A Million Books

April 14th, 2010 by Bob Bly

An article in today’s PW Daily notes that there are over a million books published each year — about 75% self published and 25% traditionally published.

Assuming publishers work Monday through Friday, that’s a staggering 4,000 new books published per day!

CV, an editor, told me that what’s wrong with book publishing today is that there are too many books published. Given these latest statistics, it’s hard to argue.

Do you think the glut of books is bad for aspiring authors, because there’s already too much to read out there — and too much competition for new books?

Or do you think it’s positive, with so many new authors getting their books out these days through either traditional publishers or self publishing?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 at 10:18 am and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

16 responses about “A Million Books”

  1. Steve Rainwater said:

    Geeeze Bob! These are big numbers.

    I have about 20 or so book ideas (i.e. these are the ones I plan to develop – non-fiction / Creative non-fiction). I started two books in late 2008 with the goal to write at least one per year – and probably attempt publish one every other year. I put them on the shelf in 2009 due to needing to reinvent my main livelihood in the recession. Just today I put book writing back into my regular daily schedule, honestly – then I see your blog.

    Is this God telling me to write?…or to forget it?…or neither? I have no well-established platform, no 10K subsriber mailing list and I’m not a celebrity. But I’m 49 this year and hoped to create an additional revenue stream from books beginning in my 50′s.

    This statistic doesn’t discourage me from the creative aspect writing, but it does make me consider my business forecast and the potential for commercial success. My gut reaction is that the market is still not too croweded for me and others, if we are willing to do some work in marketing. But the proof will be in getting those first couple of projects out.

    When one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho wrote his fourth book in the 80′s, The Alchemist, he had yet to make any impact with his previous three. His publishing company cancelled printing after the first 900 copies due to lack of sales. He took it to a larger publisher after he wrote a fifth book and began to market it again. The Alchemist is now supposedly the best selling book in Brazilian literary history, and is available in 67 languages. My point – I’m not sure the publishing industry is predictable then or now. slr

  2. Phil Wrzesinski said:

    Bob,
    The real question isn’t, “How many books are published?” The real question is, “How many books are sold?”

    Then all us would-be-authors need to decide if we have what it takes to market our book to get enough slice of that pie to make it worthwhile.

    Or maybe we decide to publish eBooks or blogs and disseminate our information that way.

    The bottom line is to ask yourself, “Why am I publishing a book?” To make money? To spread ideas? To have a souvenir? To say, “I am an author”?

    Those are the real issues at hand. The number of books published only affects the noise your own message has to cut through to accomplish your goals.

  3. Mele said:

    These stats excite me as I absolutely LOVE to read and feel it’s one of the best ways to spend leisure time. I’m sure there are plenty folks out there like me.

    So for us, there will never be too many books. Marketing is essential, however, and not just to get noticed. You need to show that your point of view (whether expressed in fiction or a non-fiction work) is something that will benefit the reader. Just like with any product.

    For example: As a reader of mystery or Who Dun It books, being surprised in the end is not enough for me. In fact, it’s OK that I guess the identity of the perpetrator. What I DON’T want to guess is why the perp did what she did, her “real” relationship to the hero/heroine and the true facts behind her inner conflict.

    In non-fiction, my requests are simple: tell me something I didn’t already know. Even better: tell me why the other guy’s advice won’t work.

    These stats also look good because it creates opportunities for copywriters. I’m working on sub-specialty for my script writing business–scripts for book trailers. A number of them are entertaining, but just like some t.v. ads, they don’t actually SELL the book.

  4. Mike Sweeney said:

    Piggy-backing off what Phil Wrzesinski said, the big question in my mind is, “How many of these self published books are actually bought and READ?” It seems highly improbable, that along with everything people read online today, that we have enough time to read an additional 156,000 books per year. I’m talking here about the explosion of self publishing, estimating from Bob’s stats above: 4,000 new books per day X 52 weeks = 208,000 per year, and 75% of that is 156,000. Self publishing doesn’t seem to be that profitable from a business standpoint. It would seem to cost you more than what you get out of it because surely your readership can’t be very high.

  5. Eric S. Mueller said:

    I’d need more data to comment appropriately. Is that simply “1 million books”, or 1 million titles? How many of them are larger runs? How many are self-published for sale through a website, or given away to friends or prospects? Does this count products like photo books that people make for personal or gift use?

  6. John Soares said:

    Bob, I think this stat is one more indication of the large increase information that floods all of us who are connected to the world.

    There are more websites, more blogs, more social networking sites, more books…it’s harder for anyone new to get attention because people are bombarded with thousands of bits of information every day.

