Nonfiction Book Sales Statistics

  • The global nonfiction book market is projected at $14.02 billion as of 2022, which is a 5.7% growth compared to $13.27 billion in 2021.
  • By 2026, the global nonfiction book market is projected to reach $16.61 billion.
  • Total U.S nonfiction sales revenue reached $7.34 billion as of 2021, a 1.52% increase over 2020 of $7.23 billion.
  • The US nonfiction book market generates over 55.3% of global nonfiction book revenue.
  • US adult nonfiction sales reached $6.40 billion, while YA and juvenile fiction generate over $.0.94 billion per year.
  • Adult nonfiction generates the most revenue and the most unit sales in the US book market.
  • As of 2022, over 360.11 million nonfiction print books are sold in the US.
  • This is a 10.4% drop over the 401.94 million print units sold in 2021.
  • As of 2022, nonfiction print books account for 45.5% of book sales in the US, trailing fiction books for the second year in a row.
  • 2020 has been the best-performing year for adult nonfiction ebooks since 2017, selling 29 million units in the U.S.
  • As of 2020, one in five books sold for the adult nonfiction segment were audiobooks.

Nonfiction books sales in the US

Nonfiction print unit sales in the US

  • 360.1 million nonfiction print books were sold in 2022.
  • This was a 10.1% decrease over the 401.9 million reached in 2021.
  • 289.34 million nonfiction adult print books were sold in 2022.
  • This is the biggest nonfiction category, accounting for over 80% of total nonfiction sales.
  • Nonfiction book sales account for 45.5% of total print book sales as of 2022.
  • 70.8 million nonfiction children’s/ya books were sold in 2021.
  • This segment totals 19.65% of nonfiction unit sales.
Adult nonfiction295.08309.39322.56289.34
Juvenile nonfiction62.1677.8775.0666.65328
Young adult nonfiction2.713.994.324.12
Total nonfiction print units sold359.95391.24401.94360.11

A graphical representation of nonfiction print unit sales by age group for the U.S. is given below:

Nonfiction digital unit sales in the US

Nonfiction e-book sales

  • For the given period, 2020 was the best-performing year for adult nonfiction ebooks, selling 36 million units in the U.S.
  • For this category, sales grew steadily until dropping to 29 million units sold in 2021.
  • In total, adult nonfiction ebook units increased by 11.54% over the given period.
YearAdult nonfiction ebook units sold (million)Change
202129– 19.44%
202036+ 28.57%
201828+ 7.69%

Nonfiction audiobook sales

  • In 2020, audiobooks were most popular within the adult non-fiction category.
  • The audiobook format represented one in five books sold for this segment.
  • In 2018, nonfiction audiobook sales made up 32.7% of total U.S. audiobook sales.
  • This was an increase of 29.4% when compared to the previous year.

Nonfiction sales revenue in the US

Adult nonfiction sales revenue – U.S.

  • Adult nonfiction sales revenue stands at $6.40 billion as of 2021.
  • This is a YoY increase of 2.24%.
  • 2021 was also the best-performing year for the adult segment over the three-year period.
  • In total, adult nonfiction sales revenue has grown 12.87% since 2019.
YearAdult nonfiction ($ billion)Change

Children’s/ya nonfiction sales revenue – U.S.

  • Children’s/ya nonfiction sales revenue reached $0.94 billion as of 2021.
  • This was a YoY change of -3.09%.
  • In total, children’s/ya nonfiction has grown 5.62% since 2019.
  • 2020 was also the best performing year for the children’s/ya segment over the period at $0.97 billion.
YearChildren’s/ya nonfiction ($ billion)Change
2021$0.94– 3.09%

A graphical representation of nonfiction revenue by age group for the U.S. is given below:

Nonfiction book sales by category

Memoirs and autobiography sales

A full breakdown of memoirs and autobiography book sales is available on this page.

  • As of 2021, Memoirs and biographies for young adults grew 26% over the previous 5 years.
  • Memoirs and Biographies is the #1 best-selling hard copy book, non-fiction book category on Amazon.
  • For e-books, memoirs and biographies come in second behind religion and spirituality.

Self-help book sales

More on self-help book sales figures are available in our in-depth report.

  • According to NPD Group, The self-help industry has exploded in recent years: by 11% from 2013 to 2019, with U.S. sales of self-help books growing annually up to 18.6 million volumes. 
  • Self-help title numbers nearly tripled during the same period, from 30,897 to 85,253.
  • This industry was worth $10.5 billion as of 2020. 

Business book sales

A complete breakdown of business book sales statistics is on this page.

  • Approximately 80.64 million business and economics category print books were sold in 2021.
  • This represents 25% of adult non-fiction print sales which were over 322.56 million in total.
  • 2021 showed a 10% rise from over 73.31 million for the business and economics category when compared to the previous FY.

Cookbook sales

  • As of October 2021, year-to-date sales of baking cookbooks were higher than the previous year by 42%.
  • Baking book sales showed a strong YoY growth trend over the 10 previous years.
  • Benefitting from “The Great British Bake Off,” Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood titles were among the category’s top three best-sellers as of November 2021.

Bestselling nonfiction books of all time

In terms of the all time best-sellers list, nonfiction books are known to sell less copies than works of fiction, although some nonfiction titles have still managed to achieve huge sales numbers.

  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, published in 1937, is the best selling nonfiction book of all time, selling over 70 million copies.
  • 3 other nonfiction titles sold over 50 million copies, and additional 4 titles sold over 40 million copies.
  • A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard is the oldest nonfiction book on the best-selling list, published in the 19th century in 1899.
#TitleAuthorYearPagesCopies sold*
1Think and Grow RichNapoleon Hill193723870 million
2You Can Heal Your LifeLouise Hay198422450 million
3The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child CareBenjamin Spock194652750 million
4The Hite ReportShere Hite197663850 million
5Rich Dad Poor DadRobert T. Kiyosaki200033644 million
6CosmosCarl Sagan198038440 million
7The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey198938140 million
8A Message to GarciaElbert Hubbard18994240 million
9The Diary of a Young GirlAnne Frank194735035 million
10Your Erroneous ZonesWayne Dyer197625635 million
(*Other titles may be excluded due to sales reporting differences.)

Nonfiction book sales FAQ

What are nonfiction books?

  • Nonfiction books attempt to provide information based on facts, research, and objective expertise rather than by using the author’s creative imagination.

What are the most popular nonfiction genres?

  • The most popular nonfiction genres are memoir, self-help, narrative, religion/spirituality, cultural/social issues, and biographies.

How is the nonfiction book market segmented?

  • The global nonfiction books market is segmented by type, category, and distribution channel.
    • The type includes ebooks, printed books, and audiobooks.
    • The category includes religion, travel, biography, history/law/political science, business/economics, cooking/entertainment, computers, crafts/antiques/hobbies/games, performing arts, and others.
    • Distribution channel includes online sales, bookstores, and direct sales.