Some Facts About Book Publishing and a Little Shameless Self-Promotion

And now, for a little shameless self-promotion. My books are now available worldwide on the Book Marketing Global Network.

Here’s the link:

In my journey as an author, I have discovered that the easy part is writing a book, while the toughest element is promoting and marketing it.

The publishing world has changed dramatically in the past decade or so as more and more books are self-published or published by new independent and boutique publishing houses instead of by the “Big Five” houses in New York (Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette Book Group).

I have been traditionally published (The Kikkoman Chronicles by McGraw-Hill) and have used independent houses for my novels because I wanted to maintain creative and editorial control and ownership of all rights and royalties.

The main difference is that traditional publishers absorb the cost of producing and marketing your book, whereas, with smaller independent and boutique houses, the author shares some of the production and marketing costs or, in the case of POD (publish on demand), pays 100 percent of the production and marketing costs.

Traditional publishers are pretty tight-fisted when it comes to marketing and promotion costs. If they determine that a book will not be a blockbuster, the marketing and promotion spigots are shut off quickly. For authors who self-publish or use smaller independent or boutique publishers, marketing and promotion programs require a heavy investment of time and money.

In traditional publishing, the publishing house does all the publishing and promotion work, and all the rights and royalties remain with the publisher. In contrast, in self-publishing, the author bears all the expenses of publishing a book, and all the rights remain in the author’s hands.

I don’t want to bore you with lots of statistics, but here are some facts about book publishing that you may not know. They are both revealing and depressing.

So, how many books are published every year in the United States?

The numbers range from 500,000 to one million books published annually. However, if you include self-published authors, you’re looking at close to 2 million new book titles published each year.

According to Forbes Magazine, an average book published in America sells just about 500 copies and no more than 1,000 copies over its entire lifetime. More than half of the total books are self-published, and this number also includes ‘micro-niches.’ This number of total books consists of every category that exists, from public domain texts to on-demand prints and reprints. Only a tiny fraction of books get the million mark.

New York Best Sellers are just 0.5% of all published books annually. An EPJ data science study collected data for nine years (2008-2016) and analyzed it. They found that out of every 100,000 new titles, only 500 books or fewer make it to the New York best-selling list.

According to a study conducted by Google Books, there have been 134,021,533 books published worldwide since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440. That number includes the recent surge in self-publishing, especially in digital formats.

Books by the Numbers

Print is still an essential part of book publishing, with people still gravitating toward print editions of books rather than digital editions.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Bookscan, which does include Amazon sales, reports 690 million print books were sold in 2019.

  • According to Statista, book sales are holding steady at 650 million units per year.
  • A 2020 survey shows that print is still the most popular book format in the United States, with 75% of people surveyed preferring print to e-books or audiobooks.
  • 826 million physical books were sold in 2021, a growth of 8.9% over the prior year. Trade paperbacks sold 450,000 print units.
  • Revenue for book sales in the United States in 2020 generated $8.6 billion. Hardcover books accounted for nearly $3 billion of those sales.

How Many Books Are Self-Published?

The latest estimate is 1.7 million book titles are self-published each year.

But, not all self-published authors use trackable ISBNs, so that that number may be higher.

Also, many self-published titles are print-on-demand, meaning that physical copies of the book are not printed until a customer orders one. That greatly reduces the physical resources needed to publish a book.

No paper, no glue, no printing or binding. Most self-published books exist in a purely digital format until physical copies are ordered. And, since most self-published books only sell a handful of copies, they don’t use up physical resources like traditional publishers, who will print “bulk runs” of books in batches of 1,000 copies, 10,000 copies, 100,000 copies, or more.

How Many E-Books Are Published Each Year?

Statista reports 191 million eBooks were sold in the US in 2020, generating $1.1 billion in sales in 2020, up from $983 million in 2019.

It’s important to understand that Amazon — arguably the biggest seller of eBooks — was not included in Statista’s latest figures, so the true size of the eBook market is likely much larger than reported. Amazon is the biggest marketplace for e-books, followed by the Apple e-book store.

E-books are still a strong market, and publishing revenue could reach $7 billion by 2025.

So there you have some interesting statistics and facts about the world of book publishing. I guess the most encouraging thing about all of this is that people are still reading books–even if they are doing so on a plethora of electronic devices such as Kindles and other e-book readers, i-pads, mobile phones, computers, etc.

For those of us who write, that is reassuring and heartening.

Now, if we could just figure out a way to earn a decent income from our labors…

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About Ronald E. Yates

Ronald E. Yates is an award-winning author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. Read More About Ron Here

2 thoughts on “Some Facts About Book Publishing and a Little Shameless Self-Promotion”

  1. This is my third attempt to post this comment. Please remember you are not doing it for the NYT bestseller list. I hope you still plan to write your faction opus about the adventures of a globe-trotting journalist i S.E. Asia. If so, I’m still enthusiastic about acting as a Beta. Best regards, jc.


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