Super-readers and their interests

I was, thanks to Michael A Rothman pointing me at it, looking at some of the Bookbub data. Now: words of caution, these reflect largely ‘super-readers’ – people who read a lot and are therefore interested in this service. The data may not reflect the overall sales patterns at all (for example, literary fiction in absolute numbers sells less than sf –which is why I always wonder at the self-elected ‘elite’ of sf and their frantic desire to be accepted by… literary fiction.)

Super-readers are however great promoters of your work and the self-described interest in various categories is probably something of a clue as to where publishers could find demand. It’s a little harder for authors as you want both demand, and an under-supplied area. I’d guess the percentage of free downloads indicate readers searching, experimenting – a good arena for new authors. Of course if the interest in that category is small, the download/sales numbers are small. Of particular interest is what translates into paid sales. The areas to look at warily are those where a lot of people will download for free, but few buy. The ideal ‘sweet spot’ is reasonable volume (high interest) reasonable percentage of free downloads, and high paid percentage. A high paid percentage may seem desirable but if that’s off low interest number, and low ‘exploratory’ (free download) percentage, that’s not too good for new authors, but possibly OK for established ones.

I didn’t have time to enter the whole data-set. It is here, if you’re interested in other categories, or the whole picture or wish to check my figures. Some of the breakdown doesn’t lend itself to analysis, as I suspect that the subsets say of Historical Fiction and Historical Mystery and Historical Romance probably share a lot of the same subscribers. Romance categories, and sf/fantasy likewise.

I’ll largely let the numbers talk for themselves. Each list is ranked highest to lowest.


1Crime 4620000
2 Thrillers 3540000
3 Literary Fiction 3160000
4 Historical fiction 3110000
5 Historical mysteries 3050000
6 Cozy mysteries 2810000
7 Contemporary Romance 2590000
8 Women’s fiction 2290000
9 Fantasy 2080000
10 Science Fiction 2050000
11 Historical Romance 1810000
12 Erotic Romance 1220000
13 Horror 1140000
14 Christian Fiction 860000
15 African American Interest 460000
16 LGBT 360000


1 Cozy mysteries 46400
2 Crime 45900
3 Historical mysteries 40800
4 Women’s fiction 40100
5 Contemporary Romance 35000
6 Thrillers 33300
7 Fantasy 25800
8 Historical fiction 25200
9 Science Fiction 24100
10 Erotic Romance 21900
11 Literary Fiction 21200
12 Historical Romance 18700
13 Christian Fiction 16700
14 Horror 14800
15 African American Interest 3300
16 LGBT 3100


1 Crime 2820
2 Historical fiction 2750
3 Women’s fiction 2730
4 Literary Fiction 2420
5 Historical mysteries 2170
6 Thrillers 2100
7 Cozy mysteries 1990
8 Contemporary Romance 1970
9 Historical Romance 1900

10Science Fiction 1670

11 Fantasy 1490

12 Erotic Romance 1330
13 Christian Fiction 1070
14 Horror 690
15 LGBT 570
16 African American Interest 330

1 Christian Fiction 1.94186
2 Erotic Romance 1.795082
3 Women’s fiction 1.751092
4 Cozy mysteries 1.651246
5 Contemporary Romance 1.351351
6 Historical mysteries 1.337705
7 Horror 1.298246
8 Fantasy 1.240385
9 Science Fiction 1.17561
10 Historical Romance 1.033149
11 Crime 0.993506
12 Thrillers 0.940678
13 LGBT 0.861111
14 Historical fiction 0.810289
15 African American Interest 0.717391
16 Literary Fiction 0.670886

1 LGBT 0.158333
2 Christian Fiction 0.124419
3 Women’s fiction 0.119214
4 Erotic Romance 0.109016
5 Historical  Romance 0.104972
6 Historical fiction 0.088424
7 Science fiction0.081463
8 Literary Fiction 0.076582
9 Contemporary Romance 0.076062
10 African American Interest 0.071739
11 Fantasy 0.071635
12 Historical mysteries 0.071148
13 Cozy mysteries 0.070819
14 Crime 0.061039
15Horror 0.060526
16 Thrillers 0.059322

LGBT 18.39
Literary Fiction 11.42
Historical fiction 10.91
Historical Romance 10.16
Science Fiction 10.04
African American Interest 10
Women’s fiction 6.8
Christian Fiction 6.41
Thrillers 6.31
Crime 6.14
Erotic Romance 6.07
Fantasy 5.77
Contemporary Romance 5.63
Historical mysteries 5.32
Horror 4.66
Cozy mysteries 4.29

A QUICK ‘DIRTY’ CALCULATION OF NEWBIE SWEET SPOT ( a lot of interest – a lot of experimenting with new to them authors -free, and a high percentage of sales) RANKED (NUMBER INTERESTED*FREE PERCENTAGE*PAID PERCENTAGE)