  7. Stacy Ranta said:

    Here’s some numbers on sales:

    http://www.philcooke.com/book_publishing

    I think it really depends on what you want your book to do. Let’s focus on nonfiction books. If you expect your book to make money and retire off the proceeds of selling it, then obviously the numbers are against you. Bob, I remember you mentioning somewhere that the proceeds on the sale of each copy are tiny.

    If the author is publishing a book as a promotional tool so they can establish themselves as an expert in their field and be able to tell clients, “Hey, I wrote the book on that.” then the odds are much better.

  8. Jeff Kuns said:

    Hi Bob,
    Well, the numbers certainly suggest a saturation and an accompanying din!

    However, since the majority are self-published works anyway, I doubt most people will even notice a change in the current noise level.

    Surely, the Pareto Principle — the old 80/20 rule — is at work here, too.

    I think you’d argue — as would I — there’s more than enough room for good information …

    And abundant ways to get it to markets who care enough to part with money to find something out.

    People will not lose the desire to know things just because of the internet or television. If anything, the restlessness these mediums promote might just usher in a new era of book seekers.

    Who knows?

  9. Curtis said:

    Bob – I don’t know if you’ll read this. But, you have a ton of experience and I value your feedback – so I’ll give it a shot.

    I’m a pharmacist. The online business I’d like to start revolves around my passion and expertise of drugs and alternative medications (I get a LOT of questions).

    But, I’m concerned about liability. I’m asking a lot of other mentors/legal experts/licensing boards and so forth. But, since you know a lot of people in the industry would you have any concerns, if you were in my shoes, putting up an informational website like this and trying to build a list?

    Again, appreciate your thoughts and thanks for the blog.
    Best,
    Curtis Alexander, Pharm.D.

  10. Belinda Meyer said:

    I reckon there are way too many books. You should see my lo-ong Amazon wish-list. I’m talking pages and pages worth. I have a monthly book buying budget and it is always difficult to decide which few will make it to the shopping cart.
    P.S. Bob, I’ve pre-ordered your “How to write and sell Information for fun and profit.”

  11. Zama Zincume said:

    Hi Bob,
    Indeed amazing numbers. I have just published two books. I’m an avid reader, but my focus is on selected niches, particular topis/subjects. My assumtionis that there can be as many books published and sold..they have different readers.

    So the more books published, the better.

  12. G. K. Nedrow said:

    IF there are indeed 4000 new titles a day — I’m more than a litle skeptical of that statistic — it must be world wide, not merely in the US. Of the self-published books, a very large percentage are slim volumes of children’s books and poetry and family histories.

    Nevertheless, the problem of getting through the clutter remains for all authors who don’t have the advantage of name recognition from a high profile job or media exposure. The distribution costs of publishers are daunting; as a result, they only consider books for the mass (genre) market. Indeed, the entire publishing industry is in a quandry right now, from newspapers to traditional book publishers,and print-on-demand and e-tailing is threatening to put the retail book stores out of business.

    The only rationale response for authors is to target niches and market intelligently to that niche. This is much easier to do with nonfiction (cookbooks, self-help, DYI manuals, etc.) than literary fiction. One must also consider the relative decline in the reading comprehension of the general public and the nature of what is actually selling. The obstacles are real and formidable, and I wouldn’t count on making a living doing it. But if you want to retain control over the creative process and express your own vision, there is no alternative.

  13. Is an eReader or Tablet in Your Future, or mine? « E. John Love: a Writer. said:

    [...] article I read said there are 1 million books being published in print each year. That is a massive number. A publishing house employee was quoted as saying “that’s [...]

  14. Recharddo@Paris Accommodation said:

    This statistic doesn’t discourage me from the creative aspect writing, but it does make me consider my business forecast and the potential for commercial success. My gut reaction is that the market is still not too croweded for me and others, if we are willing to do some work in marketing. But the proof will be in getting those first couple of projects out. The bottom line is to ask yourself, “Why am I publishing a book?” To make money? To spread ideas? To have a souvenir? To say, “I am an author”? Those are the real issues at hand. The number of books published only affects the noise your own message has to cut through to accomplish your goals. So for us, Marketing is essential, however, and not just to get noticed. You need to show that your point of view (whether expressed in fiction or a non-fiction work) is something that will benefit the reader. Just like with any product.
    These stats also look good because it creates opportunities for copywriters. I’m working on sub-specialty for my script writing business–scripts for book trailers. A number of them are entertaining, but just like some t.v. ads, they don’t actually SELL the book. Thanks alot.

  15. Adam Gardner said:

    So long as you maintain your professionalism as an author, I’m pretty sure that writer will be able to survive with the competition. In short, every writer needs to prove themselves.

  16. Virgil Ragazzo said:

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