The motherlode of book writing statistics

I know some of you read this blog because I’m a guy you sort of know who wrote a book, and you’re interested in writing books – If that’s true, say hi or post a link to this entry on your blog, so I know you want more on the book writing process.

Found a page of book industry stats (warning: questionable validity) – link from India, ink:

  • 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book.
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.
  • 81% of the population feels they have a book inside them.
  • 70% of the books published do not earn out their advance.
  • Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased (!).

The rest are here at Para Publishing. Again, I can’t verfiy these stats. And even if I could every genre or book market is different, so YMMV anyway. The page does have sources for most of these links, but they’re of varying quality.

Also see India’s post about how book interiors are designed.

7 Responses to “The motherlode of book writing statistics”

  1. Joe Grossberg

    The first five numbers (all very suspect, save that fifth one) are attributed to Jerrold Jenkins (whose site, , has apparently moved here: ).

    The most outrageous one is the claim that 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year. I would like to see where he got that one from, and what “last year” is.

    In a world where Harry Potter and The da Vinci Code have sales in, or near, 9 figures, that just doesn’t pass the “smell test”.

    I think it’s irresponsible to reprint them.

  2. Eric Nehrlich

    I’m not necessarily interested in writing books, at least not yet, but I am interested in the book-writing process, so I would welcome more on that topic.

    And those statistics, if true, are depressing. Although I sympathize with the not reading books to completion. I try to hold to the policy of not getting another Amazon order until I’ve read all the books from the last one. But it’s hard.

  3. Scott (admin)

    Joe: Yup. I tried to warn about stat quality. The family one is easy to shoot at: what about kids and books for school? What about books bought by work, for their workers? etc.

    Irresponsible to reprint? Or to link? even with disclaimers? Not sure I agree about that. Perhaps a better warning is in order.

  4. Scott (admin)

    More reputable book industry stats I’ve seen elsewhere tend towards depressing – but not surprising. People borrow books, go the library for books, and do what they can to avoid paying for books. Cable TV, DVD and the internet are all easier and faster to consume that a 300 page book.

    But as a writer I’m convinced there is an experience books provide that can’t be replicated in pod-casts, blogs or even in on-line PDFs.

  5. Scott (admin)

    Well, I wouldn’t have cleaned up the disclaimer if you had’t said something, so thanks Joe.

    And on the spread of bad data – Yikes.

  6. Joe Grossberg

    It’s here too now — — though Cowen (like you, and unlike Kottke) has a comments section, where people have expressed their skepticism.

    Tens of thousands (at least) of people have now seen these inaccurate numbers, because Para Publishing was so indiscriminate in what they cited. Even more strangely, Dan Poynter posted them in 2004.

    There’s an interesting case study in here, somewhere … :)


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