Saturday, June 30, 2018

Who Wins Or Loses With So Many Published Books?

Thirty years ago some 45,000 new books were published.  Now the number is seven times that – from traditional publishers – and 20x that when you factor in self-published titles.  The volume of books being published is staggering.  Think about it.  

If you lived from 1968 to 1988, the combined number of books published in those years would fall far short of what 2018 is producing.  In a matter of four years, the number of books published would be equivalent to an 80-year span just a generation or two ago.  Is this good for society or healthy for the book publishing industry?

Let’s first talk about society.  If we weigh the pros and cons of prolific publishing, we may conclude the following:

·         More choice for consumers and greater customization for targeted demographics.
·         More competing titles could keep prices down.
·         More books mean more movies-based-on-books will come out.
·         Increased competition might make the best books even better.
·         Free speech flourishes and previously ignored or banned ideas, facts, reviews or theories get to see the light of day.

·         Library budgets can’t handle so many more books.
·         Consumers are burdened by choice – and confused by it.
·         Book reviewers can’t keep up.
·         Too many books get published that lack editing, worthwhile content, or good fact-checking.
·         A centralization of books gives way to millions of random bits of information.
·         Bookstores and libraries burdened are over how to select what they shelve.

Now let’s look at the book publishing industry:

·         Greater variety of books increases chances of something being purchased.
·         More authors means more advocates promoting books.
·         More books increases the chances of some real gems rising to the top.
·         More books creates more jobs for printers, editors, cover designers, book shepherds, publicists, etc.
·         Greater experimentation is taking place when a million books are published.
·         Topics that otherwise would be ignored are getting discussed and opening the door for new genres.

·         Literary agents have to sift through more submissions and manuscripts than they could possibly keep up with.
·         Too many titles sell a few hundred copies or less.
·         Book reviewers can’t keep up, and will likely see good books slip through the cracks.
·         More books compromises the ability of the marketplace to give each of them a fair opportunity and as a result hampers or clouds the ability of some of the worthy books to get proper attention.

So, do the pros outweigh the cons – for society or the book publishing world?  The good news is none of us has to decide.  It’s up to each author and publisher to determine if a book is worth publishing, both from a financial and societal perspective.

There’s something appealing to the idea that anyone can publish anything at any time but it’s tempered with the reality that each book fights for readers and there simply are more books than readers.  

The U.S. population is around 330 million vs. 1 million new titles published this year, would mean that if every man, woman and child read a book a year, each book would average 330 readers.  But we know that between illiterates and those that choose not to read books or who suffer a disability or leaning disorder, there is a pool of readers, that’s closer to maybe 200 million adults and teens who read books.  So now it’s 200 readers per book.  They’d have to read five books a year to hit 1,000 readers.  Notice I said readers, and not book buyers.  Fewer book buyers exist than readers.

When I mentioned 45,000 books were published 30 years ago, that was a time without Netflix, Amazon Prime, You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, podcasts and other competing sources of content, much of which is free.

To be a writer today means you’ll need to work, extra hard – not only to get published, but to be compensated. Today’s author really is not as respected as he or she was a few decades ago.  To be a successful author is looking more like a lottery – you have to be in it to win it, but your chances decrease with so many players involved.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.”

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