Hot Trends - Sci-Fi January 2021

Science fiction has always been a hard spec fic genre, but every few years, authors will jump into this genre with their own takes, bringing in other nuances of other genres like women’s fiction, romance, urban fantasy, and epic fantasy to keep this genre lively and full-flavored.

In 2019, several female authors jumped onto the sci-fi scene with female characters who had the snarky appeal of urban fantasy readers, an angst-filled, emotion-dripping romance that would appeal to romance readers, and heroines who women’s fiction readers could root for as they grew in ways that empowered the women who read them.

But as we scan the best sellers list today, we see that the true sustainers of sci-fi are a completely different breed of authors.

Sci-fi has always been a strong market. These readers are loyal and enjoy what sci-fi has to bring. But they don’t want short cuts and they don’t want shallower-detailed stories. So, if you’re looking to dip your toes in sci-fi, let's look at what elements are needed to put you on the best seller’s list.

Science Fiction $1.6M

The authors at the top of the bestsellers lists in science fiction are predominately male. There are very few female sci-fi authors and those who are here meet the genre expectations.

I’m not talking about sci-fi romance here. That’s is a completely different trope set and expectation set. Also, when you look at the sci-fi best sellers lists, sci-fi romance novels didn’t make the Top 50 for longer than a couple of days. That’s not to say that SFR is bad or poorly written. That’s a testament to how many books the other sci-fi authors are selling daily.

Tropes For This Genre

  • Questioning humanity and what it means to be human

  • Morals and impacts of “morality” in reality

  • High-level character arcs (less snark, more growing)

  • Faced with heavy and moral choices

  • Adventure

  • Good understanding of world-building and science

  • Plot centric instead of emotion centric storylines

  • Exploration and discovery

  • Global/system/galaxy threat


  • 3rd

  • Past

  • Narrator voice. Conversation voice is good if it’s humorous, otherwise, the narrator tells the story and the narrative is a bit distant.


  • It looks like we’re closer to 80-125K, though it’s hard to really determine.


  • Most of the books on the bestsellers lists were audiobooks, which might be another reason the SFR books weren’t dominating this list.

  • The audiobooks that were making it big had great narrators.

  • And they were long. 14-40 hours were the norm, with the sweet spot being around 16 hours.

  • Audible Exclusives seemed to be dominating the best seller lists, so… while FindawayVoices is growing, I think Amazon is setting up their algorithms to ensure their exclusive audiobooks are seen first.


  • $3.99 - $5.99

  • Shorter books didn’t get better sell-thru even at lower price points.

  • Longer novels at $4.99 sold better than shorter books at $0.99.

  • Free starter novels are not overly common in sci-fi.

  • Wide is the norm.

Trending Down

  • Military thrillers (too technical)

  • Emotionally-driven stories (not technical enough)


I’ll keep watching the trends in fantasy and will let you know each month how they shift.

Next week: Romance

We will be looking at these every week, guys. That’s the only way to really see the patterns.

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