Some startling book statistics

Some startling statistics
by Robyn Jackson

So you want to write a book. Well, why not? So does about 80 percent of the United States population according to a survey by the Jenkins Group.

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 about book publishing and reading 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 another 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.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins,

53 percent read fiction, 43 percent read nonfiction. The favorite fiction category is mystery and suspence, at 19 percent.
55 percent of fiction is bought by women, 45 percent by men.
(Source: Publishers Weekly)

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.
(Source: Authors Guild,

On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at a book’s front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover.
(Source: Para Publishing,

Each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.
(Source: Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment banker)

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.

One of the keys to publishing success is to target your audience. Notice what’s on the best seller lists. All those John Grisham mysteries and Nora Roberts romances and the like tell you what people are reading.

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.

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