Statistics are an essential tool to get a picture of any industry, including the publishing industry that is currently going through major changes.
For aspiring writers, the Bowker finding published last May : ” While steady declines were seen in book buying in the first three quarters of 2010, purchases bounced back in the fourth quarter, with 51% of book buyers saying the economy had no impact on their book buying – the highest percentage in two years. Among book buyers, reading books continues to place in the top three forms of media entertainment (along with communicating online through email or IM and surfing the web). However, reading as a pastime continues to decline: the percentage of book buyers who reported reading a book at least once a week fell to 57%, down from 59% in 2009…” is not good news as a shrinking numbers of readers means a shrinking market for their books.
Yet, others are compiling statistics more likely to bring a smile to potential self-published authors.
The post copied below contains such statistics about publishing. Whenever possible or relevant, we have added a [N.B.] with the original publication date of the statistics or survey quoted.
In view of the rapid change the industry is going through, the dates are critical, since yesterday’s numbers might not reflect today’s reality.
Originally posted in 2010 by Self-Publishing Resources
Here are some fascinating publishing industry statistics about the book industry in general and book news on self-publishing in particular. Our goal is to provide the media, authors, publishers, librarians, booksellers, agents, editors, and all book enthusiasts with publishing industry statistics and self-publishing facts. The most recent figures available are quoted in this compilation of book news and publishing industry statistics.
- The New York Times reported that “According to a recent survey, 81 percent of people feel that they have a book in them…and should write it.” If you do the math, that represents over 200 million people in the U.S. who want to write a book in their lifetime! No wonder self-publishing is thriving as never before! [N.B.: Published by NY Times on 28th September 2002]
- A new survey found that 23 percent of readers polled have visited an author’s web site, while only 18 percent have gone to a publisher’s site. The survey, conducted by advertising firm Spier New York, surveyed 813 readers, 35 percent of whom were under 35 years old. The survey also found that 50 percent of those queried had purchased a book as a gift within the past year. Online purchases represented 28 percent of books bought, while 89 percent came from a brick-and-mortar retailer. [N.B.: earliest mention found 2006, not original source though]
- USA Today has added a searchable database of 10 years of bestseller data. You can find it on the page where their weekly bestseller list is posted. A key discovery: the all time best-selling writing/reference guide in the United States is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. (Note that it was originally a self-published book!)
- Consumers in the Northeast spend the most on reading materials, while spending is the lowest in the South. [N.B.: earliest mention found 2006, not original source though]
- Sales of religious paperback books represent a significant market share in today’s publishing arena. The new gospel on book sales has spiritual and religious titles crossing over into mainstream bookstores and taking upwards of 7 percent of all book sales. The Purpose Driven Life, for instance, has sold over 22 million copies. And this is not a New York phenomena: the publishers, agents, and authors are primarily a whole different group than the Big Apple players. [N.B.: earliest mention found 2006, not original source though]
- There is a new concept, “wag the long tail,” which means if you rack up enough small sales, especially consumer sales on the Internet, it will add up to big profits in the long run. Technology is turning mass markets into millions of niches. Independent presses, self-publishers, and authors can sell effectively into these micromarkets. This bodes well for new and mid-list authors, not to mention creative-minded smaller presses. [N.B.: earliest mention found 2006, not original source though]
- Blogs can lead to books. A blog is a great place to flesh out ideas, get reader feedback, and sometimes catch the attention of an agent or publisher.
- The ratio of customers to bookstores is highest in Nevada, Texas, and Mississippi.
- Statistics provided by publishers to the Association of American Publishers revealed that net sales in February 2006 were at $358.4 million, up 12.3 percent over the same period in 2005. Genre leaders were higher education and adult mass market paperback.
- About 20 percent of online sales are of titles not available in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Projections are this figure will soon reach a third of all book sales.
- Many famous authors and their books were rejected multiple times. Publishers turned down Richard Bach’s Johnathan Livingston Seagull no less than 140 times; Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind received 38 “no’s,” while Stephen King’s Carrie was turned down 30 times. J. K. Rowling’s original work was pooh-poohed by 12 publishers…guess who’s kicking themselves now that they passed on Harry Potter? And E. E. Cummings first work—The Enormous Room, now considered a masterpiece—was ultimately self-published…and dedicated to the 15 publishers who rejected it.
