79% of Books Sell Less Than 100 Copies

Some depressing stats for writers from Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail:

In 2004, 950,000 books out of 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen BookScan sold fewer than ninety-nine copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. In other words, about 98 percent of books are noncommercial, whether they were intended that way or not. (page 76)

Those are kind of sobering numbers for anyone who wants to write a book. On the bright side, if you can sell 100 copies or more of your book, you’re in the top 21% of the publishing industry. The bar for success if fairly low, if you look at it from that perspective.

One thought on “79% of Books Sell Less Than 100 Copies”

  1. Do you think this is because we’re not a “reading culture,” or that people just don’t have time to read more than a small handfull of books each year? Or maybe it’s because there aren’t that many truly great books out there?

    When I think about my reading habbits, this doesn’t surprise me. It’s very rare that I’ll read a book that isn’t famous. I’ll read Harry Potter. I’ll read stuff from Tolkien. Sometimes Orson Scott Card. Aside from those heavy-hitters, I read almost nothing.

    I wonder what the parallel statistics are for blogs.

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