Publishing facts – the challenges a book faces

Having been asked in 2022 to do a talk on publishing – not book promotion, I came across the following from 2019 which sets the scene for how difficult it is to sell a book. Getting one copy sold outside of friends and family is a huge achievement these days…

Since 1440 when Gutenberg invented the printing press to 2010, 129,864,880 books were published.
Since 2010 when digital publishing started, the number of books published has not been calculated.
Since digital publishing started in 2010, there has been an increase of 246%.
In 2018, 690 million books were sold, 75% of book buyers preferred print.

In 2014, 32.8 million books were listed on Amazon (not all available)
– 17.2 million (52.44%) in English
– 2 million (6.1%) in French
– 2 million (6.1%) in German
– 3.05% in Spanish

In 2022, audible had 200,000 titles
19,750 are published a year

The USA is the biggest producer of books.
USA book sales peaked in 2007. Since then sales have decreased by 42%.
E-book sales have levelled from 2013.
Fewer than 1% of books can be found in bookshops. They stock between 100 and 1,500 titles.
Authors really only sell to other authors and the publishing community
Most marketing is done by authors, not publishers.
The main USA publishers in 2019 were:
– Penguin – 85,000
– HarperCollins – 10,000
– Simon & Schuster – 2,000
– Hatchette – 2,100
USA saw 4 million books published in 2019, of which 1.7 million were self-published..
UK published 188,000 books in 2019.
20 million published books are available intetnationally.

Issue of ISBNs in 2018:
USA – 3,485,322
UK – 185,721
Germany – 139,940

Amazon published 91.5% self-published USA
Total self-published on Amazon is 1.42 million, 0.07 million published in 2018.
In 2016, Kindle e-books accounted for 40% of the market (1.6 million books) – a total of 4 million e-books were published on Amazon that year.
Total self-published = 1.55 million.
In 2007, only 66,732 books had been self published.
In 2018, 1,547,341 were self published

A typical self-published author sells 5 copies of their book
Average USA book sells 200 copies per year, 1,000 over a life-time.

The above generally accords with what I’ve seen at TSL. Our best sellers are in the 200+ range, a number of authors hover just over 5 book sales (they admit they’re not great with marketing). Author marketing is more successful than publisher marketing – issues around value of word of mouth recommendations, knowing the author abd distrust of publishers who are often seen to exploit authors.
E-book and paper sales vary depending on the time of year, with paper being the better seller overall.
The same trend is seen for books with global distribution and those exclusively available from the author, their link bookshop, or TSL.

Despite the gloomy outlook, don’t be put off writing your book. There are so many other personal benefits to doing so.

Image courtesty of Image by Pintera Studio from Pixabay


Book publishing and marketing – reality checks

Getting sales of a book is really challenging – ask just about any author or publisher. Marketing a book though is easy, you press a few buttons and social media does the rest. However, returning to my opening sentence, marketing does not equate to sales. In our experience, the best route to sales is word of mouth – invariably through the author. I see my role, as pubilsher, to break through into new avenues for the author which is where the real challenge lies.
Social media marketing is hit and miss, there are so many journals, magazines, online newspapers, blogs, podcasts etc all trying to do the same thing that being heard becomes a challenge. But we persevere for the chance of that one hit.
So, it’s refreshing to read that others, more experienced in the field say very much the same thing. Here are some links I’ve found interesting, insightful and reassuring – and all continuing to search for the holy grail of the marketing-sales breakthrough…

Publishing Confidential: What works and what doesn’t (August 2023)

Richard Charkin: Pros and cons of big and small publishers (August 2023)

Berrett-Koehler Publishers: 10 Awful truths about publishing (March 2023)

Talon Homer: How many books are there in the world? (October 2022)

Navkiran Dhaliwal: Interesting Book Publishing Statistics You Should Know (August 2023) and in another format:
John M Jennings: How many new books are published each year and other interesting bits (January 2019)

So, the bottom line is – selling a book outside of your circle is challenging, but not impossible. Think carefully about why you want to publish your writing – it’s definitely not going to earn you or your publisher (generally speaking) a fortune.