Friday, December 2, 2011

Did ya know? – stats on publishing industry

Michael W. Davis

Eighteen months ago before my cancer, I presented a mini workshop entitled “So you want to write a novel?” Now that I’m a human again, I decided to expand the mini discussion into a three part series. At the presentations so many came up and asked, "Where can I buy the DVD?" to which I'd reply, "I don't have one?" To which they'd ask, "Why not?" How can you answer a question like that (g).

So, in responses, I had a session recorded (150 minutes) and its now available on DVD (wasn't that a smart idea I came up with, LOL). You can view a trailer and video of the workshop, along with where to purchase, at

Anyway, while updating my material after the cancer, I found some interesting stats on the publishing industry that you might enjoy. I need to put forth a few caveats first:

1. The sources for these estimates is available via the link page on my website ( but I warn you, there are a ton of details to weed through to get to the snapshot below.

2. The data on the industry is VERY fragmented. Go to four sources, you’ll get four different answers, so I picked stats that appeared close in agreement.

3. The numbers change each year so consider these as “representative” of 2009 through 2010.

4. I selected strictly the USA industry since stats were more prevalent for that sector

Thus, you may find different stats doing your own search, and that’s great, but these are instructive on their own and provide a quick snapshot. So here we go.

Publishers – The following figures are ball park numbers:

· Six large publishers out of New York (Random House, Penguin, Time Warner, etc)
· 400 medium companies (Pocket, Tor, St Martin, MIRA, Bantam, etc)
· 86,000 small Indie publishers (Champagne Books, Wild Rose, Cobblestone, Changeling Press)

Titles and sales – Ever wonder how many books are published and sold?

· Roughly 1 million new titles are released in the US each year
· 87% of retail store sales come from 7% of all released titles
· 93% of titles sale less than 1000 copies
· 80% of titles sell less than 100 and only 500 titles sold more than 100,000
· Average book sells by AAP publishers are considered successful if 5000 for fiction and 7500 for NF
· Average total sales for a self published book are 200 copies

Gender Demographics – Here are some interesting numbers on reader gender stats:

· 65% of all book sales go to women
· Women account for 80% of sales for fiction
· The average American female reader buys 30 books/year & spends roughly $450

Genre Demographics – Every wonder about which genres readers prefer?

· 25% of book sales are for fiction
· 23% of fiction sales are online
· Distribution of total fiction sales: 22% Rom, 8% SF/Fan, 7% Mystery, 53% Religion/young/child
· Distribution of best seller sales (26 million books): 33% thriller/suspense, 28% Romance, 8% Mystery, 6% SF/fantasy, etc
· Romances – 65 million readers, 90% female
· SF/Fantasy – 50% men (If it were just SF, more like 90%)

State of book sales (2009/2010)

· Aggregate sales declined 4% to 36% based on genre
· Borders closed 16 stores
· B&N closed 10 stores
· B&N sales declined 3.3%
· Waldenbooks has decreased from an original 1200 stores to 175
· Dalton has gone from 797 stores to 4

· Sales grew 110% to 140%
· 37% of all Electronic buyers bought first E book last year (this have broad implications)
· In 2010 Amazon E sales exceeded other media by 11%,
· Electronic sales rose 60%
· Amazon sold 70% of all E books
· Half of E sells are readers over 50

As I stated in the beginning, these estimates should be considered general in nature, given the variance across the sources I researched, yet they are informative in turns of basic trends. There are three personal observations based on my gut reaction:

- Why the difference between paperback and electronic sales? It’s simple; average E books cost roughly $4 and paperbacks $16. Also interesting to note that from their beginning earlier in the decade, growth in the E market was slow, as the big six have tried to play up. Yet, if you look at the growth from 2008 to 2010, it’s exponential and the shape of the curve for 2004 to 2010 indicates it will continue to escalate in that direction. If you read articles from the industry controllers (New York agents and publishers) they denial the storm on the horizon, yet it’s coming regardless of their attempts to cover the truth. Cost of readers has decreased significantly and even old timers like me are adapting to new technology (bought my first I phone last month).

- Another interesting trend is the change in senior readers that are adopting E format. I saw that change across several data sources, which surprised me. My wife and I often observed that readers in their senior years would never accept E format because all their life they had enjoyed the touch of parchment. Still, when I read the number that half of E sales are to readers 50 and over, it appears that presumption was wrong. The cost is coming down for readers, but in this economy how many have 150 to 400 for a reader? Old farts that are retired, like me. We have more discretionary income. Also, three years ago, none of my 50 and older friends had readers. Now 1 in 3 does. Even a friend that has a standing order for every paperback I’ve written, he now buys them in E format. His reason? Cost and the fact that my paperbacks come out 3 to 5 months after the E version is released. So, the storm is just over the horizon, regardless of the mainstream publishing weenies going through cognitive denial.

I know this was a long post, but I hope you found it enlightening like I did. Later.

Big Mike
Michael W. Davis (
Author of the year, 2008 & 2009

Shadow of Guilt, “To each crossing of paths, there is a reason.”
Blind Consent, “The answers are buried in the secrets of the past.”
Forgotten Children, “Only Sara knows the truth.”
Tainted Hero, “Sometimes good people do bad things.”
The Treasure, “A lonely heart can impair one’s judgment.”
Veil of Deception, “Sometimes truth cuts deeper than a lie.”


Linda Kage said...

Wow, thank you for those stats.

January Bain said...

Wow is right, lots of great information, thanks, Micheal!

(I hope you got my message about needing the Writers Vineyard Blogger site to upload blogs to from me on Champagne's site today. If not, I was needing the address again due to a computer malfunction. I now have a new one! The e-mail is

AstonWest said...

Another data point on the sales of e-books to older readers may be to consider the ability of the e-readers to increase font size, something that can't be done with a paperback unless you buy a special large-text version.

Good stats! It's interesting to read that Borders closed 16 stores back then, and now they no longer exist.

Madeleine said...

Now those are some fascinating stats! Glad to hear you've recovered from your illness and have made your workshop students request a DVD of your stuff.

Big Mike said...

Yeah, they were shocker stats for me too. Glad you enjoyed.