New Authors and the Realities of Publishing

New Authors and the Realities of Publishing

Every new author wants to be published, become successful, in terms of good reviews, maybe prizes, and have their book become a reasonably good-selling one - at least, that's our experience.

Hope is never mere, even when it is meager. When all other senses sleep, the eye of hope is first to awaken, last to shut. - Gil Galad to Elrond, The Rings of Power. 

Few if any authors ask us to make sure their books are unread, unsold, and unappreciated. But more and more, that is what happens to new books by less-known writers - they remain unsold and unread, too often.

Looking at articles in the industry press, and online, I can summarise a few trends and facts (feel free to verify these and let us know if you have different information or if you want your article credited here as a source) that may explain the challenges facing writers today.

  1. SO MANY BOOKS. There are over a thousand books published a week in the UK, and a million+ new books published in the USA, each year. Amazon sells over ten million books online, and that's just in English. The market is over-saturated with self-published books (60% or more of new Amazon titles) and cheaply-reprinted versions of out of copyright editions. This does not include eBooks and audiobooks.
  2. SALES ARE LOW. Overall, because so many titles exist, book sales are in the billions. But break that down per title, per author, and the numbers are less exciting. For example, the average book will sell between 250 and 3,000 copies in its LIFETIME. Not per year, but ever. Less than 300 books a year are genuine "best-sellers" in the sense of selling 100k+ - and these books are almost always by superstar writers that are household names, have a giant fanbase, a top agent, and a major publisher.
  3. FEW GET TRADITIONAL BOOK DEALS. Few writers get offered "traditional" book deals these days, and almost all have agents. Figures suggest around 1-2% of well-written, seriously submitted books will be taken on. The rest will either be self-published, published with a co-op, or never released.
  4. REVIEWS AND SHELFSPACE ARE HARD TO COME BY. Maybe one of a hundred books in a category are reviewed and one in a thousand stocked on bookshelves - if you look at most bookshops, they will only have a minority of any possible genres' or subjects' full range of titles - and newspapers that still carry reviews will tend to review ten or less books a week, 1% of what comes out. 99% of books receive few or no reviews, ever, except on Amazon, or with paid-for blog tours.
  5. SALES WILL BE MOSTLY TO YOUR OWN FAMILY, FRIENDS AND FANS. The truth is, almost all book sales go to the 3 Fs - family, friends, and fans. We include work and study colleagues in the friends category. Fans is everyone who follows you on social media.
Only better-known writers usually have many fans, so you can assume the most sales you may normally get otherwise will be a number similar to all your work colleagues, social media connections, and family members - and many of those won't buy your books without some gentle persuasion.


Authors need to do a lot of the marketing, because they can reach their potential readers far better than anyone else can. Few if any people have the time, money or inclination to seek out and buy books by unknown, first-time authors, without seeing a major review, or prize win, or a recommendation by a famous person.

6. PHYSICAL BOOKS ARE POPULAR BUT NOT THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN. As we all know, videogames, movies, TV, social media, let alone real-life events like sports, travel, and going to a restaurant, take up most of the leisure time, and free money, people have. Fewer people have the ability to buy or read more than a handful of books each year. This is why those million books each year find maybe 250 readers.

7. NEVER GIVE UP. Writing is very important - we know that - we're writers! If you think you have talent, or a story to tell, and want to write, please keep going. Don't let anyone tell you success never happens. Every year a few unknown writers are discovered, and reach huge readerships. The message in this post is not that it is impossible, but that getting a book published, sold, and read is difficult, and huge success is rare.

This is why small indie presses like BSPG are so important. When presses like ours close, so does a major door for un-agented, and lesser-known writers, to have traditional, or co-op (with its hybrid imprints only) publishing opportunities - which are much better still than self-publishing.

And of course, every book matters, so perhaps valuing books in terms of sales is not even the best way to think about writing, which is why we are open to books we know will have niche, or smaller, audiences, but still deserve to be published and given a chance to be taken on by libraries, and courses; and who knows, maybe one day find their ideal reader(s)?

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