Self-publishing stats

Publishers Weekly on 2004 iUniverse sales.

Most notably:

– 18,108: Total number of titles published
– 14: Number of titles sold through B&N’s bricks-and-mortar stores (nationally)
– 83: Number of titles that sold at least 500 copies

That less than a one half of one percent chance that a self-published book (ith iUniverse, anyway) will sell 500 copies. I don’t have figures here, but I’m pretty sure that’s not any better than your chances of getting picked out of the slush pile by a traditional publisher–and I think it may be a bit worse. And if you do get picked out of the slush pile, you’re probably going to sell a lot more than 500 copies, even if your book fails utterly.

Ritual disclaimers: self-publishing may still make sense for niche books, and certainly makes sense if you’re just printing up a few copies for your family and friends. (But even then, use someone reputable, who admits up-front they’re a printing service, not a publisher–like Lulu.com, say.) And reputable small press is not self-publishing; in fact, the small press is doing some wonderful things.

But if the odds aren’t any better via self-publishing, and if you’re almost certainly going to reach a much smaller audience even if your self-published book “succeeds” … why not send your book out to traditional publishers? The only downside is it’s going to take a lot longer … and when you balance that against quickly writing a book that no one is likely to actually read, well, waiting makes a lot more sense to me.

Of course, I’m mostly preaching to the choir, here. But it was nice to have some actual numbers in hand.

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