1Women’s fiction 478048
2 Cozy mysteries 328598
3 Historical mysteries 290282
4 Crime 280169
5 Contemporary Romance 266216
6 Erotic Romance 238746
7 Historical fiction 222830
8 Christian Fiction 207779
9 Thrillers 197542
10 Science Fiction 196326
11 Historical Romance 196298
12 Fantasy 184817
13 Literary Fiction 162354
14 Horror 89578
15 LGBT 49083
16 African American Interest 23673

I hope some of you at least found this as interesting as I did. There was a lot I didn’t expect, (like the relatively high percentage of free downloads for Horror, as compared to low percentage of buyers) as well as confirming some things I had derived from other sources. Some categories have smaller absolute numbers but a lot of those interested actually buy (LGBT). You should always write what interests you – but, if, like me you are quite happy in any number of categories, it may help you make up your mind. If you’re a publisher or an acquiring editor, it may give you a hint as to where proportionally you should spend your money for the best returns.


Image by Jae Rue from Pixabay

10 thoughts on “Super-readers and their interests

  1. Looking at those numbers it is clear that there’s lots and lots of bad news for the race-baiting SJW crowd in there. Newbie Sweet Spot:

    13 Christian Fiction 1670 (supposedly a super tiny niche market for weirdos.)
    15 African American Interest 330
    16 LGBT 310

    Thus is answered the reason why there’s fewer minorities writing minority-interest stuff. So much for the Whiteness Patriarchy.

    Let’s rub some extra salt in the wound: the bar for entry into this market is lying flat on the ground. Your work doesn’t even have to be readable. If Mr/Ms/What? Author wants to be published, they can write their book on a computer in the local library for free and be published 100% for free. And then get money, if their work is any good at all.

    My first book is published and it took me 20 years to write, through times of money, no money, sickness, health, in two countries, in stolen moments while Life(TM) happened. But there it is, published. I see no reason for others to complain about lack of access. But still, they do. Incessantly.

    1. Phantom I picked up an error – I was very tired doing this last night, but it still doesn’t change the conclusion you reach, except Christian Fiction rates better.

      1. I wonder if readers tend to be hungry for stories that fill their niche, and because of the religious element, are more willing to pay as opposed to take and go? One could argue, albeit tenuously, that reading only an author’s free books is close to theft.

      2. Christian fiction was listed higher in the original? Ha!

        If there is one section that gets stuffed back behind the couch, Christian anything is definitely it. -Nobody- wants to talk about it or be associated with it. “Those deplorables shouldn’t be allowed! Clinging on to their guns and religion like that!”

        Seeing the Bookbub number rating it FOUR TIMES the SJW favorites was a hoot.

        1. Men’s Adventure is another genre that dare not say its name, except at truck stop book and audiobook racks. But they have to be making the cash, and a lot of popular series seem to have men’s adventure elements. Heck, you could argue that Michael Anderle’s space vampire books are men’s adventure with a female protagonist. (Much like Modesty Blaise, except that was a lot more noir and realistic.)

          I miss Remo Williams a lot. Sadly, pretty much everybody involved with that series is dead.

          I don’t know where the men’s adventure or sf/f with “harem romance” stuff falls, but I know there’s a lot of it in litrpg (for pay) as well as in anime fanfic (for free). Again, the use of warnings or keywords on some very big sellers seems to indicate that it’s not a dying subgenre.

          But yeah, Christian romance is very big. There’s a reason that Walmart and Sam’s Club always have a section just for them (right next to the Bibles) and it’s not out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.

          Part of the reason it’s big is that Harlequin and other publishers stopped clearly indicating “sweet romance” (ie, no sex) and the various degrees of heat, vs. erotica of escalating degrees of edginess. (Or there were no clear indications for novice readers of romance.) So people who didn’t want to read sex scenes started reading Amish romances and such, even if they weren’t Christians, evangelicals, etc.

          But yeah, of course the evangelical market is big, also.

          I don’t think anybody really understands how much money globally is “left on the table” by the publishing industry refusing to cultivate readers by giving them what they like.

          Look how happy video game fans are with the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. It’s a nice movie, and it’s very fun even for a non-fan like me; but it has even more value for fans, just by treating them decently and giving them a professional, loving job that’s a good return on their money.

  2. Very interesting, thanks! I note that they tabulate free books versus paid books. Are they are not tabulating KULL books? Or are those counted in the Paid category? The pay-to-borrow category certainly seems significant to me.

    I signed up with Bookbub two months ago, and have found several new authors I like. I will download a free book to try, if the author’s work is not on KU, but if both, I will borrow the KU version every time. Especially if it is a series. Might knowing the percentage of KU borrows be a useful statistic when considering where/what to publish?

    My only complaint about Bookbub so far is that their categories are so broad. E.g, Historical Romance seems to include everything from medieval to post-WWII with no sub-categories. But I do get a decent daily selection across the four categories I’ve currently chosen.

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