Monday, February 25, 2008

80% of books published in the US sell less than 100 copies

I recently read an article about book publishing numbers, and I wonder why book publishers bother, or most writers for that matter.

The first set of stats I knew already. That, according to Nielsen Bookscan, 3,000 books are published per day in the United States alone. Publishers report an average of 2,100 submissions per year, totaling 132 million submissions. Just under one percent are accepted for publication.

But the information that floored me, is that of the 1.2 million titles tracked by Bookscan in 2006, almost 80% sold fewer than 100 copies. 16% sold fewer than 1,000 copies, and only 2% sold over 5,000 copies. And because of these trends, the big named publishers are publishing fewer and fewer debut author, and less fiction.

I’ve learned that publishers only put advertising dollars behind bestselling authors. And even the big conglomerate publishers typically don’t advertise to end readers for 90% of their authors. For most authors, hand-selling from retailers and buzz becomes the key to success. So the question, for us novices who have a debut book coming out, is what works for creating buzz? According to my publisher, Websites, book videos, novel trailers, author critique groups, social marketing, author Blog tours, bookstore signings: anything that gets your name out there as often as possible. Getting noticed is the primary goal.

The author today is not selling his/her book, he/she is selling themselves. The message is simple. Author brand is what sells books. Many authors are creative and have brilliant content to offer, yet if they don’t market their “author brand” then no readers, and hence, no publishers will be interested in them. It all comes down to buzz.

Book selling, as far as I’ve been able to figure out, is mostly a word-of-mouth business. Social marketing will make or break a book's success. It’s like a wave that can start with just a few key people talking about it (like Oprah?). So the best thing a writer can do to promote success, is to build a broad network of friends and supporters.

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