and – naturally – guides for correctly using the Kama Sutra. Don’t blush! Our toplist included books both from self-published authors and publishing houses.
And last but not least: psychology. Psychology books sold very well in Ukraine (with almost four times the expected sales), and also in Germany and Switzerland. Our self-published psychology bestsellers include both self-help psychology books (anger management, dealing with old age) and tutorials and study guides of popular psychology textbooks. Our publisher-supplied bestsellers are also similar: how to use psychology for bettering your life.
Does our sales data resonate with your personal experience? Will it help fine-tune your marketing? Are you running to write the next fitness book and market it in Australia? Please let us know at the comments.