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What publishers are looking for in 2022

People are devouring books in lockdown and stories that capture imaginations are rising. We did a talk recently on what books are being published but I have listed the key points below. The great news is that it seems reading is SO back in fashion. Last year had the single highest book sales recorded in the UK in the last eight years. Sales exceeded 200 million print books - and yes, we are talking real paper books! Ridiculously exciting for authors (that's you).

As a writer there is often a big gap between what you want to write, and what is actually getting published. If you can close that gap you have a stronger chance of getting into print.


Publishers are in the business of tracking reader trends (and selling books). They take a good bet on publishing books that they feel are actually going to gather readers.

That's why I often advise novelists to start the publishing journey with writing a well-plotted genre romance like a Harlequin or a Mills&Boon. That advice still holds. Why? They are fun to write and... over 200 million of these romance novels are sold in the US a year. These books are so tight, so well-plotted and the entry standard level is so high, so don't you laugh at the idea.

TIP! No matter what you write, publishers and agents want to see your very best version. Don’t shoot that book off to anyone until you are so sure you have bled your heart and soul into those words.


World's biggest publishing market. Just saying. Look at the Amazon bestseller list below in this email - particularly in early readers (childhood).


There is always a market for fast books that speak to the current political climate. This is often the domain of a journalist, but if you have an ‘insider track’ this is a book you can sell on a proposal-only basis to a publisher. This can be anything current and topical, from true crime, exposes, political analysis to commentary on anything.

QUIT LIT Globally there is a rising Alcohol Free (AF) trend, and stories that light the clean path for others are being snapped up. This literature can cover any addition – sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling.

BIOGRAPHY How many times have I said this to y’all? If you deeply want a publishing deal consider writing a biography of someone important or famous. They can be dead or alive, serial killers or athletes, poets or politicians – publishers adore modern history and want to record it. This is also a book you can sell on a proposal basis.

BIG ON ATTITUDE This has been a rising trend in reading for many years in non-fiction. Readers want an author with an edge, a personality a big point of view. The rise of bloggers and social media means that we can have a voice, and the voices that rise above the herd have an edge. What does this mean to you as an author? Your first pass on your memoir / non-fiction book may be just getting the facts down, the next pass needs to build TONE, mega-opinions and translate into a ‘tribe who love you’.

NOVELS Novels are really selling, but you have to know your genre and hit it dead-on. What is selling the most? Same as always lovely writers - it is crime, romance and thrillers. Yip, commercial fiction. I hear a deep sigh from many authors who want to write ‘literary fiction’. Please hear me on this one, genre fiction is the ever-tightening trend as reader tastes get leaner and tighter.


Speculative Fiction is a new umbrella genre that is best summed up with ‘books that are not set in the real world’. It is a bit of a general grouping but and can cover anything from Harry Potter to horror, sci-fi or fantasy. High on the list is African Speculative Fiction. Here is a great articleif you are interested in exploring Spec-Fic.

Middle Grade Fiction (for ages 8-12) is a Rockstar in sales as it caters to the voracious younger reader. Remember, at that age kids schools can still actually force kids to read books (thanks to school reading lists) and that can push up book sales dramatically.

Young Adult - ever since Harry Potter broke the Young Adult records, publishers are looking for YA authors who can capture the imagination of 12- 16 market (but remember your protagonist can be age 14-22).

New Adult – This reader is rising in age. Starting at age 16, now you will find readers of all ages. Hands up who hasn’t read a Sarah J Maas? Shame on you, she is a plotting genius. Think Hunger Games and Divergent – but these books are getting darker, sexier, more violent and deal with complex themes and characters. Write them!

Yours, in writing

Sarah Bullen Bestsellers List 2020

#1. A Promised Land. Barack Obama.

#2. Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Mary L. Trump

#3. Where the Crawdads Sing. Delia Owens.

#4. My First Learn to Write Workbook: Crystal Radke

#5. Midnight Sun. Stephenie Meyer.

#6. Untamed. Glennon Doyle

#7. If Animals Kissed Good Night. Ann Whitford Paul (a board book)

#8. White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Robin DiAngelo

#9 School Zone The big Preschool Workbook

#10 The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton

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