How Well Will Your Book Sell?
Will your Christian book sell hundreds, thousands or millions of copies? Steve Piersanti of Berrett-Koehler Publishers has researched that question and came up with these astounding facts. Here is a summary of his research.
- 560,626 new books in all categories using all production methods were published in the US the year he did his study.
- Book sales have fallen 13.5% from 2003 to 2008 and the trend continues downward.
- According to Publishers Weekly, of the 1.2 million votes tracked by Nielsen Bookscan, 950,000 titles sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 titles sold fewer than 1000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies.
- A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked by the average bookstore. Depending on the category, there are 100 to 1000 books competing for a single shelf space.
- It is harder to sell books. Piersanti notes that the same amount of book marketing effort expended just a few years ago to successfully market a book results in just a fraction of sales today. New books are competing with 560,000 new books and seven million previously published books.
- The market for nonfiction books with universal appeal has shrunk to nearly nothing. Successful books effectively reach narrow vertical markets but do not reach for universal appeal.
- Book publishers are now focused on crafting books to sell, and placing them in marketing channels, but they have largely washed their hands of book publicity and promotion. An author must have a “platform” (public visibility) and is responsible for initiating book sales, commonly at his or her own expense.
- Costs of new book introductions can be staggering for publishers. They spend from $100,000-$200,000 to acquire, develop, rework, design, produce, name, manufacture, package, price, introduce, market, and warehouse each new title. Due to average sales figures mentioned above, this makes each new book acquisition a huge risk, and many promising but marginal books are eliminated from consideration in the selection process.
- We are still in the early stages of the digital book explosion, but the evidence is already in that the overall market is not increasing, but that digital books are replacing traditional book revenues. Piersanti points out that “while some digital costs are lower, other costs are higher and price points are lower, making digital profits even slimmer than print publishing profits.”
- Piersanti concludes that the book publishing world will continue in a state of turmoil for years to come.
How well will your book sell? Many Christian authors believe that their book will buck these trends but there is no evidence for that. The competition is fierce in the Christian book market. Wise authors determine if there is a market for their book before they put pen to paper.