National Sales Numbers

Here’s something scary:

I want to point out a couple of paragraphs from the PW article (and you can read the entire article online): Anderson writes, β€œHere’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2
million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. Those blockbusters are a minute anomaly: only 10 books sold more than a million copies last year, and fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000.” (taken from
The Writing Life)

I had to call up a couple of my authors to let them know what a good job I was doing for them. πŸ™‚

UPDATE–In response to a comment about whether this is referring to books published by reputable publishing houses:
Nielsen Bookscan tracks point of sale purchases made at the larger retailers–most of whom do not carry POD or vanity press books.

You’re right about how difficult it is to stay in business with this level of failure, but you’re wrong in your implication that reputable companies don’t have this problem. Editors and publishers do their best to pick books they think will sell well, but sometimes we guess wrong. Too many wrong guesses and we’re in big trouble. That is why a lot of small, but very reputable houses, have been swallowed up by a few power-house publishers. The good news is, one Harry Potter or Da Vinci Code can cover several years of failures.

Author: LDS Publisher

I am an anonymous blogger who works in the LDS publishing industry. I blog about topics that help authors seeking publication and about published fiction by LDS authors.

6 thoughts on “National Sales Numbers”

  1. Here’s looking at the jelly side of this piece of bread: think how many copies of the book wind up in libraries where they get checked out by various readers across the country; also think of how many books get passed around to friends and family to read. So, although we can’t collect royalties on the free reads, it is nice to know most books have more value than these numbers indicate.

  2. You’re right. I used to know the averages, I think it’s for every one book sold to an individual, four people read it?? Something like that anyway.

  3. I would ask, what books this person is referring to? I doubt they are books represented by reputable agents and publishing houses. I suggest that most of the books he’s referring to are POD, or vanity publishing books that rarely sell anything more than a few copies. If he’s averaging these in to the equation, sure, the book publishing business sounds horrible. I doubt reputable agencies and publishing houses could stay alive with those kinds of failures.

  4. Maybe I don’t feel so bad now that my sales aren’t very good? πŸ™‚

    Oh, and LDS Publisher, I know you’re a woman.

  5. Paul– if you (or any other reader of this blog) truly do know who I am, I’m trusting you to keep it secret.

    When I’ve offered advice like this in the past, under my real identity, I’ve had a lot of people contact me over and over again at work wanting me to give them free advice on their novel or to critique their queries or to help them find a national agent or (gasp!) to hook them up with Deseret Book!

    I don’t mind doing critiques and commentary on this forum, but if it starts to interfere with my real job, I’ll have to shut the site down.


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