So you want to write a book: Some startling statistics

Robyn Jackson writes: Anyone who has ever tried to find an agent or get a manuscript accepted by a publisher knows what a tough business writing is. Even if you do get your book published, there’s no guarantee anyone will buy it. The following statistics were found on the Web site of self-publishing guru Dan Poynter. They’ll give you an idea of what you’re up against if you want to write books for a living.

• 1/3 of high school graduates never read a book for the rest of their lives.
• 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
• 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
• 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
• 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
• 70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
• 70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.

About 120,000 books are published each year in the U.S. A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies. A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.

On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at a book’s front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover. Each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.

Statistics can be manipulated, and these paint a fairly bleak picture, but don’t give up. Write that novel, pitch that nonfiction book idea to a publisher. Follow your dream. Just don’t kid yourself about how easy it will be to get published. Sure, a lot of crap gets published, but the better your manuscript is, the likelier you’ll be to see it in print.

Publishing is a business, and publishers want books that fit neatly into a genre because they know there’s a huge audience for mysteries and romances, even cookbooks. Books that don’t fit into a genre will have a harder time finding a publisher, no matter how good they might be. It’s all about money, honey.

Copyright 2003, Robyn Jackson

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