Tuesday, June 06, 2006

21 Full Grown Elephants? That’s a Lot of Books.

172,000 new books released in the United States, according to Bowker, the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information. The number of new titles dropped about 10% from the record high of 195,000 in 2004, but 172,000 titles s still quite a few books.

Let me see if I can put this in perspective. If the books were shelved side by side one would need two and three quarter miles of shelving. If the books were stacked one atop the other, they would reach almost nine times higher than the world’s tallest building, the Taipei 101, which measures 1,671 feet. To transport one copy of each title, the vehicle would have to be capable of hauling 86 tons or 21 full grown elephants. Laying the books down in a straight line would require a little over 16 miles of railroad tracks.

If a copy of each title was purchased at retail, the total expenditure would be enough to send one student to Harvard for 70 years. However, it would have only been enough to cover less than 20% of the cost of the most expensive diamond ever sold (A 100.10-carat, pear-shaped, "D" flawless diamond sold for $16,548,750, at Sotheby’s, Switzerland, on May 17, 1995.)

If each author received a $5000 advance, the total would nearly approach $1 billion. And most interestingly of all, if one author wrote all these books, consecutively, he or she, would have had to start writing during the time of Neanderthal Man, nearly 100,000 years ago.

How difficult is it to get a book published by a commercial publisher? Well the odds are better gambling in Las Vegas.

We surveyed over 60 literary agents as research for our book, The Making of a Bestseller. On the average these agents agreed to accept only a little more than 2 in 1000 of the authors who contacted them.

It has been estimated that 25 million people in the United States consider themselves writers and only 5% have been published anywhere. Ready for another dose of reality? Only 1% of manuscripts submitted to publishing houses are accepted for publication.

If 99% of all manuscripts submitted are rejected, by any standard, a writer whose book has been published has achieved a major milestone. However you look at it, 172,000 is a
lot of new titles and a lot of happy authors.


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