Who sets the genre trends in publishing?

The digital revolution has seen expansive change in the publishing world. In recent years, it could be argued that it has impacted revenue of printed books, and how people consume their literature.

However, more recently, rather than hinder the sector, e-books and the rise in self-publishing has actually contributed to growth in the industry as a whole, at an impressive 5% in 2018[1]. Plus, printed books are still very popular amongst the public. In 2018, 190.9 million books were sold at a value of £1.63 billion[2].

With this rise in sales, a few things are clear:

  • Authors are writing books that their audiences want
  • Publishers are commissioning books that audiences want
  • Customers are buying the books that authors are writing, and publishers are printing.

So, who sets the trends in the publishing industry? Is it the publishers and the manuscripts they choose? Or are the buying habits of the public much more influential on the output of both authors and publishing houses?

What do people want to read?

Often when we look back at the literary bestsellers of the year, there will be numerous books of a similar theme or topic that have been cult hits across demographics.

In 2019, a few titles that spring to mind may be This Is Going to Hurt, by Adam Kay, and The Secret Barrister, whose author remains a secret! These titles offer readers an insight into the frontline of some of the most challenging and competitive professional sectors in the UK.

The success of these books has led to a flurry of subsequent similar titles, including The Prison Doctor (Dr Amanda Brown), The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story (Christie Watson) and Trust Me, I’m A (Junior) Doctor (Max Pemberton).

The genres that are popular with readers, year after year, are Crime and Thrillers and Romance novels.

Books like The Girl on the Train and The Couple Next Door sold millions across the world. As well as a strong publicity plan, word-of-mouth recommendations to friends, families and book clubs all contribute to user-generated genre trends, and the books that consumers enjoy (and buy) are the books that publishing houses are keen to sell.

Are you choosing the right genres to publish?

As expected, you will take an extremely commercial approach when assessing which manuscripts you choose to publish. By looking to distribute books at the right time, in the right place, to the right audience, your publishing house can really benefit from a lucrative industry. As well as being in competition with other growing leisure activities (such as TV on demand), publishing houses are also in competition with one another to grow – and keep – their repertoire of successful and popular authors, so need to be in tune with what makes readers tick.

Publishers know that fiction bestsellers are mostly crime thrillers now[3]. Therefore, they will be on the lookout for the next successful ideas or stories in this genre or nurturing the talent they already have in this area. Romance also consistently holds its own with a loyal fanbase, with recent novels by Jojo Moyes and Sophie Kinsella hitting the best-seller list, and publishing houses continuing to print, promote and invest in these stories.

Where independent publishers can really excel, however, is by specialising in a certain genre. This niche can assist publishers in becoming experts, both in the manuscripts chosen and how to maximise the marketing and publicising of them. It can also create a loyal customer base for the independents.

Book trends are set by both readers, and publishing houses

Book genre trends do change. Sometimes autobiographies and self-help/development books dominate the best-seller charts. On the other hand, there are some genres that remain popular year in, year out, and will consistently be purchased by consumers and promoted by publishers. Building a credible back catalogue, be it for a specific genre or across a variety, can help the independent publishers stand out in a busy market place.

Whether your publishing house specialises in a certain genre, or chooses to publish a book based on the merit of its manuscript, our services at Printondemand-worldwide can support your organisation’s journey from manuscript to sale to fulfilment, no matter how big or small.

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[1] The Publishers Association: https://www.publishers.org.uk/news/releases/2018/yearbook/ Accessed 17.12.19

[2] ‘Leading the entertainment pack’: UK print book sales rise again. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/03/leading-the-entertainment-pack-uk-print-book-sales-rise-again Accessed 17.12.19

[3] ‘7 Publishing Insights Revealed By Last Year’s Top 100 Bestselling Books’ Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2019/01/05/publishing-insights-revealed-by-last-years-top-100-bestselling-books/#5141be426913 Accessed 19.12.19