We had a client ask why their book could not be found in the bookstores. It is a common question. One that I tried to answer last year in a post about logistics. Today I’ll approach it from a different direction. The sheer number of books that are being published.
Let me start with two sets of statistics. Barnes & Noble (B&N) is the largest retail bookstore in the U.S. Their stores are about 25,000 square feet in size and carry at least 100,000 unique titles on their shelves. I love walking into one of their stores hoping to find a new treasure.
Next let’s look at the largest publisher in the world, Penguin Random House (PRH). They have 250 imprints on 5 continents and publish 15,000 new titles per year.
Think about that for a moment. B&N carries 100,000 titles, but PRH creates 15,000 new ones each year. And that is just one publisher, albeit a really big one!
There are rough estimates that over 300,000 new books are published each year, in English. (Based on the number of ISBN numbers issued annually.) This does not include the other books published without an ISBN through Amazon’s Create Space service (Amazon issues an ASIN – Amazon Standard Identification Number) so it is possible we could add another 50,000 to 100,000 titles to that total.
When I was the national buyer for a large Christian bookstore chain our largest stores carried about 10,000 unique titles but I estimated that I saw 5,000 new books each year and had to choose which ones were carried in our stores.
You can quickly see the problem for you, the author. If your book is not going to get substantial exposure in the market, or your “platform” is not one that will drive people into stores or online to buy your book, it is likely your book will not be found on the shelves of your local store.
I remember one customer who asked me, “Have you read every book in the store?” I laughed and said, “I’m sorry ma’am but I’m a bit outnumbered.” It is the same for any store with limited shelf space.
This is one reason the Amazon’s of the world have an advantage because their shelves are limitless online. But I can understand an author’s desire to walk into their local store and find their book. Nothing wrong with that. However, one cannot or should not blame their publisher for not getting it on that particular shelf at the moment you walk into that specific store.
For all you know your book is actually in the store, just on the wrong shelf. I still remember seeing Charles Swindoll’s Improving Your Serve (a book about serving your church and your community) in the Sports section along with the other Tennis books. Another time I found a Janette Oke prairie romance in-between Max Brand and Louis L’Amour in the Western novels section.
As with our last post on this topic, we are not discussing whether or not bookstores are going defunct, or whether ebooks are superior to physical books. Merely a conversation on one of the challenges a bookstore faces.