I can't believe I have never blundered over this before, but though it is old news, these are such interesting statistics that they bear repeating yet again.
In 2004, Nielson BookScan tracked the sales of 1.2 million books in the US. And this is what they came up with:
* 950,000 sold less than 99 copies
* Of the rest, 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
* Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies
* Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies
* Only ten books sold more than a million
The average book in the US sells about 500 copies.
Oh boy. It's enough to give any publisher nightmares -- and aspiring authors much pause to think.
The theory used to be that the ten books that sold 1,000,000+ subsidized the rest. In view of the huge advances made fashionable late last century, is that the way still? My personal opinion is that the mid-list author -- the fellow who earns out his $25,000 advance and goes on to sell 20-30,000 -- might not be rich, but provides the glue that keeps the fabric of the publishing world intact. And the figures point out that he is a very rare bird indeed.