According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), about 2.2 million books are published each year globally, but how many of these are published in the US alone? Forbes suggests about one-third of that amount, but how many is that exactly?
The US publishes around 600,000 to 1,000,000 new titles every year. For a bit of perspective, that averages to about 1700 to 2700 books being published every day in the US. That is more than 100 books per hour.
Fun fact- by the time you finish reading this article, about five new books will get published in the United States. However, we do not have very consistent data for each year for several reasons, which I will discuss later in this article.Keep reading to find out more.
If you plan to publish your book, this data might seem scary to you. Before reaching any conclusion, let me tell you that books are published in two ways – traditional and self-publishing.
In traditional publishing, the publishing house does all the publishing and promotion work, and all the rights and royalties remain with the publisher. In contrast, in self-publishing, the author bears all the expenses of publishing a book, and all the rights remain in the author’s hands.
According to Forbes, more than half of the total books are self-published, and this number also includes ‘micro-niches.’ Some of the books do not even sell more than 1000 copies over their whole lifetime. This number of total books consists of every category that exists, from public domain texts to on-demand prints and reprints.
It sounds obvious that a book is an easily trackable commodity. Every book has a unique identity number called ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers). Then what is the problem? in tracking all books published each year globally?
The trouble with tracking books globally is the sheer amount of books published. Even when books have unique identity numbers, their total number is vast. Hence it becomes difficult to collect information about every book published in any language or corner of the world.
Moreover, some books are published as revised editions. There is always a doubt whether revised editions and reprints should be counted as new titles or not. The data shown above does not indicate revised editions.
According to UNESCO’s data, around 50% of total books are published in the US and China alone. In comparison, 126 countries’ data is collected for over ten years (from 1991 to 2015) to estimate the given number.
UNESCO has to rely on data provided by the local governments of each country. Unlike big players like the United States and China, not all countries quickly collect and hand over the data.
Data reveals that the book industry is flooded with books of every type. Yet new ones are making their way to the shelves of a bookstore all the time. While this might not sound good to a publisher or an author, having a lot of reading options is always a delight for the readers.
Whether you are a reader, an author, or a publisher, this data certainly overwhelmed all of us. You must have concluded that not all books hit the jackpot.
An average book published in America sells just about 500 copies. Some lowest-performing books don’t even sell outside the family and friends. At the same time, some books sell enough to make the publisher’s career reach cloud nine.
All books are not written to hit the jackpot either. Some niches deal with a target audience. So, we can say that specific kinds of books make their route to the audience through the crowd. Only a tiny fraction of books get the million mark.
New York Best Sellers are just 0.5% of all published books each year. An EPJ data science study collected data for nine years (2008-2016) and analyzed it. They found that out of every 100,000 new titles, only 500 books or fewer make it to the New York best-selling list.
In 2004, Nielsen Bookscan tracked 1.2 million books. Publishers Weekly, who reported on the study, gives an interesting set of stats, which I’m paraphrasing here:
- Of those books, more than 950,000 sold 100 copies or less.
- Another 200,000 books sold less than a thousand copies.
- Around 25,000 titles sold more than 5,000 copies.
- Only about 15,000 of the books had sales totaling more than 100,000.
- And finally, there were only ten lucky authors whose books sold more than a million copies.
Bookselling and book genres have a deep relationship. We always think about best-selling books, but we rarely inspect which types of books are making their way through the crowd and reaching success.
Well, these genres sell more than others:
- Crime or Mystery
- Science Fictions or Fantasy
- Biographies and Auto-biographies
The reason for the success of these particular genres might be that they appeal to a large population. People either enjoy reading them, relate to them, or need them in real life.
This research article shows that fiction sells more copies than non-fiction.
Also, how do seasons, gender, and other stereotypical factors contribute to the success of a book? For example, Romance hits are written mainly by female authors whereas male authors write more about crime and mystery.
As mentioned above, non-fiction is not a big hit with readers. Some other genres that don’t sell well include:
- Do it yourself (DIY)
- Historical fiction
Books are a primary source of knowledge. We rely on them in many ways to learn from distant places or times. Books have proved their importance after the invention of printing, and this boom in the book industry is the outcome of the success of printing books.
The United States alone publishes approximately a million new titles each year, contributing around one-third of the total books published globally.
- Wikipedia: Books Published per Country per Year
- Forbes: Thinking of Self-Publishing Your Book in 2013? Here’s What You Need To Know.
- Berrett-Koehler Publishers: Thinking of Self-Publishing Your Book in 2013? Here’s What You Need To Know.
- Wikipedia: International Standard Book Number
- Ask Wonder: How Many Business Books Are Published Worldwide Each Year? (Annual Numbers for the Past Ten Years Would Be Ideal.)
- Electric Literature: Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask)
- Wikipedia: The New York Times Best Seller List.
- Publishers Weekly: A Bookselling Tail
- Bookstr: Book Genres That Make the Most Money
- Springer Open: Success in Books: A Big Data Approach to Bestsellers
- Good Reads: What Is Your Least Favorite Book Genre?