by Steve Laube
My post on Monday about average book sales raised a few questions and got me to thinking a little further.
I wondered what the average book sales were for all the titles our agency has represented. Our authors have sold millions of books but I had never thought to “do the math.”
I give this number with the following caveat. Many of the books have not been out for a year and thus we only have numbers for the first few months of sales. And some titles have a more academic orientation which generally means the unit sales are not as good. Also included are titles that were commercial disasters (selling less than 1,500 copies). But that is countered by a few titles that have been on the bestseller’s lists. Thus the “average.”
Across all titles our agency has represented over the last seven years, the average book has sold 20,000 copies. Wow. We are so privileged to be working with such amazing authors!
This is significant because it illustrates the nature of the commercial publishing side of the industry. If a publisher has controlled their costs in production, editorial, and the author contract, they should be profitable if they sell 20,000 copies.
One publisher said the other day that they won’t consider a book unless it can generate $200,000 in net revenue in its first year. I paused for a second and “did the math.” If a paperback book retails for $14.00 and the publisher receives a net of $7.00 per book, then this publisher is saying that they have a threshold of 30,000 copies in projected sales before they consider publishing a book.
That seems high, but for that publisher that is their base….their average. Every publisher is different in that regard. For others that number is lower.
Some writers find this type of discussion depressing or claim that publishers are unfair. But others find this exhilarating because they now know how high the mountain is. And once you know the nature of the summit you can plan your path and your training accordingly.
My hope is that this picture will help solidify the business side of writing and that it will help you prepare for the journey ahead.