Monday 5 March 2018

Genre Trends

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Over the last year (2017), our CWD/ACW posts have explored different genres. We have just scratched the surface and will be looking at more genres in the coming months.  However, last year Ian Acheson suggested we look at current genre trends for 2017.

Why Worry about Genre Trends?

What difference does this make? Some genres tend to be more popular. Romance is generally big, and also thrillers, mystery and crime as well as science fiction and fantasy and children’s picture books. In non-fiction, cookbooks, self-help, biographies might be popular. In recent years, there have growing trends for Young Adult and Graphic Novels. On the other hand, literary fiction may have a more limited, perhaps refined audience whereas poetry – once the Queen of literature – is often hard to sell.

And different sub-genres РAmish or paranormal romance or dystopias or Nordic noir or solar punk - may be all the rage -- often on the back of a popular block buster (Twilight, Hunger Games, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) or ongoing trend (like Amish). Or, perhaps the once favourite genre is already pass̩.

Of course, trending could mean either what readers buying/reading OR what agents and publishers looking for/accepting. It stands to reason that what readers want and what agents and publishers are looking for are the same thing – but not always. For instance, publishers may choose more literary titles or have particular biases and interests. And there are often big differences between what sells from the big publishing houses compared to the big sellers for Indie authors.

 Knowing which genres are trending may help in choosing or refining our target audience and the genre we write in.  Writing to a popular genre or sub-genre can make a difference to how many readers and royalties we garner. If you have more than one potential project, knowing the trends may help choose which to write next. Or maybe we can tweak what we are already writing to appeal to a specific audience. 

Even so, there is often a niche audience for most sub-genres, even obscure ones. Besides, a trend may be on its way out of a saturated market by the time it takes to write our book and get it published. And predictions are just that – predictions – at best educated guesses based on current trends, at worst just plain wrong.

Besides, there may be good reasons why you don’t want to write a particular genre or sub-genre, no matter how hot it currently is. It’s better to write what you are passionate about, than to slog out a book in a genre you hate because it sells (readers will notice). 

So, what are the trends?

In General

In A D Hurley’s 2017 report on Amazon sells, Romance took 66% of books, with 87% of the top 100 selling slots. Other top-selling genres go to Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Non-Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Children’s, and Literary Fiction, respectively. Whereas, for the Big 5 publishers literary fiction heads the list, then 2. Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, 3. Children’s, 4. Non-Fiction, 5. Science Fiction/Fantasy and 6. Romance.  Small press publishers might have their own preferences and specialities.

Within the broader categories, some subgenres are trending.  Hurley reports (2017) ‘LGBT books have seen a 200% increase, comic books and graphic novels — an 119% bump, and Teen and YA novels are on a 63% rise.’ 

Dena of Batch of Books suggests that YA & Children’s books with diversity (people of colour, disability, woman and LGBT), unique or strong woman characters, humour and ‘love, hope and dreams’ will do well in 2018  Other pundits suggest an increase in mystery books. While some suggest, in contrast to the pessimistic dystopian books, the optimist Solar Punk is making its mark.

Other areas that is growing, according to Lauren Wise, are novellas, anthologies, and co-authoring and book bundles. In part as marketing strategies for authors, but also because shorter fiction is easier to publish as an e-book, and readers often have less time and appreciate shorter reads.

Some of these trends provides a challenge for Christian authors, but also an opportunity.

Christian Books

Non-fiction (Bibles, devotionals, Christian living and biographies) probably dominate the Christian market. How do genre trends translate into Christian Fiction?


Traditionally, in the USA, Christian fiction has been driven by romance, historical and biblical fiction – with a strong emphasis on Amish and bonnet fiction. 

For 2018, Publisher Weekly reports that some suggest Amish is waning, while others feel it is still going strong and that there may be a trend toward romantic suspense. Speculative fiction and mystery have struggled with CBA though there has been a trend for cross-over and edgier fiction with small press – such as Gilead’s acquisition of Enclave and expansive publishing model -- and a move to more realistic fiction that addresses difficult issues with some publishers.  (See also this.)


The Australian and New Zealand markets are much smaller, especially in Christian fiction and non-fiction with limited publication opportunities and difficulty competing with big titles from across the Pacific.

Christian readers downunder often favour more realistic, maybe edgier, fiction than the America market. Once again, romance is a major player, though Rhiza Press publishes a range of genres, and Stone Table Books is actively looking for speculative fiction. Perhaps mystery and (non-romantic) thrillers are underrepresented.

The Future

Whatever the trends, God holds the future. And while it’s in some ways harder than it was a few decades ago, there are different opportunities as well. Part of our challenge is to respond the heart cries of the world with the grace and hope of the gospel - whether explicitly or implicitly. 

So over to you – What trends would you predict for 2018? What’s your favourite genre or sub-genre to write or to read? And what’s the strangest genre you’ve come across?

ACW/CWD Cross post.


Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children. Find her on Facebook or at her webpages Jeanette O'Hagan Writes or Jenny's Thread.


  1. This is a great commentary (with loads of great links). Thanks, Jenny!

    I'm most intrigued by the contrast between the Amazon sales list (romance is #1 by a long way) and what the Big 5 publish (literary is #1).

    I suspect this is because romance buyers are prolific readers, and Amazon has the best selection of reasonably priced romance (thanks, Kindle!).

    In contrast, literary titles can be hard to sell. I guess publishers publish literary fiction for a reason. They look good in the annual report?
    They win major awards? But many don't seem to sell unless and until they win some big award. Even then, are they read?

    1. Hi Iola - yes, it is fascinating to see that contrast and also what is classified as literary. I'm sure you're right that a lot wouldn't sell unless awarded a big reward and even then not read widely. Then again - authors like Geraldine Brooks, Hannah Kent, Kate Morton, Kate Grenville, Anthony Doerr might be classified as literary and have strong followings. Maybe books that take longer to research and write and have more kudos than many category romance?

  2. Great to see non-fiction in the running. Breaking into this male dominated author genre for a female author has to be of God. Write about biblical moral behaviour and the books fly out the door. Write about biblical truth/doctrine and faith is another matter. Nevertheless God gets these books into the hands he wants to have them despite genre trends and gender bias by mainstream Christians. Happy to be obedient to my calling whether in the popularity polls or not. Thanks for this post.


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