Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 3

We’ve been discussing the similarities between the paths to publishing for the last couple of weeks. The main similarity is that regardless of the path that you take, everybody markets.

I hear you groaning. I do. But all authors should be promoting their work.


Let’s talk publishing math.

The US population is roughly 318 million people. There are some generous estimations that 70% of the population reads regularly, which works out to about 223 million readers, who each read on average about 5 books per year. Note that not all readers purchase their books. Some readers borrow from the library, or from friends etc., which will decrease the number of readers willing or able to purchase a book.

There are about 1 million books published in the US each year. The other 999,999 books are competing with your 1 book for a sale.

It’s a lot of books and not a lot of readers. If each of the 223 million readers each bought 5 different books so that every book published that year sold in equal numbers, each book would sell 1,115 copies. But, bookselling doesn’t work that way. Readers purchase books by authors they’ve already read, or they purchase a book because a friend recommended it, or they might purchase a book because it got a plethora of great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and they are willing to take a chance. Or they saw some form of advertising that got their attention.

The reality is that some books sell well (define “well” however you choose) but most books sell very little.

Discoverability is an issue for everyone.

But if I publish with the Big 5 why do I need to do marketing?

I hear you asking. I do.

Here’s the reality. Even the Big 5 publishers do not have enough money, time, or staff to market each and every book they publish. The Big 5 publish about 80% of those million books or about 800,000 books per year.

  • Penguin Random House publishes about 37%
  • HarperCollins publishes about 18%
  • Simon & Schuster publishes about 12%
  • Hachette publishes about 10%
  • Macmillian publishes about 5%

How do the Big 5 decide which books they will market? We’ll talk about that next time.

Meanwhile, the Big 5 publishes a lot of books every year. Which leaves about 200,000 books published by independent publishers and self-publishers.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 4

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