Demotivating thoughts…


I was just looking at some stats to see something of the challenge when seeking to succeed in writing.

The British Library is termed a ‘legal deposit library’. Under the Copyright Act of 1911, a publisher is obliged to deposit one copy of every book published with the British Library.  So it has copies of all books published in the UK and Ireland. As a result it is the world’s largest library with more than 150,000,000 items and 3,000,000 new items are added every year.  So this is the base of competition already out there.

Each year, just in the UK, some 170,000 to 180,000 new books are published (source: Booksellers Association) – thus the competition is growing fast.

UK consumers purchased 323 million books in 2013, which sounds great until you divide this by the 63.2m in total population.  But to be more accurate we should look only at the 52m who are over 15 years old –across these the sales quantity equates only to around 5 to 6 books per person per year.

It can be slightly improved because only 70% of those over 15 years old said they had bought a book in 2013 – so for this net 36.4m population of confirmed book buyers the average purchase rises to 9 books per person per year.

However this nine books is not great when you take our penchant for following certain authors.  The new author is thus seeking to pitch to 36.4m people (marketing to that many does not come cheaply!).  In reality then you are probably asking them to opt for you from the one or two discretionary books they buy after they have followed their favourite authors for thrillers, mystery, romance, legal drama, historic fiction…

A more positive spin?  There were sales of 80 million eBooks in 2013 – one-in four of all books purchased (up from one-in-five in 2012) (source: Books & Consumers survey)  Self-published authors accounted for one-in-five of those e-books purchased in 2013.    So as a new author you are seeking to pitch for a current market of 16,000 book sales.

I read somwhere that book agents suggests they receive some 15,000+ new manuscripts each year.

So heaven knows why there were hordes of aspiring authors at London Book Fair this month – the chances of succeeding are dire!


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