The 10 Truths About Book Publishing You Have To Know Before Writing a New Book

As 2013 started I’ve planned to create and publish more ebooks, courses, other digital stuff and also to enter the music producing scene with one project. Today I’ve discovered in one of the newsletters I follow – The Laptop Millionaire a great to share article about
“The 10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing” written by Steven Piersanti, President of Berrett-Koehler Publishers. I’ve found it inspirational to know the state of market which of course doesn’t mean to stop in any way the creative flow:


1. The number of books being published in the U.S. has exploded.

“Bowker reports that over one million (1,052,803) books were published in
the U.S. in 2009, which is more than triple the number of books published
four years earlier (2005) in the U.S.

More than two thirds of these books are self-published books, reprints
of public domain works, and other print-on-demand books, which is where
most of the growth in recent years has taken place. In addition, hundreds
of thousands of English-language books are published each year in other

2. Book industry sales are declining, despite the explosion of books published.

Book sales in the U.S. peaked in 2007 and then fell by nearly five percent
between 2007 and 2009, according to the Association of American
Publishers. Similarly, bookstore sales peaked in 2007 and have fallen since,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The major bookstore chains have
been especially hard hit, with a 12 percent sales decline between 2007
and 2009.

3. Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast.

Combine the explosion of books published with the declining total sales and
you get shrinking sales of each new title. According to Nielsen BookScan
– which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books
(including – only 282 million books were sold in 2009 in the
U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. nonfiction
book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies
over its lifetime.

4. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.

For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more
titles competing for that shelf space. For example, the number of business
titles stocked ranges from less than 100 (smaller bookstores) to approximately
1,500 (superstores). Yet there are 250,000-plus business books in print that
are fighting for that limited shelf space.

5. It is getting harder and harder every year to sell books.

Many book categories have become entirely saturated, with many books on
every topic. It is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. New titles
are not just competing with a million recently published books, they are also
competing with more than seven million other books available for sale. And
other media are claiming more and more of people’s time. Result: investing
the same amount of effort today to market a book as was invested a few years
ago will yield a fraction of the sales previously experienced.

6. Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities.

Everyone in the potential audiences for a book already knows of hundreds of
interesting and useful books to read but has little time to read any. Therefore
people are reading only books that their communities make important or even
mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books,
and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting
with one’s communities.

7. Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers.

Publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening marketplace only
by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors, to cut costs
and prop up sales. In recognition of this reality, most book proposals from
agents and experienced authors now have an extensive (usually many pages)
section on the author’s marketing platform and what the author will do to
market the book. Publishers still fulfill important roles in helping craft books
to succeed and making books available in sales channels, but whether the
books move in those channels depends primarily on the authors.

8. No other industry has so many new product introductions.

Every new book is a new product, needing to be acquired, developed,
reworked, designed, produced, named, manufactured, packaged, priced,
introduced, marketed, warehoused, and sold. Yet the average new book
generates only $100,000 to $200,000 in sales, which needs to cover all
of these expenses, leaving only small amounts available for each area
of expense. This more than anything limits how much publishers can
invest in any one new book and in its marketing campaign.

9. The digital revolution is expanding the number of products and
sales channels but not increasing book sales.

We are in the early stages of an explosion in digital versions of books
and digital sales channels for books and portions of books. However,
early indications are that the digital revenues are replacing traditional
book revenues rather than adding to overall book revenues. The total
book publishing pie is not growing, but it is now being divided among
even more products and markets, thus further crowding and saturating
the marketplace. And although some digital costs are lower, other costs
are higher while price points are lower – making digital profits even
slimmer than print profits thus far.

10. The book publishing world is in a never-ending state of turmoil.

The thin margins in the industry, high complexities of the business,
intense competition in a small industry, rapid growth of new technologies,
and expanding competition from other media lead to constant turmoil in
book publishing. Translation: expect even more changes and challenges in
coming months and years.

There were also recommended some strategies to take into consideration:

–    The game is now pass-along sales.
–    Events/immersion experiences replace traditional publicity in moving the needle.
–    Leverage the authors’ and publishers’ communities.
–    In a crowded market, brands stand out.
–    Master new sales and marketing channels.
–    Build books around a big new idea.
–    Front-load the main ideas in books and keep books short

Mark is already a New York Times bestseller author with his book The Laptop Millionaire. More details on his website

4 thoughts on “The 10 Truths About Book Publishing You Have To Know Before Writing a New Book

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