Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some Traditional Publishing Statistics w/ a Focus on the Broad Christian Fiction Genre

About a month ago I created a survey with SurveyMonkey and put the word out to all my traditionally published author friends on several networks asking them to anonymously answer the questions. The parameters of the survey were this: 1. Their book had to have been out for at least 6 months, and 2. They had to be published with a traditional, royalty paying house. (I was actually surprised at the number of people who didn't know their terms or the number of copies they'd sold. There were also a few people who answered the survey who didn't fall into the above two parameters, I'm sure.)

What I really wanted to know was approximately how many copies of traditionally published books sell, because I wanted to compare the number of self-published books I would have to sell to make as much money as I would selling an average number of traditionally published books. (You make approximately 5-6 times more money per copy selling a self published book, as you do a traditionally published one. There are a lot of factors to consider, so that number is just an average.)

We are in such a segment of upheaval in the publishing business that I'm beginning to wonder if it might not be more beneficial to an author to simply launch out with self publishing, instead of going with a traditional house. But I wanted to do due diligence and look at some stats first. (Also, inquiring minds want to know... that kind of thing.)

So first, here is the file with each person's answers - 56 people took the survey. If there is a "?" in a box, it it because that particular person did not answer that question. You will see that most of the people who took the survey are published in Christian Fiction of some sort - mostly a type of romance. The questions on the survey were: 1. What genre are you published in? 2. What year did the book you are reporting on come out? 3. Does your publisher have distribution to Brick and Mortar stores? 4. What was the amount of your advance? 5. How many copies have sold? 6. What is the retail price of your book? and 7. What are the terms of your contract?

(Sorry about the quality of the document - some of the lines between cells converted differently than others.)

TraditionalPublishingQuestionaireResponses (2)

I found these stats quite interesting - and I'm not even a numbers person. I was a little surprised to see that, if you average out the sales, it came to almost 26K copies sold. Honestly, I thought it would be lower than that. However, a few of the highest selling books were priced at only $5.99 - so that is a big factor to consider and makes me wonder if some of those weren't romance club books with a huge built in audience - if so, that could be throwing the numbers off - but is still a factor to consider. 

So, if you choose to go the self publishing route, that would mean you would need to sell just over 5,000 copies to make as much as the average traditionally published author does.

Advances were another interesting factor, to me. You'll notice that most of the advances were under $10,000. Even if they got right at 10K, after taxes and paying an agent if they have one, that puts the author getting just over $5,000 for themselves - and they are supposed to live on that until their first royalty check, which they won't see for at least a year and a half after they get their advance. (Probably longer than that, for most.) Looking at that you can see why most authors also have a dreaded "day job."

Anyhow, I hope these stats might be helpful to you all in some way! What surprises you about these? Anything you arent' surprised about? Does this make you want to self publish, or stick with traditional houses? And if you have links to any other stats, feel free to link to them in the comments.

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  1. Distribution in a "Brick and Mortar" store makes a difference. Of the people who have shown interest in my book only two preferred to wait until the Kindle version came out. Some folks still like to browse through physical books.

  2. Very interesting. Took me a minute to figure how to read the stats, but they offer a lot of thought-provoking info. Thanks for sharing, Lynnette!

  3. Linda, I really asked the "brick and mortar" question because most publishers that don't distribute to B&M I wouldn't consider "traditional" - even if they pay royalties.

    Katie, Sorry it was confusing for a bit. Glad you were able to figure it out.

  4. You have a great analytical mind. These stats are very illuminating. Thanks for doing the leg work.

  5. Leslie, Sure thing! Glad you found it helpful. :)

  6. Very, very interesting. Nice to do it in survey format because no one really wants to talk about their sales numbers, I've found. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Christina, Yeah, I was pleased with the number or people who were willing to share their information. I think it helped that it was anonymous.

  8. Thank you for taking the time and effort to put this together, Lynnette. I was very surprised to see the amount of books that many sold were so high. It will give me something to compare my sales against when my book comes out.

  9. Suzanne, Yes, I was surprised that the average came out so high, as well.

  10. Thank you Lynette for sharing. Book club numbers would certainly skew the statistics. You might want to (maybe not) take it one step further,
    by finding not just the Mean but the Median, Mode, and Range.
    The following comes from

    Mean, median, and mode are three kinds of "averages". There are many "averages" in statistics, but these are the three most common, and are certainly the three you are most likely to encounter in your pre-statistics courses, if the topic comes up at all.

    The "mean" is the "average" you're used to, where you add up all the numbers and then divide by the number of numbers. The "median" is the "middle" value in the list of numbers. To find the median, your numbers have to be listed in numerical order, so you may have to rewrite your list first. The "mode" is the value that occurs most often. If no number is repeated, then there is no mode for the list.

    The "range" is just the difference between the largest and smallest values.