Plinius

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

PL 39/08: Most books are flops

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 6:46 am

Book sales follow a power law distribution.

In The long tail Chris Anderson reports on the US book market (chapter 7). Most books are flops. 1.2 million titles were published In 2004.  Only ninety thousand titles – less than ten percent – sold more than a thousand copies.

Long-tailed mangabey (photo: Keven Law)

Publishing is very much a lottery.

The average sale was about 500 copies. A decent sale for a specialized book, one might think. But the average is misleading. Eighty percent of the titles sold less than a hundred copies.

  1. 1 million copies or more – 10 titles and a total of 17.4 million sales
  2. 0.5-1.0 million – 22 titles and 14.0 million sales
  3. 0.25-0.5 million – 64 titles – 22.3 million sales
  4. 0.1-0.25 million – 324 titles – 46.9 million sales
  5. 50-100 thousand – 767 titles – 51.9 million sales
  6. 5-50 thousand – 23.0 thousand titles – 280 million sales
  7. 1000-4999 copies – 67.0 thousand title  – 149 million sales
  8. 100-999 copies – 203 thousand titles – 69.5 million sales
  9. less than 100 copies – 948 thousand titles – 14.3 million sales

If authors receive 15 percent of the sales price, and the average book sells for twenty dollars – writing books is hardly worth the effort, economically speaking. Most authors end up with  less than 300 dollars per title.

Average sales

  1. 1 million sales or more – 1,74 million copies per title – on the average
  2. 0.5-1.0 million – 636 thousand – on the average
  3. 0.25-0.5 million – 348 thousand – on the average
  4. 0.1-0.25 million – 145 thousand
  5. 50-100 thousand – 68 thousand
  6. 5-50 thousand – 12 thousand
  7. 1000-4999 copies – 2.200
  8. 100-999 copies – 340
  9. less than 100 copies – 15

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