iUniverse presents: Genres which make the most money, Part 2

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iUniverse continues with its list of which genres bring in the most cash. We’ve already seen horror, sci-fi/fantasy, and self-help, so let’s go into the Top Two below.

Second: Crime and mystery dramas. The most famous detective in history, Sherlock Holmes, made his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, far richer than the author’s medical practice ever did, and still inspires more stories to this day. Currently, there are two television series based on the detective, Elementary and Sherlock. Another mystery writer, Agatha Christie, left a fortune of USD150m upon her death. And they are not alone: James Patterson and John Grisham give them a run for their money, with the latter presently worth USD200m.

The genre itself brought in USD750m in 2013, and it is not difficult to surmise why: crime and mystery books are page-turners and know how to manipulate people’s curiosity. Like horror, they combine suspense with action and cliffhangers to increase storytelling momentum, and then end with an exciting conclusion that leaves the reader with a feeling of satisfaction – at least until the next book in the series.

*iUniverse notes here that in all genres, creating a series is an important strategy in developing a following – and hence in bringing in more bucks.*

And finally, First: Romance. It may surprise male readers, but Romance is by far the top-selling genre. In 2013, its revenues were more than TWICE that of crime/mystery,


Nora Roberts

exceeding USD1.5bn. A closer look around helps you to see where this revenue comes from: a huge percentage of women have one of these novels in their purse or in their car, and the books are found in large sections in bookstores as well as supermarkets.

The genre has several key aspects. For one, readers of Romance tend to stay loyal to one author – accounting for why authors such as Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts produce numerous novels per year and make astronomical sums of money (Roberts’ earnings for 2013 were over USD60m!).

Another unique feature of this genre is that very little alteration is needed in plot or writing style between each book. The complicated plots and twists of mystery, the creative villains of horror, the mythologies and pseudo-technologies of sci-fi and fantasy – all are far more labor-intensive than the formula required of a Romance. This is not to downplay the the genre, but rather to praise it for its efficiency. Simply speaking, writers can plow through writing them, and readers can plow through reading them.

Honorable Mention: As mentioned in Part 1, the fifth-ranking genre, Horror, ranks substantially below its nearest competitor, and hence other genres rank lower still. Nonetheless, historical fiction has had an impressive performance over the past few decades, partly as it combines nicely with many of the genres listed above. (“Regency fiction”, which seeks to re-create the world of Jane Austen, is an example.) Ken Follett is a writer who has done exceptionally well out of historical fiction. Regarding literary fiction, or contemporary classics, this genre’s revenues are sadly just 2% of the market.


iUniverse wishes to give you every opportunity to be conversant with market demand. At the same time, we believe that a great writer can be successful, regardless of which genre he or she chooses. Make sure to check out the iUniverse site for more advice and blogs, as well as iUniverse Facebook and iUniverse Twitter.



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