Some Book Facts

Once a year, the book publishing industry learns about their production numbers for the previous year. Bowker, the leading provider of bibliographic information in North America, released these statistics yesterday.  The number of books which were produced broke another record at 195,000 new titles and editions or an increase of 14% from the previous year.

The largest area of growth was fiction which increased by 43.1% to 25,184 new titles and editions or the highest total ever recorded in this category.  You can read the full release and see some other new book numbers.

I’m frankly not surprised to see this increase in fiction. When I attend writer’s conferences, the number of people who are working on novels, seems to only increase. Yet I find much of the fiction needs a great deal of help before it would be successful in the market.

From these production numbers, we learn that it’s never been easier to get a published book. The proliferation of self-publishing, new publishers and Print On Demand publishers make it possible for anyone to get a printed book. Yes, you can write a manuscript, then take it down to one of these places and have a bound book for your shelf or to give your relatives.

One of the hardest things to proofread is something which doesn’t appear on the page. What isn’t said in these production numbers? These facts don’t say anything about books sold or books read or (even rarer) books which make the bestseller list.

iUniverse is one of the major self-publishing operations in the marketplace. The May 16th issue of Publishers Weekly (which I received in the mail yesterday) included an article with these statistics about iUniverse. During 2004, they published a total of 18,108 new books. Fourteen of their books were sold nationally through Barnes & Noble’s bricks-and-mortar stores. It’s a key number. While many people like to rave about their self-published books, where will they be able to sell it? How will they be able to sell it? Then another key statistic from iUniverse in the PW article: Only 83 titles (of the 18,108) sold at least 500 copies.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in writing books which aren’t read and aren’t sold. Certainly I can crank a bunch of words into the computer and go to iUniverse or another self-publisher place and get it bound into a book. If I have no means to sell it, then I only contribute to the problem or the paper proliferation rather than raising the rates of people who are reading. As a July 12, 2004 Publisher’s Weekly article pointed out, “A survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts has confirmed a trend that most book publishing industry members are well aware of: the percentage of Americans who read books has steadily declined over the last 20 years.”  Yes, traditional publishing takes time and energy and patience. The marketing effort for a book takes a lot of energy and effort. But if it is read, then it’s worth this effort.

One of the major reasons, I devoted such energy and effort to create Book Proposals That Sell is because I want to help writers be able to get their material in a format which traditional publishers will seriously consider (as opposed to instantly reject).  While I’ve written nonfiction books, I also have spent a lot of time and energy in the fiction area of the market. Currently I’m a part-time Fiction Acquisitions Editor

It’s been very affirming for me to receive these types of comments about Book Proposals That Sell from someone who lives in the fiction world as a best-selling author.

With years of experience as an author and an editor, Terry Whalin has written a book that can help any writer. Book Proposals That Sell offers great advice on building the nonfiction proposal and also explains the inner workings of the editor’s and publication board’s role in acquiring a new book. Novelists, too, will find this background information very helpful. All authors need to understand the uphill battle they face in selling a book before they can be fully prepared to submit their absolute best proposal or manuscript. Whalin’s book lays out what they’ll face–and then shows them how to win the battle.” — Brandilyn Collins, best-selling novelist.

If you are writing a book manuscript today, you have a choice. You can take the self-publishing route or you can go with a traditional publisher. Neither route will be easy but in the majority of cases—one route has readers and sales while the other is a huge question mark. These are some book facts worthy of consideration as you make your choice.

9 Responses to “Some Book Facts”

  1. Tracey Bateman Says:

    Great information, Terry. Thanks for putting it out there

  2. Mary Connealy Says:

    I’ve always thought that if you had a speaking ministry or platform of some kind, self-publishing makes sense because you have an outlet for your books. You have to sell them yourself.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I wonder if you have any stats on other self publishers like Authorhouse. They use Ingram and Spring Arbor as their distributors, books are listed on Barnes and as well as and they will invite authors to do book signings. Also, the work of promoting is always the authors whether through traditional publishers or self-publishers as we heard at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference held recently.

  4. Terry Whalin Says:

    I don’t have any more statistics about this matter than what I’ve posted–so nothing about Author House or other self-publishers. For me, self-publishing hasn’t made sense (which is why I’ve written more than 60 books through traditional publishers). I want my books to be available in the bookstores–and read.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for your comments, Terry. I’m looking for a traditional publishing house for my works now. I’m wondering about small press – are they considered print on demand? Or are they considered traditional?

  6. Terry Whalin Says:

    Small press–are exactly what they are called–small presses. They are like traditional publishing–from my view. POD–now that is something completely different. Print On Demand is where they produce a very small number of copies–usually less than 10–and only print more as demanded.

  7. Deb Kinnard Says:

    Good insights. Some small press publishers are handled by the major distributors, others are not. As in so many other industries, distribution is the key. There is only a limited amount of time and energy for any author to take his/her books around to bookshops and get them on the shelves. When the distrbution link in the chain is good & solid, the numbers can only get better.

  8. Barb Trombitas Says:

    The statistics you’ve cited certainly support the traditional book publishing route, but other statistics about how many new writers break into monolithic publishing houses are depressing. Self-publishing companies are increasingly responding to the needs and wants of authors that are willing to take the chance on alternative marketing and selling. After all, presence in Barnes & Noble doesn’t guarantee you’ll be widely read either. Having said that, I have your book highlighted…

  9. CHickey Says:

    Great info! I myself have gone POD, but am still trying to be picked up by one of the “traditional” publishers. I have learned so much since my first book became available and will continue to use POD if for nothing else but to learn until I’m able to obtain the goal I strive for.

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