Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Statistics, More Statistics...and Then There's Politicians!

I was talking to my publisher yesterday (a fairly approachable chap in the States) about sales numbers and he told me that on average (a first statistical pointer!) a first time or indie author sells around 50 copies of a book in the first 3 months. Statistically that's one book every other day, or close on 5 pages a day.
Another friend of mine said that she believed the average indie book sells no more than 300 books in total though KDK may be changing that. Let's face it, if it's only 300 books, let's get those lucky people into a room and read the darned thing to them and have done with it!

That's when the book's written, taken on by an agent and bought by a publisher. Those odds? I've heard (a statistical pointer in its own right) that for every first time author book that's publisher 1,500 are written. Admittedly some are crap, but then no parent thinks their beloved child is ugly! Many of those 1,500 are good, solid books, well written and with a sound plot and characterisations, however most agents in the UK receive around (another statistic) 5 to 8 submissions a day, therefore (quick maths) probably up to 40 or more a week. Each submission is usually 50 pages long meaning that would-be authors are hoping the agents (or a flunky) will read 400 pages of submissions and identify theirs as the shining beacon among so many guttering candles. Actually an agent will take on maybe 1 or 2 new clients a year. Statistically therefore for every author an agent takes on 2,500 hopefuls will have complied with the submissions criteria and 2,499 will receive the standard "While we recognise the obvious merits of your book, we do not feel at this moment in time....blah!" The blah! is mine! The odds don't stop there of course, because the book has to be sold to a publisher and probably less than 1 in 10 books get to see the light of day even when an agent has taken it on. So now the odds are up to around 25,000 to 1 against. Not quite as bad as the National Lottery at 14,000,000 to 1, but then you don't have to spend months or even years sweating over a lottery ticket before buying it.

But what happened to the 1,500 to 1 odds, that they've crept up to 25,000 to 1? That's down to Kindle e-books costing nothing to print or distribute meaning:-
 -  far less risk to the publisher if a book doesn't sell.
 - smaller indie publishing houses can get in on the act and represent first time authors.
 - KDP allows authors to publish their own books
Th one thing e-books do take away is the glow of walking into a bookshop and seeing your baby on the shelf and even better if someone's buying and agrees to let you sign it. Of course, the downside is when you ask if the book shop has a copy of your book and they tell you with a smile it's been remaindered and is going for £1 down the local market stall. e-books live on the "shelf" for as long  as you want them time. They never get creased, they never get dropped by the vendor,  but they probably never sell. has over 1,000,000 items available for download. Under half sell at all and only 10% sell in any sort of volume, with the top 1% taking 90% of the unit sales, and an even greater %age of revenuews (the best-sellers charge more).

This morning I had an email (not just to me!) from Jonathan Gunson, the multi-talented best-selling author. It was an article he's written describing how to attract an agent's attention  and position yourself where the agent can see you clearly and quickly and correctly assess the quality of you work. It's all about passion and focus and it makes tremendous sense in the very difficult and statistical world. What Jonathan says means that you can shorten the odds to something less mind-blowing than the ones I mentioned above. The link is 

Above all...don't believe statistics. They're only a guideline for you to build a strategy so that you can reach what was statistically an insurmountable goal.

It's that, or back to writing by longhand and selling copies on the street corner!
Why not shorten my odds and look at my book Leap of Faith published on Amazon as an e-book by a small publisher Publerti Publishing and see what I mean.

Blog on, dudes

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