And the Winner IS . . .

“And the Winner Is…”–You (maybe)

Those four words have become part of the American lexicon.

Regardless of where you hear them, you immediately think of the Oscars, or the Emmys, or any game show you’ve ever watched. The sound of those four words creates an excitement that’s hard to beat. Whenever you hear, “And the winner is . . . ” you immediately think, “Riches!” It’s just human nature.

In the book publishing business, especially self-publishing, the winner is always the author…if he or she puts the effort into their work that it deserves.

But in the traditional publishing business, the winner is always the publisher because… well, publishers take as many rights as they can — sometimes ALL the rights — to a book, and they pay out very, very little to the author. The author may — and I should capitalize MAY — gain respectability by having Random House as their publisher, but that’s really a myth perpetuated by big publishers. Truth is, readers who buy the books don’t give a whit WHO published it.

Let’s look at some book stats, gathered from two professionals who have been in the self-publishing business a lot longer than I have. I’m speaking of Dan Poynter and Marilyn Ross. Both have extensive information and statistics on their websites, along with excellent resources for the author choosing to self-publish. I visit their sites at least once a quarter to see what new information they have posted and to learn more about making my business a success (which means making my authors a success, of course).

Dan Poynter and his advice can be found at ParaPublishing.

Dan helps us understand the publishing process by revealing stats such as:

Number of Publishers, by Year

  • 1947: 357 publishers
  • 1973: 3,000 publishers
  • 1980: 12,000 Publishers. The New York Times, February 23, 1981.
  • 1994: 52,847 publishers. Books in Print.
  • 2003: About 73,000 (plus those who publish through POD/DotCom publishers; they use publisher ISBN blocks.)

Who Is Publishing How Many Books?

  • 78% of the titles published come from the small/self-publishers.
  • 2002: The five large New York publishers accounted for 45% of the market (made 45% of the sales.) —Publishers Weekly, June 16, 2003.
  • 1999: the top 20 publishers accounted for 93% of sales.
    –Andre Schiffrin, The Business of Books in the Washington Post. October 18, 2000.
  • 2000: 80% of the book sales are controlled by five conglomerates: Bertlesman (Random House), Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Time Warner, Disney and Viacom/CBS.
    –Andre Schiffrin, The Business of Books in the Washington Post. October 18, 2000.
  • 2002: Five large New York publishers had US sales of $4.102 billion PLUS worldwide sales of $5.68 billion:
    • Random House: $2.1 billion worldwide
    • Penguin Group: $1.3 billion
    • HarperCollins: $1.1 billion
    • Simon & Schuster: $690 million (est)
    • AOL/Time Warner: $415 million
      Publishers Weekly, June 16, 2003

Lots of big numbers there. Notice how POD fits in the picture, and how the “big boys” account for only 45% of the market.

Let’s move on to Marilyn Ross and her resources:

I personally like her bullet point that says, “Women buy 68% of all books sold” (about 8/10ths of the way to the bottom). She doesn’t qualify where that comes from, but my research shows that women, as major communicators (we have more communication-type of grey matter than men, just ask Michele Miller), are definitely big book buyers and readers.

Another Marilyn bullet that stands out is (2 bullet points below “Women buy 68%), “52% of all books are not sold in bookstores! They are merchandised via mail order, online, in discount or warehouse stores, through book clubs, in nontraditional retail outlets, etc.” Which means it’s is just a waste of time and energy to be worrying about whether or not your book is on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

I also like this bullet—“The average number of copies sold per title of a POD company that printed 10,000 different titles: 75 books.” As a POD company that is very selective of whom we publish, we work hard to sell more than 75 copies of our author’s books. Well, we HELP our authors sell more than 75 – author participation is critical. Without the author’s help and commitment, selling even 75 copies can be difficult.

And . . . drum roll, please . . . my favorite quote on Marilyn’s industry stats page is this one:

“Blogs can lead to books. A blog is a great place to flesh out ideas, get reader feedback, and sometimes catch the attention of an agent or publisher. Two of the most recent bloggers to find success through this medium are Markos Moulitas and Jerome Armstrong. Chelsea Green will soon bring out Crashing the Gate, their blueprint for Democratic success in 2006 and 2008.”

I advise everyone to visit the Dan Poynter and Marilyn Ross websites. Read their advice, buy their books, and learn about the publishing industry. There is a wealth of information to help you become the success you want to be.

I hope 2008 will be the year those magic words ring in your ears, “And the winner is . . . You!”

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