My friend — also my editor and publisher — Steve Piersanti, who founded and runs Berrett-Koehler Publishers, has been tracking sales and other key publishing industry data for many years and frequently updating it. Here’s what he reported most recently:
Average book sales are shockingly small — and falling fast. Combine the explosion of books published with the declining total sales, and you get shrinking sales of each new title. According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books (including Amazon.com), only 225 million books were sold in 2013 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. (Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2014).
The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling fewer than 250 copies per year and fewer than 2,000 copies over its lifetime. And very few titles are big sellers. Only 62 of 1,000 business books released in 2009 sold more than 5,000 copies, according to an analysis by the Codex Group (New York Times, March 31, 2010).
So, you wanna write a book and get rich, do you?
BTW, my book with Paul Polak, The Business Solution to Poverty, sold a total of 7,000 copies in its first 11 months. I was disappointed, but I guess being an outlier in the nonfiction market should give me a little solace.