Are we fools to think that we can succeed at writing?
With prompting from Tom-Being-Tom, and my own curiosity over the last two years I thought I’d throw together a spreadsheet that tried to rationalize the numbers involved with publishing a novel.
You can find it linked here:
Such a pursuit is fraught with errors due to assumptions and biases. But I like to have some idea of what the world looks like regarding numbers.
Bottom line, if you can get traditionally published, you might sell between 70 and 120 copies.
• From the total US population take the number of adult readers.
• From the est. number of books read: 5 (REF) per adult per year,
• Arrive at the total read events per year.
• Assume 500k (REF) books published (traditional only) in 2017, assume that the prior 19 years are also included in the total reads for the year.
• Reduce the published total for each year going back 20 years.
• Sum this total published for the 20 years.
• From this total take the percentage of each year and apply it to the total yearly reads.
• This will give us our total reads for those books published this year.
• From this number take 75% as actually purchase (not library or loans).
• From that number take 75% as fiction reads.
• From that number remove 50% as books that are best sellers (the lion’s share of reads) We’re going to look at the remainder after we remove this portion. We’re looking for average authors not NYTimes bestsellers.
• This will give us the total number of reads for the year for the average book.
• Divide that number by the total number of books published.
Result: 82 (using the median of 5 books/adult or 197 using the average of 12 books/adult).
These are pretty conservative numbers. But if you want to play with the numbers, you can copy this spreadsheet and fiddle with the inputs.
Foolish to think one can succeed at getting published and selling more than 100 copies? Yes, that’s my take.
Some of the data is presented here:
|Median # Reads per year||5|
|Total Annual Read (events)||1,300,000,000|
|% of Reads are Purchased||75.00%|
|% of Reads are Fiction||75.00%|
|% of Reads are Best Sellers||50.00%|
|Annual Fiction Sales||731,250,000|
|Yearly % Pub Count Increase||10.00%|
|Year||Pub Count||% Reads||# Of Total Reads||# Best Sellers||# Remaining||Med # Sales|
• Missing from our calculations thus far are, reads from books printed in previous years; what number of books are actually sold; number of fiction books sold.
• Let’s be conservative and say that we’ll only include books from the previous 20 years, in a descending ratio such that for every year in reverse we take 90% of the current number. (Seeing how Harry Potter was first published in 1997 and it remains in the top sellers list year after year, this does not seem out of line.)
• Additionally, let’s assume that 3/4’s of the total reads are actual purchases (not library, or loaned reads), and let’s assume that 3/4’s of those remaining are fiction reads, and finally, 1/2 of the reads are for best sellers.
• No self published novels are included.