Memoirs and Autobiography Sales Statistics

Memoirs and Autobiography Sales Statistics

  • Memoirs and biographies for young adults grew 26% in sales revenue over the last 5 years.
  • Unit sales for the category dropped by 17.9% in 2021 over 2020, even though the category had a strong first quarter of 2021 with a 38% increase over the Q1 of 2020.
  • This is faster growth than the adult non-fiction category, which grew 22.5%.
  • Memoirs and Biographies is the #1 best-selling hard copy book, non-fiction book category on Amazon
    • It comes in ahead of
      • Self Help
      • Religion and Spirituality
      • Health, Fitness, and Dieting 
      • Politics and Social Science
  • For e-books, memoirs and biographies come in second behind religion and spirituality.

Best-selling memoirs and autobiographies

BookAuthorRelease dateCopies sold
An AutobiographyAgatha Christie201210M+
The Autobiography of Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin17915M+
A Promised LandBarack Obama20205M+
BecomingMichelle Obama20184M+
EducatedTara Westover20182M+
Born a Crime
Stories from a South African Childhood
Trevor Noah20162M+
Love, LucyLucille Ball19971M+
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. GrantUlysses S. Grant20061M+
Into Thin Air:
A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
Jon Krakauer19971M+
The Autobiography of Malcolm XMalcolm X1987500K+

Largest advances for memoirs or autobiographies

  1. Barack and Michelle Obama for A Promised Land and becoming – $60million
  2. My Life by Bill Clinton – $15 million
  3. Hard Choices by Hilary Clinton – $14 million
  4. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen – $10 million
  5. Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II – $8.5 million
  6. Life by Keith Richards – $7.3 million
  • The largest advance ever for an autobiography is 4x that of the second largest.
  • Of the six largest advances: 3 were for politicians, 2 for rockstars, and one for the head of the Catholic church.
  • George W Bush received $7 million for his memoirs, suggesting that publishers have more faith in Democratic politicians to sell books than their Republican counterparts.
  • The average reader got through less than 13 pages of Hard Choices by Hilary Clinton.

Memoirs and autobiographies on the NYT bestsellers list

  • Over 3 million books are published each year, and less than 500 make the NYT BSL.
  • General fiction and biographies make the list more frequently than any other genre.
  • 31% of Americans say biographies are their favorite book genre.
  • Almost 50% of non-fiction books on the NYT BSL are biographies or memoirs.
  • Of 2,025 non-fiction books to have reached the NYT BSL, almost 900 were biographies or memoirs.
  • History, general non-fiction, and reference books are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively.
  • 24% of biographies and memoirs last just one week on the list.
  • Male authors dominate in all non-fiction categories, but the gender gap is smallest in memoirs and biographies.

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