In my time writing and working in publishing, I’ve interacted with many authors. As you may imagine, discussion often involves author goals and determining the best publishing options to meet those goals. Who doesn’t want to sell books? Some authors have even made poor decisions the first time around; it helps them realize that it is never too late to switch to a better publisher.
Very often I hear the following question: “How many millions of books do you think I will sell?”
My answer is best summarized by this information, which tallies the actual BookScan sales figures for all published books in 2004—a typical year in the publishing industry:
Only 10 books sold a million copies or more.
BookScan is like the TV-ratings for books, and these figures do not track non-bookstore related sales. Far more books are sold outside of the book trade (to book clubs and catalogs, for example).
Some self-publishing options actually open the distribution door to all those venues and more, without the up-front printing costs of off-set printing. The publishing world is changing and authors are taking advantage.