Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

10/24/2008

Information Overload on Writing, Agents and Publishing!


Welcome to my blog! My name is John R. Austin and I’m a writer. I am starting this blog because of the info overload “out there” relating to writing, getting literary agents and the state of the publishing industry in general!

Check these stats from an article by Walt Shiel. Are they true or not?

The “Hard Truths” About Book PublishingArticle by Walt Shiel

Let’s consider some of the “hard truths” about the publishing industry.If you’re at all serious about publishing, whether self-publishing or not, you really need to be aware of some basic statistics about the industry. They aren’t pretty and may tend to be discouraging. But would you rather jump into these treacherous waters with a head full of platitudes and myths… or with a clear-eyed view of how things really are?I think you are far better off understanding what’s really going on and what you, as an author and would-be self-publisher, are really up against.

So, without further belaboring the point, here goes.Book publishing in the U.S. has exploded over the past few years. Here are the number of new English-language titles published per year in the U.S., as reported by R. R. Bowker (the keeper of U.S. ISBNs and publisher of Books-in-Print):

195,000 titles in 2004
295,000 in 2006 (a 51% increase in two years)
411,000 in 2007 (a 39% increase in only one year)

In 2004, there were just under one million books in print (new and backlist). Last year, there were almost three million in print. Offset printing (the traditional method using the large roll- or sheet-fed printing equipment that is cost-effective for larger print runs only) accounted for only about 1% of the 411,000 new titles printed in 2007; the rest were printed using digital printing technology (print-on-demand) that is only cost-effective for short print runs.Why do you suppose the number of new titles more than doubled in three years? Can you spell subsidy publishing (in the guise of the plethora of self-proclaimed “self-publishing companies”)? Three decades ago, there were only 357 publishers with books listed in Books-in-Print. Today, there are only six major (New York) publishers, maybe 400 mid-size publishers, and almost 100,000 small publishers (which includes the large number of self-publishers). More than 10,000 new (mostly small) publishers go into business each year. Of course, many of those small publishers fail every year, too, but that’s common in most businesses (lots of new start-ups quickly fail).The six major New York publishers are Random House, Penguin Putnam, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck, Hachette (formerly Time Warner Books), and Simon & Schuster. Of those, only Simon & Schuster is still American-owned. Ever wonder why more and more foreign authors are being published by major “American” publishers? Now that you know how many new titles are published and how many publishers are publishing them, you might wonder how many are being sold? That is a far more difficult question to answer reliably, since publishers are notorious for overstating actual book sales. However, we can turn again to Bowker for some statistics:

93% of all titles sell less than 1,000 copies
Overall average sales for all titles is about 500 copies
7% of titles account for 87% of sales (mostly from the big NY publishers)

So, where are those books actually sold? If you guessed mostly in bookstores, guess again. Here’s the breakdown (the ranges are because it depends on what source you rely on):

Chain bookstores account for 25-33%
Independent bookstores (including used book stores) account for 3-10%Online book retailers account for 21% (almost all Amazon.com)

That means 36-52% of all book sales come from non-bookstore outlets. What’s a non-bookstore outlet? Gift shops, grocery stores, drug stores, “big box” stores (Wal-Mart, Costco, etc.), book clubs, back-of-the-room sales, direct-to-consumer sales, and on and on. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination and marketing efforts.You can choose to self-publish and compete in the bookstores for that 28-43% of the total market, which means you’re competing against Random House, Simon & Schuster et al who can afford to buy those end-cap and front window display locations. Or you can choose to compete primarily in the online and non-bookstore markets that represent the remaining.The choice is yours and should be driven by your detailed marketing plan for your book. You do have a detailed marketing plan, right? Trying to sell books without a marketing plan is like taking a long trip into unknown territory without a map — you might reach your destination but the odds are against you.If you don’t really know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Or when you’re way off course?
7:44:00 PM
by John Austin
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