Reality Bites: Just How Well Does the Average Book Sell?

Think you’re the next Steven King or Agatha Christie? Have the plans for your 20 room mansion and country estate primed and ready to go? Read this first.

As we’ve stated before, if you want to be rich and famous, study ACTING. If you’ve planned all your life to make your fortune writing conventional books, you might need to think again (unless, of course, you’re Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, or Rupert Murdoch).

Here are the hard cold facts, directly quoted from an article in Publisher’s Weekly:

in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies.

Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies.

Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies.

The average book in America sells about 500 copies.

Those blockbusters are a minute anomaly: only 10 books sold more than a million copies last year, and fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000.

Stunning. Painful. But it’s the truth. Fortunately, however, if you’re a great writer, you can now publish your work, virtually cost-free, by choosing the e-book route.

In the not-so-distant past, you’d have to make a rather hefty capital investment just to get a 3000-copy-run of a print book, then market, sell, and ship it; now, you can go from manuscript to book to reader’s hands all by yourself, if you’re willing to do a bit of legwork on your own.

So cheer up; reality bites, but it’s ALWAYS better to know, than not to know.

Isn’t it?

Good writing never goes out of style. First published 10/8/2011.


Will Rogers

Will Rogers

“When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do well, that’s Memoirs.”

–Will Rogers

A Most Worthy Project: Archive.org Founder Archives Physical Books for Posterity

This is a must-read for any book lover: Archive.org founder and data mining pioneer Brewster Kahle has undertaken the gargantuan task of preserving one copy of every available physical book in the world.

“We must keep the past even as we’re inventing a new future,” he said. “If the Library of Alexandria had made a copy of every book and sent it to India or China, we’d have the other works of Aristotle, the other plays of Euripides. One copy in one institution is not good enough.”

20,000 volumes arrive each week and are catalogued and then stored in shipping containers located in a warehouse just north of San Francisco.

Here are the details, courtesy of David Streitfeld’s fascinating piece in the New York Times, published in Spring 2012.

Learn more about the Physical Archive here.

Harper-Collins Settles; Amazon e-book Pricing Will Fluctuate

As an apparent result of the US government’s anti-trust lawsuit (mentioned earlier), Harper-Collins has announced that its prices for Kindle books will, in effect, no longer be fixed. : )

Bloomberg reports that a spokesperson for Harper-Collins sent an emailed statement that “Dynamic pricing and experimentation will continue to be a priority for us as we move forward.”

Apple Accused of Violating Chinese Writers’ Copyrights

In an interesting twist, twelve Chinese authors have accused Apple Inc. of violating their copyrights by publishing and selling their works without their permission.

Here’s the AP coverage of this story.

US Justice Department: Price Fixing of E-books Out; Apple, HarperCollins, and More

The Wall Street Journal (a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) has reported that another of News Corp’s properties, the publishing house HarperCollins, has been informed of an impending US Justice Department lawsuit alleging antitrust violations regarding e-book pricing.  Other parties involved in this include Apple, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and MacMillan.  Settlement talks have apparently been underway for some time.

If you’re a Kindle owner, you probably remember a little flap between Macmillan and Amazon when Macmillan refused to comply with Amazon’s $9.99 Kindle book pricing structure.  Amazon briefly pulled their offerings until Amazon capitulated [now, we may know why]. Prices rose 50%+ and people like me stopped buying Macmillan e-books with witless abandon : )  [It’s a PRINCIPLE thing].

The WSJ piece is an interesting illustration of the corporate sensibility of Apple’s Steve Jobs vs. Amazon’s consumer-centric model.

Here’s a quick quote from the Wall Street Journal’s reporting; you can read the full article at your convenience:

“We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway,’” Mr. Jobs was quoted as saying by his biographer, Walter Isaacson.

The publishers were then able to impose the same model across the industry, Mr. Jobs told Mr. Isaacson. “They went to Amazon and said, ‘You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books,’ ” Mr. Jobs said.

Update 3/9/12:  Here’s an interesting take on the same topic, from Bloomberg Business.




Pre-Release Review of Kindle Fire: Thumbs up!

Thinking of getting a Kindle Fire
for yourself or as a gift for your favorite nephew?

The Fire’s being released tomorrow (November 15, 2011), but an early review is in; it’s lean, mean, easy to use, and fast:

Check out the review from MSNBC.

Amazon Prime Members: Borrow a Kindle Book A Month!

Jeff Bezos has done it again; he’s added even MORE value to Amazon.com.

The first color Kindle, the Kindle Fire, ships November 15, 2011.

And as of November 3, 2011, Amazon Prime members can borrow a Kindle book a month, free of charge, through the Kindle Lending Library.

Amazon Prime is a $79 per year Annual Subscription that used to offer “nothing more” than free two-day shipping of any eligible product from Amazon’s huge inventory. THAT was a great deal in itself.

But starting in the Spring of 2011, Amazon started offering selected movies for unlimited video streaming as a perk for Prime Members. And the library of movies and TV shows has been ever-expanding since, including some newer acquisitions from ABC TV, Fox, and PBS.

Click Here to learn more about the Kindle Lending Library.

Go Amazon!

Meet The Kindle Touch

Announced a few minutes ago by Jeff Bezos during a press conference in New York:

Amazon’s releasing the latest Kindle with e-ink and 3G: The Kindle Touch (available November 21, but can be pre-ordered NOW).

E-ink fans will be thrilled; for avid readers, nothing compares to its combination of clarity and ease of reading. Click above to learn more about the Touch from Amazon itself.

If you’re into color, here’s a link to the new Kindle Fire: 7″ color display, touchscreen–you’ve heard the rumors already.

It’s True! Amazon Introducing a Tablet This Fall

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has confirmed that Amazon will indeed be selling an Amazon-branded 7″ cloud-based tablet PC this Fall (November). Read more here!

Even MORE news on this: Reportedly, this will be a KINDLE device. Here’s a firsthand report from someone at TechCrunch who’s actually testdriven a prototype.

9/6/11 Update: More details emerge from Business Insider. Peek here.

9/6/11 9:15 PM Update: EVEN MORE DETAILS emerge about this exciting new tablet. Possibly 7″ AND 10″ model Kindles soon to come. Check out Tom’s Guide Gadgets post for the lowdown.

9/12/11 10 AM Update: Further speculation from PC Magazine.

9/26/11 LAST UPDATE: TechCrunch is reporting that this new color Kindle will be called the Kindle Fire and that e-ink Kindles will continue to be sold and supported (yea)! Click here to find out more before Amazon’s official Press Conference on 9/28.

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