In the United States book market, fiction books have become the dominant category over the last couple of years. As of 2022, over 52.88% of all print book sales in the US are fiction books.
With the expansion of the category, especially in the adult segment, we decided to compile an in-depth statistical report on fiction book sales.
- In 2022, over 404 million fiction books were sold in the United States.
- While this is a slight decline from the record-setting 2021, when over 407 million print copies were sold in the fiction category.
- Since 2018, fiction books have increased annual unit sales by 71 million, a 22.4% increase over the last 5 years.
- During the pandemic, fiction book sales soared, jumping from 317 million units sold in 2019 to 347 million units in 2020 and 407 million units in 2021.
|Year||Fiction book sales||Change|
The driving force behind the strong fiction sales is the adult segment, which exploded during the pandemic:
- In 2022, over 189 million adult fiction books were sold, accounting for 24.7% of all book sales during the year.
- Adult fiction became the second-best-selling category of print books, trailing only adult nonfiction and surpassing children’s fiction in 2022.
- Overall, fiction books account for over 52.88% of total unit sales in the United States as of 2022.
- This was the second consecutive year where fiction books outsold nonfiction in the print format, as in 2021 fiction accounted for 50.3% of total sales.
- Since 2018, the adult fiction category has grown by 32%, children’s fiction dropped by 8.9%, and YA fiction grew by 58%, making it the fastest-growing print category overall.
|Year||Adult fiction unit sales (million)||Children’s fiction unit sales (million)||YA fiction unit sales (million)|
Fiction book sales revenue
- In 2021, fiction books generated over $10.03 billion in revenue in the trade book segment.
- This was 18.9% more than 2020 revenue when fiction books generated $8.43 billion.
- Adult fiction generates $5.72 billion annually, while the children’s/YA segment contributes $4.31 billion.
- Overall, over 53.38% of the trade book revenue in 2021 came from the fiction category.
- It was the third consecutive year in which fiction generated the majority of the total revenue.
- In 2021, fiction book revenue grew faster than the industry overall.
|Year||Fiction revenue ($ billion)||Total trade revenue ($ billion)||Share of fiction in total trade revenue|
Fiction book sales by category
Regardless of their age category, fiction books are usually consumed within the genre. While there are countless genres and sub-genres of fiction, some are particularly popular among readers.
In this section, we’ll look into the most interesting statistics on fiction book genres:
- Romance novels are the biggest category of fiction, generating over $1.44 billion in sales revenue.
- In 12 months, over 19 million printed romance novels were sold in the United States.
- Another popular category is fantasy books, especially in the YA sector. Some of the best-selling books of all time come from the fantasy genre, led by the Harry Potter series.
- Together with science fiction, fantasy books generate over $590 million in revenue in the United States annually.
- Around 12.5% of adult print books sold in the United States are thriller books, selling over 23 million copies per year.
- Thriller and mystery books are also the second most popular genre category on audiobooks.
Another fiction category that’s gaining popularity is comic books. 2021 was a huge year for comic books and graphic novels after the devastating 2020:
- Comic books and graphic novels sold over 94 million copies in 2021, bouncing from 63 million copies in 2020.
- These sales generated over $2.07 billion in revenue, which increased by 70% compared to the previous year.
- Graphic novels account for over 70% of all comic book sales, jumping from 47% just 10 years ago.
- 56% of all comic books are sold in bookstores, while only 33.9% are sold through comic stores as of 2021.
Best-selling fiction books of all time
As tracking all book sales in human history is impossible, only reliable sales figures are presented on this list. This means that a lot of titles, especially the ones from previous centuries, will not get complete sales to the figure presented.
- According to official stats, 5 book titles generated over 100 million unit sales. Unofficially, 9 titles reached over 100 million sold copies.
- Of the 166 titles that reached over 10 million sold copies, 130 are fiction books, accounting for 78% of best-selling books of all time.
- All of the top 10 best-selling books of all time are fiction books, and 43 out of the top 50 belong to fiction.
- 5 out of the top 10 best-selling books of all time come from the fantasy genre, and 11 from the top 20.
- 6 out of 10 best-selling fiction books were released in the 20th century, 2 are from the 19th, and one is from the 18th and 21st.
- 70% of fiction books that sold over 10 million copies are from the 20th century, 20.8% are published in the 21st, 6.9% come from the 19th century, 1.5% from the 18th, and 0.8% are from the 14th.
- 98 out of 30 best-selling fiction books of all time are published in English, followed by Russian with 6 titles, and French and Italian with 4.
|Book name||Author||Publish date||Language||Estimated sales (million copies)|
|The Hobbit||J. R. R. Tolkien||1937||English||140.6|
|Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone||J. K. Rowling||1997||English||120|
|The Little Prince||Antoine de Saint-Exupéry||1943||French||100|
|Dream of the Red Chamber||Cao Xueqin||1750||Chinese||100|
|And Then There Were None||Agatha Christie||1939||English||100|
|The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe||C. S. Lewis||1950||English||85|
|She: A History of Adventure||H. Rider Haggard||1887||English||83|
|The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio)||Carlo Collodi||1881||Italian||80|
|The Da Vinci Code||Dan Brown||2003||English||80|
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||J. K. Rowling||1998||English||77|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||J. K. Rowling||1999||English||65|
|Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||J. K. Rowling||2000||English||65|
|Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||J. K. Rowling||2003||English||65|
|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince||J. K. Rowling||2005||English||65|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows||J. K. Rowling||2007||English||65|
|The Alchemist (O Alquimista)||Paulo Coelho||1988||Portuguese||65|
|The Catcher in the Rye||J. D. Salinger||1951||English||65|
|The Bridges of Madison County||Robert James Waller||1992||English||60|
|Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ||Lew Wallace||1880||English||50|
|One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad)||Gabriel García Márquez||1967||Spanish||50|
Best-selling fiction authors of all time
Note: Some authors, especially the ones from previous centuries, didn’t make it to the list even though estimates of their book sales exceed 100 million copies. This is due to unreliable sales data.
- There are 99 authors who sold over 100 million books so far.
- 42 of them, or 42.4%, are American authors, the most among all nationalities.
- 24.2% of best-selling authors are British, while 17.2% are Japanese.
- 68 out of 99 best-selling authors published books on the English language, followed by Japanese with 17 and French with 5.
- Of the top 10 best-selling fiction writers, only one didn’t write in English.
- 5 out of 10 best-selling fiction authors are women. 22 female authors have sold over 100 million books so far.
|Author name||Min. estimated sales (million copies)||Max. estimated sales (million copies)||Language|
|J. K. Rowling||500||500||English|
|R. L. Stine||100||400||English|