Only 2% of the 1,200,000 books sold even 5,000 copies, and here I was thinking that twice that was an extraordinarily modest goal. It still boggles my mind, though. I was just looking to move two hundred copies on average per state. This would mean, say, in Ohio, selling TEN copies in each of the top 20 cities, which run from 47,000 or so up to 787,000 plus several million extra in the "metro area" ... but even in the smallest city, is it "pie in the sky, by and by" to sell ten copies? I guess so, by these numbers. In the least populous state, Wyoming, 200 copies over a population of 563,626 would be making a sale to fewer than 4 people in 10,000 ... and in the most populous state, California, that would mean making a sale to just over 5 people in a million. Nationwide, the idea of selling 10,000 copies would mean making a sale to just over 3 people per hundred thousand ... but that represents a target that's twice as good as the performance of the top 2% of books published!A few years ago, Bookscan tracked sales of 1.2 million books in the United States.
Of those 1.2 million, only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies.
Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies. Only 10 books sold more than a million copies each.
If you work through all the numbers, (I did and double-checked, so don’t bother) you’ll discover something horrifying.
The average new book in the United States sells about 500 copies. (Yep. Only 500. ...)
Yet, I've had people suggest to me that I should get back into publishing.
The fact that the average sales for a book coming out is just 500 means a) half of the books don't even sell that many copies, and b) I should probably feel better about our sales, as I believe we moved more than that on everything but my poetry.
I wonder if the move to e-books and digital publishing is changing the math here. I've ranted before on the economies of that field (somebody's making a ton of money, and I doubt it's the authors), since all the "hard costs" of publishing, the printing, the shipping, the storage, the delivery, go "poof!" and all you're left with is the developmental, editorial, and promotional costs plus royalties. At Eschaton, for a $10 cover-price book, 66% went to distribution chain (distributor => wholesaler => retailer ... also costs that are largely not in play), and 34% had to cover everything else. I figure that 20% of the total went to hard costs, so everything else came out of 14% of cover price ... which is why I go nuts when I see e-books priced at anything over 25% of the print edition!
Anyway ... felt like passing along this stuff as it still amazes me.