Sunday, June 9, 2024

Seth Godin: "Books Don’t Sell!"

571 Unique ISBNs from the Major Publishers for 52 weeks Ending on 8-24-2022
(BookScan\Lincoln Michel 

Seth Godin posted on his blog: “The odds of a particular book selling a lot of copies are close to zero.”

Seth’s assertion is based on the fact that, per Bookscan, there were 450,000 books published in 2022. If you subtract the self-published books and only include the books published by the largest publishers (e.g., Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc) that would result in approximately 45,000 books published that year. 

Of those 45,000 books published, distributed, and advertised by the largest publishers, Seth posted that only 163 books, or 0.4%, sold more than 100,000 copies. Seth wrote: “Those are extraordinarily bad odds.”

Lincoln Michel posted the numbers on the Counter Craft Substack, which are based on 45,571 unique ISBNs from the major publishers for 52 weeks ending on 8-24-2022:

  • 0.4% or 163 books sold 100,000 copies or more
  • 0.7% or 320 books sold between 50,000-99,999 copies
  • 2.2% or 1,015 books sold between 20,000-49,999 copies
  • 3.4% or 1,572 books sold between 10,000-19,999 copies
  • 5.5% or 2,518 books sold between 5,000-9,999 copies
  • 21.6% or 9,863 books sold between 1,000-4,999 copies
  • 51.4% or 23,419 sold between 12-999 copies
  • 14.7% or 6,701 books sold under 12 copies

As you can see, most books (i.e., 51.4% or 23,419) published by the major publishers only sold between 12 and 999 copies.

In the end, Seth wrote:

Write a book [on a topic that you're passionate about] because you can and because it might make a difference. But don’t listen to your publisher’s [TikTokers or YouTubers] suggestions simply to sell more copies. [Because] [y]ou probably won’t.

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