Ever wonder what happens to your book once it’s published? Hopefully, it sells well and the publisher is happy, which generally means…
- a successful fiction book sells at least 5,000 copies.
- a successful nonfiction book sells at least 7,500 copies.
But, if it doesn’t sell, then what happens? Check out these interesting statistics:
• 40% of manufactured books never sell.
• The typical waiting period before books start the long and expensive trek back to the warehouse is only a mere 4 months!
• The industry return rate is 36% for hardcover and 25% for paperback.
• Superstores like Barnes & Noble sell around 70–80% of what they order, discounters like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club only 60% (i.e. – 40% return rate!).
• 37% of all books sent to stores in 2002 were returned.
• HarperCollins lost $250 million in 2002 on returns alone.
• Between 65 and 95% of returned books are destroyed once they come back from a bookseller (that’s a lot of time, energy, and money to be turned back into pulp).
Imagine if you ran a business where your customers could return 30 – 40% of any product they bought from you…whenever they wanted to. No wonder publishing is such a tough industry.
Kristi Holl says
Thanks for the statistics about what constitutes a successful fiction and nonfiction book. Is that a generally accepted figure by editors? We get so used to hearing about books that sell millions of copies. It’s nice to know that books selling ten thousand copies are considered successful!
Thanks for telling writers some of the harsh realities of the business! Publishing is the only industry in the world with such terms; in fact, many people in the “business” world scoff at the idea of even calling publishing a “business.” The way we operate is plain crazy. But we have something most other businesses don’t have — a passion and a love that defies explanation. So we continue!