- What element of a book is the most important? Seventy-five percent of 300 booksellers surveyed (half from independent bookstores and half from chains) identified the look and design of the book cover as the most important component. They agreed that the jacket is prime real estate for promoting a book. . [N.B.: earliest mention found 2009, not original source though]
- Speaking of promoting, niche magazines, which focus on a single topic, are becoming increasingly popular. This trend to specialization — everything from magazines on poker playing to horse people, from interior design and decor to wedding titles, from dog magazines to golf periodicals — provide targeted opportunities for promoting books on these topics.
- It is good that these fragmented magazines exist. Book review column inches in newspapers have dropped by 20 to 50 percent.
- University presses are rebounding. They increased their title input to 14,484 (up by 6.3 percent) in 2004, an all-time high. The growth engines were history, biography, and law, which represented 55 percent of the increase. A Princeton University Press title even topped the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.
- From 8,000 to 11,000 new publishers enter the field every year; they are mostly self-publishers. . [N.B.: earliest mention found December 2010, not original source though]
- There are about 1.5 million books in print at any one time in the United States. [N.B.: Date of data not found but 2007 source indicates 1.7 million]
- Bookstore sales by month would surprise the average consumer. You probably think December is the high month. Yet the big bounce is in January and again in August and September when university sales are made. The lowest month is April with only $0.987 billion in sales.
- Some 300 to 400 mid-sized publishers exist.[N.B. Source unfound but undated report by Netread.com indicates that :" Currently, there are at least 50,000 publishers in the United States, and most of these publish fewer than 10 titles per year. In contrast, the largest publishers are multinational corporations, which own numerous subsidiary publishers and imprints (an imprint is essentially a line of books with a common theme or editor). Between the two extremes are the established small publishers that have grown to mid-size proportions, publishing perhaps 25 to 100 books per year."]
- 78 percent of titles brought out come from a small press or self-publisher. [N.B.: earliest mention found 2007, not original source though]
- California is the stronghold of small presses with approximately six times the number located elsewhere. Colorado and Minnesota also have large independent and self-publishing communities.
- On the average a bookstore browser will spend eight seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds scanning the back cover.
- The size of the small press movement is estimated to be $13 billion to $17 billion a year, as opposed to trade publishers who are responsible for bringing in $26 billion.
- Nonfiction typically outsells fiction by two to one. However, at least 20 percent more fiction is being published these days via the Internet and (POD) Print on Demand.
- Interest in poetry and drama has grown by more than 33 percent since 1992.
- The average number of copies sold per title of a POD company that printed 10,000 different titles: 75 books.
- One book per year is produced in America for every 2,336 people— in contrast to one for every 545 individuals in the U.K. Other countries ahead of the U.S. on a per capita basis are Canada (577), New Zealand (779), and Australia (2,041).
- A poll of 2,700 U.S. Internet users, representing about 100 million U.S. Internet users, indicates that about 8 million unpublished novels and 17 million unpublished how-to books have been written by that Internet-using population alone. [N.B.: earliest mention found 2007, not original source though]
- Women buy 68 percent of all books sold.
- Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
- 52 percent of all books are not sold in bookstores! They are merchandised via mail order, online, in discount or warehouse stores, through book clubs, in nontraditional retail outlets, etc.
- 64 percent of book buyers say a book’s being on a bestseller list is not important.
- The #1 nonfiction bestseller for 2001 was the Prayer of Jabez, exceeding 8 million copies. Self Matters was #1 on the 2002 list with a mere 1,350,000 copies sold. John Grisham’s The Summons topped the fiction list with 2,625,000 copies. The best-selling trade paperback during 2002 was, of all things, a cookbook: Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. How-tos, memoirs, and religion were also strong sellers.
- Parables, short tales of fiction that teach a life lesson, have many avid fans that drive them onto bestseller lists. One of the most recent is Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD. Dr. Johnson began his career as a self published author
- Bookstores are famous for returning books to publishers. The industry return rate is typically 36 percent for hardcovers and 25 percent for softcovers.
- It takes an average of 475 hours to write a novel. Fiction is considered successful if it sells 5,000 copies. Writing a nonfiction book requires about 725 hours. A nonfiction book is deemed successful when it reaches 7,500 copies sold.
- The largest advance ever paid for a self-published book? A whopping $4.125 million. Simon & Schuster paid that for Richard Paul Evans’s The Christmas Box.