Bestsellers on the used book market

The bestsellers on the used market aren’t necessarily the best sellers you see on the New York Times list or on Amazon’s hot list.  Often they bear no relation to each other.  However, statistics on the used market can be devilishly difficult to come by.  And of course, it’s all relative too.  The bestsellers in a small New England town where I am may be totally different than what sells in a shop in the heart of London.  But “what’s your bestseller?” is a question I get asked a lot by people considering getting into the book business.

So here’s the bestsellers for my shop Rainy Day Paperback.  I’m a used brick and mortar bookstore in Bethel, CT, USA, a small suburban, semi-rural town about 2 hours outside New York.

I’ve focused on categories rather than individual titles and I’ve sliced them three different ways. The X# tells you roughly the ratio between the bottom category listed and the one with the number.  So, in the first list, I sold twice as many twice as many science fiction books as I did classics.

These numbers are for a six month period.  They do NOT include any of the online sales, since those are almost entirely different than the in store sales.

Total dollar value:  listed categories, when totaled together accounted for 80% of total dollars. I have 40 categories total.

  1. Mystery (X6)
  2. Contemporary literature (x4)
  3. Contemporary Romance
  4. Historical Romance
  5. Westerns
  6. Scifi/Fantasy/Horror (X2)
  7. Children’s Books
  8. Thrillers
  9. Classics

By volumes sold:  listed categories, when totaled together accounted for 80% of total number of books sold. I have 40 categories total

  1. Mystery (X4.5)
  2. Western (X2.5)
  3. Contemporary Romance
  4. Contemporary Literature
  5. Historical Romance (X2)
  6. Children’s Books
  7. Thrillers
  8. Classics
  9. Scifi/Fantasy/Horror

By productivity: productivity is the volume of books sold vs the amount of space occupied.  All listed categories turned over at least 1/4 of the contents.

  1. Contemporary Romance (X2.5)
  2. Westerns (X2)
  3. Regency Romance
  4. Historical Romance
  5. Occult
  6. Mystery
  7. Audio
  8. Contemporary Literature
  9. Music
  10. Thriller
  11. Native Americans
  12. Romantic Suspense

Since mystery, contemporary literature, and contemporary romance, and western basically flip flop around as to which is the most productive by various metrics but stay near the top its worthwhile looking at what authors sold the most. Multiple authors on the same line  indicate a tie.

Mystery, top 10 authors:

  1. James PattersonX3.5
  2. Robert Parker
  3. Lee Child
  4. Baldacci
  5. Stuart Woods
  6. Tami Hoag
  7. Patricia Cornwell
  8. Harlan Coben
  9. J.A. Jance
  10. Mary Higgins Clark, Janet Evanovich, John Connelly, John Sandford

Top 10 Contemporary Romance

  1. Anthology (X4)
  2. Debbie Macomber (X3)
  3. Diana Palmer
  4. Barbara Delinsky
  5. Sandra Brown
  6. Sherryl Woods (X2)
  7. Susan Wiggs
  8. Karen Stone
  9. Barbara Bretton
  10. Linda Lael Miller & Robin Carr

Top 5 Contemporary Fiction/ Contemporary Literature

Black hills by Nora Roberts

  1. Nora Roberts (X13.5)
  2. Danielle Steel (X2)
  3. Nicholas Sparks
  4. Fern Michaels
  5. Jodi Picoult
  6. (only 5 here since this category tends to be a lot more scattered, other than the BIG one)


  1. Louis L’Amour (X8)
  2. William Johnstone (X6)
  3. Max Brand (X5)
  4. Jake Logan
  5. Ralph Compton (X4.5)
  6. Jack Ballas & Tabor Evans (X2)
  7. Elmer Kelton
  8. Lyle Brandt
  9. Zane grey

Top 10, from those 4 categories combined

  1. Nora Roberts(X4)
  2. Louis L’Amour (X2)
  3. James Patterson
  4. William Johnstone
  5. Anthology
  6. Max Brand
  7. Robert Parker and Logan
  8. Ralph Compton
  9. Debbie Macomber & Diana Palmer
  10. Sandra Brown

I sell a LOT of westerns.  An adbsolutely riduclous amount of them.  And its not a category you’d expect to sell through that well based on looking on new bestseller lists.  But those that like westerns like them a lot and gobble them down by the bagful.

2 thoughts on “Bestsellers on the used book market”

  1. Wow, your statistics are fascinating. And, I definitely want to visit your store! Westerns? In CT. Who’d a thunk it?
    Not surprised about James Patterson, although, were the books strictly his, or by ‘him’ and another author as well? Just wondering.
    I am surprised by how popular Lee Child has become. I remember his first book, and how well written it was, but how excruciatingly violent it was.
    Great job!

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