From http://www.philcooke.com/book_publishing via mt’s shared posts:
Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 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” (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006). And average sales have since fallen much more. According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
That is depressing reading for anyone thinking of writing a book. Fortunately I’m not (though I did wonder about a vanity-published Stoat :-). Mind you there has been an explosion of utter tosh out there; book writing has now become so much easier.
What I wonder is, how long can this go on? Every year now there are more books published on any given topic than anyone could ever hope to read. I vaguely watch for new sci-fi novels, and it is clear in that segment. And the best don’t age quickly, so why do we need all these new books? The answer, of course, is that we don’t: there is a supply-glut driven by peoples’ desire to write.
[Update: ironically, my last paragraph overlaps with para 5 of the original. And of course i didn't funish reading the original before writing this -W]