Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book Publishing Statistics

I just finished reading Susan Driscoll's book, Get Published. And here are some insights I got from that book about how traditional publishing works. But first to start with some statistics


  • As of 2005, the book publishing industry in the US was worth $5.2 billion. And there was already a 10% decrease of titles published this year compared to 2004

  • Five publishing conglomerates control 80% of books sales and together they have published 23 thousand titles. That's less than 5% of all books published

  • 87% of retail bookstore sales in 2004 came from only 7% of the books published that year. Translated to units, that's less than 1,200 new titles selling 50,000 copies or more

  • The rest of the books, the other 93% - sold less than 1,000 copies each

Based on that, if you manage to sell more than 10,000 copies of your book, you will be considered a success in the book publishing arena. Then you'll be a best-seller! At least you'll be in the 90% percentile and better than 22 thousand other titles.

No wonder traditional book publishers are very picky about who they want to publish and how careful they are about accepting manuscripts. Major book publishers must lose a lot of money on a majority of the books they publish.

If you take it from this perspective, it will be easier to understand that they must acquire and promote titles that have high probability of selling. In any case, book publishing is still a business regardless of how passionate writers are about their manuscripts. Publishing companies need to make the money.

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