The following was posted by one of my publishers on their authors' loop. I do not read PW and therefore cannot verify that's where they're from. But it sure does say something about the market, or more specifically an author's potential to earn a living, if these figures are accurate.
Note: the info in brackets was added by moi.
From Publishers Weekly, some sobering statistics:
In 2004, Nielsen Bookscan tracked sales of 1.2 million books [CLARIFYING: INDIVIDUAL TITLES]in the US.
Of those 1.2 million, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 (yes, ninety-nine)
[DOING THE MATH HERE, THAT'S JUST SHY OF 80% OF PUBLISHED TITLES SELL FEWER THAN 99 COPIES. ACK! WE'RE NOT JUST TALKING SELF-PUBBED HERE, PEOPLE.]
Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. [THIS IS ANOTHER 16.7%, THEREFORE ADDING THE ABOVE TO THIS FIGURE, 96.7 % OF *ALL* TITLES PUBLISHED IN THE U.S. SELL BETWEEN 0 AND 1000 COPIES!!! OMG. I HAD NO IDEA.]
Only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies. [2% OF ALL PUBLISHED BOOKS SELL MORE THAN 5K COPIES. I'M SPEECHLESS...]
Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies. [THESE FIGURES DON'T SURPRISE ME AS MUCH AS THE ABOVE.]
Only 10 books sold more than a million copies each. [CAN YOU NAME THEM? I'D GUESS DAVINCI CODE'S IN THERE. HARRY POTTER. MAYBE A NORA TITLE. WHO ELSE?]
THE AVERAGE BOOK IN THE US SELLS ABOUT 500 COPIES. [ACK!!!! HOW DO PUBLISHERS STAY IN BUSINESS?]
Okay, so now looking at these numbers, what do they mean? And how do we interpret them?
Yes, it can be argued that these figures include all genres, including non-fiction, so to say these numbers give an accurate picture of the romance genre may not be fair.
BUT if romance is truly a large portion of published fiction (what does RWA say? It's roughly 40% of fiction?), it's mathematically impossible for all the romance books to fit within that top 3% that sells 5k copies and more, along with the biographies written by ex-presidents, as well as timely diet books and novels by the Nora Roberts, Steven Kings and Dan Browns, etc.. No, it's still more likely that a good percentage of romance novels fall into that larger number, the 97%.
Something to consider, however, is the fact that these figures include a GREAT many older titles. If there are roughly 120,000 new titles published every year, then you're looking at books that could be as old as ten years. Having so many older titles in the mix is sure to bring down the "curve" or skew the figures, I'm sure. Then again, if all new books sold over 5k copies, then that number should be 120,000, not 25,000. Maybe the percentage of new books that sell over 5k is low, but it may not be the 2% the figures above might suggest at first glance. But at the HIGHEST, it could only be 25,000/120,000 or 20%, and we know that isn't accurate either because it's assuming every one of those 25,000 titles are "new". The reality is it has to be some figure in between 2 and 20%.
I'm sure publishers know what that number is, but I don't.
On another site, I read that 70% of all books published do NOT earn out their advance. OMG. And a book that sells over 5000 copies (I'm assuming that's taking into account returns) is considered "successful".
I've just had a MAJOR reality check. With my first NY published book about to release, I'm hoping I'll be in that top 2 (or whatever that figure really is)%. I'm REALLY hoping.
No matter how I look at it, the math isn't on my side.
Okay, I'm editing this post to add some new information I've found.
1. Bookscan does not track *all* sales, such as those generated through publishers' sites.
2. I located a site that stated that adult fiction constitutes roughly 14% of all books published in a year.
That's a very small percentage.
Using the 120,000 figure, that means roughly 17,000 new fiction titles are published each year.
Then, look at how many of those are romance. According to RWA, there were not quite 2300 romance novels released in 2004. That's a VERY small percentage of the 1.2 MILLION titles Bookscan tracked in 2004. It's statistically possible that EVERY ONE of those titles sold over 5,000 copies. It's probably not likely, but it is still possible.
Bottom line: While at first glance, these figures are shocking, we're not really learning much from them. They're too vague, include old books as well as new, and include non fiction as well as fiction.
However, they do give an author a vague idea of the market as a whole as well as a general measure by which they can assess their book's "success".
Numbers. It's interesting how they can look one way one minute and then under more careful scrutiny, look entirely different the next.
Go Ahead, Share Your Thoughts! .