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Five Things You Should Know About Book World Now

Before you write or pitch, check out these industry statistics

Many of us want to write a book and then publish it with the hope that thousands — maybe millions of people (be still, my heart) — will read it.

Knowing these facts may help you choose your topic, pitch it to an agent, and marketing it for better sales.

1) What age group reads the most? (The answer may surprise you.)

I assumed older people with more spare time than the rest of the population would read the most. Boy was I wrong.

Most readers today are at the opposite end of the spectrum from what I expected. Young people, aged 18–24 years old, have the highest percentage of readers than any other age group. In fact, 88% of them read at least one book in the last year. Almost as many, 86% of the 16–17 year-olds surveyed, were readers as well. The number of young people reading explains the explosion of YA literature since the 1970s.

Those are encouraging statistics for the future of America.

Young people may read more than older folks, but don’t count out the population with five decades or more under their belts. While they may not read as much, they are still a group that has a lot of readers. Luckily for the publishing world, 67–68 percent of the over 50-crowd are readers, a significant number of book-buyers.

Despite dire predictions, American still love books, purchasing 675 million of them each year.

Percentage of readers by age group / Melissa Gouty / Venngage

2) Is everyone using electronic readers?

Absolutely not. The vast majority of readers under the age of 30 are turning pages in apps on their computers (55%) or phone (41%), not tablets or e-readers.

A decade ago, I thought lightweight, portable electronic readers like Nook and Kindle would change the world and improve the consumption of literature across the world. I envisioned everyone, from the age of six on up, carrying around their own little library on an electronic reader, spending as much time as possible consuming literature.

Wrong again.

Personal libraries can be contained in a phone, so that’s what many people use. Why buy a special device when you can read on your cell?

( I can only hope that when I see people intently studying their phones, they are reading books and not vapid text messages.)

3) Contrary to what you may have heard, print books are more popular than e-books

E-book sales are declining, according to the Association of American Publishers. By the end of 2018, e-book sales slipped by 3.9%, but both hardback and paperback sales increased. Revenue from print books approached $4 billion dollars while e-books garnered about $771 million, significantly less than the bound books.

In general, fiction sells better in e-books, particularly in the realm of romance and erotica, science fiction and fantasy. Amazon's self-published authors in the Romance and Sci-Fi genres make up 48% of the total market.

But ebooks do not sell more than print books. Hard-copy books are on the rise, and revenue from U.S. bookstores rose to a total of $13 billion dollars in 2018 from $12 billion in 2017.

I read on an e-reader, my tablet, and hard-copy books. I love the convenience of my e-reader and the versatility of my tablet, but there’s something about the smell of a book, the weight of it in my hand, the feel of turning the pages that gives me pleasure. If you’re like me, being able to highlight or make notes in my own handwriting is soothing — an act of studied reverence, not of literary vandalism.

And book shopping? Wandering the aisles of a bookstore, touching titles, scanning topics, and caressing cover-art is an experience all its own. It’s so much more fun to shop for print books than ebooks.

4) The popularity of print books explains the rise of independent bookstores

The number of independent bookstores has risen by 35% since 2009 — even while e-readers were being marketed. In fact, the American Booksellers Association now boasts 2400 locations and increasing membership for the last nine years.

Indie bookshops had a 5% increase in revenue in 2018, probably because people like to browse for books, touch the tomes, and peruse the periodicals in person.

Whatever plans you have for your book-marketing, remember that independent booksellers have numbers and power, and an endorsement from them will help sales. (One of the reasons that Where the Crawdads Sing was the best-selling book of last year was because independent bookstores promoted it.)

5) What’s the fastest-growing segment of the book industry?

Audiobooks generate more than a billion dollars in sales by themselves and had an increase of 25% in revenue from 2017–2018. Downloaded digitally, audiobooks are a way to absorb more information while you’re multi-tasking and are the fastest-growing segment of the book industry.

Literary fiction, mystery, and thrillers are the most popular categories in audiobooks.

If you’re writing a book, think of how it would sound if read out loud. If you’re pitching a book, emphasize the impact it would have in the very popular audiobook format. Self-published authors can also produce an audio version, a good move in view of the increasing sales.

Whether you plan to write, look for an agent, or plan marketing campaigns for your book, knowing about the book industry is sure to help.

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