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Ten Million Eyeballs

Using Statistics to Plan New Editorial
by John Kremer

This report is divided into four parts, one dealing with editorial, one dealing with trends and their effect on editorial, the third dealing with marketing, and the fourth dealing with Internet marketing numbers. The first part of the report deals with editorial.

Using Statistics to Plan New Editorial

I love statistics. I think you can use them to guide you in making editorial decisions as well as in deciding where your marketing time and dollars would be best spent. In this report, I will be featuring some of the statistics and related items that I believe can help you to be a better book publisher and marketer.

A few notes about statistics, however, before we proceed. Remember that statistics can be misleading. As the British statesman Benjamin Disraeli once noted, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

And, remember, the true value of statistics is in what you pull out of them. As the joke going around the Internet notes, “They say that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. That's not as bad as it sounds, considering that the other 50% end in death.” Or, as novelist Rita Mae Brown notes, “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.” What can you see in the following statistics?

General Information

There are currently more than 1.7 million titles in print (R.R. Bowker). Since 1776, 22 million titles have been published. 122,000 titles were published in 2000. Trade sales accounted for 1.36 billion copies sold (54% of all units sold). Bookstores accounted for 71% of trade units sold (33% frontlist and 67% backlist).

135,000 titles were published in the United States in 2001 (Books in Print).

In 2002, total output of new titles and editions in the United States grew to 150,000. General adult fiction exceeded 17,000 titles; juvenile titles topped 10,000, the highest total ever recorded. And there were more than 10,300 new publishers, mostly small or self-publishers (Books in Print). In 2002, Spain published more than 62,000 titles, the third-highest total in Europe after Britain and Germany, which published 125,390 and 78,896 respectively (Associated Press).

Canada's publishing industry produced 16,000 new titles last year and generated over $2 billion in revenue (Edmonton Journal).

In the United States, half the books printed in 2002 and shipped to booksellers were returned to the publishing company to be remaindered or destroyed (Association of American Publishers). In the U.S., it is estimated, of the books printed that that do get sold to individuals, 95 percent are never read.

During the period between 1996 and 2001, consumer spending on books rose 16%, but unit sales dropped 6%. Meanwhile, the number of households buying at least one book per year has dropped steadily over the last five years, falling from 60% to 56.5% in 2001 (Ipsos-NPD).

The time Americans spent reading a book fell from 123 hours per year in 1996 to 109 hours in 2001 (Communications Industry Forecast).

According to a 1978 study, 45% of Americans do not read books at all. On the other hand, 95% of all Americans listen to at least one hour of radio each day. 81% read a daily newspaper. Yet when asked what they would do if they were given four extra hours of leisure, 33% of those surveyed said that reading would be one of the two or three things they would do. 26% said they'd socialize with friends, 21% said they'd play sports, and only 12% said they'd watch TV (Roper Poll).

The average number of books read per year by those people who read regularly is 16 books (Statistical Abstract of the United States).

40 percent of adults said they read books for leisure during 2002, compared with 27 percent who surfed the Internet for fun.

Currently there are over 1,000,000 book titles in print in the United States. U.S. book publishers produce about 65,000 new titles per year (of which perhaps 8,000 have bookstore potential).

In 1970, there were about 3,000 independent small presses. In 1997, that number had grown to 60,000 (American Bookseller). This rapid growth has been fueled by four major changes that have occurred in the past fifteen years.

  • Short-run printing technology enables competitive pricing of books even in runs under 2,000 copies.
  • Computers and desktop publishing programs have cut the cost of designing and typesetting books by as much as 90%. Computers have also cut the costs of order entry, fulfillment, list maintenance, targeted publicity, and many other marketing functions.
  • Bookstore distribution has opened up as more distributors and wholesalers actively court smaller publishers. The growth of the superstores has also increased demand for a variety of titles, a demand that the larger publishers cannot satisfy.
  • Increased knowledge has been made available to new publishers by many local and national publisher associations, new books such as this one, and newsletters such as Book Marketing Update. These have cut the learning curve for novice publishers.

According to one Publishers Weekly survey of five large publishers, only one in ten of their fiction books make back their advance. Even among mid-sized publishers, as many as 60% of all general trade titles may lose money. As David R. Godine once admitted, only 40% of the sixty titles he published each year were likely to be profitable.

Among trade publishers, Random House was the largest in 1995, with an estimated $1.26 billion in revenues (22.2% of the trade book market, which includes adult and juvenile books, but does not include religious, mail order, professional, or book club sales). Simon & Schuster finished second with $832.7 million in trade sales, while Bantam Doubleday Dell was third with $670 million. Time Warner, with $325 million in trade sales, and HarperCollins, with $317 million in trade sales, round out the top five trade publishers. The top five publishers thus accounted for about 60% of all trade book sales (Cowles/Simba Information).

In 1996, the total net sales for publishers reached $20.26 billion. Trade books accounted for $5.6 billion in sales. Mass market paperback sales were $1.5 billion. Educational books (el-hi and college) sold $5.4 billion, professional and reference books sold $5.25 billion, religious books sold $1.1 billion. By the year 2000, projected publishing revenues will reach $25 billion (Book Industry Trends 1997).

On the other side of the coin, consumers are expected to spend almost $33 billion on books in 2001. $15.2 billion will be spent at general retailers, $5.8 billion on college textbooks, $3.9 billion on el-hi textbooks, $1.6 billion by libraries and other institutions, and $4.8 billion direct to the consumer from the publisher (Book Industry Trends 1997).

To put these annual sales into greater perspective, U.S. pasta sales average $10 billion per year. U.S. retail liquor sales for 1984 were over $20 billion. Drug store sales were over $40 billion. In 1986, $198.8 billion was spent on gambling. Meanwhile, over 30 American companies had greater annual sales than the entire book publishing industry. In 1990 Exxon, with sales 10 times greater than the entire book industry, had profits equal to 50% of all book sales.

In 1995, world book sales reached $80 billion. Worldwide book sales are expected to hit $90 billion by the year 2000. With $25.5 billion in 1995 sales, the United States is the largest national market for books. Japan is second with $10.5 billion in sales, and Germany is third with $10 billion. The rest of the top ten countries are the United Kingdom, France, Spain, South Korea, Brazil, Italy, and China, each with sales between $4 billion and $1.7 billion (Euromonitor).

Australians are the highest per capita consumers of books in the English speaking world.

Senior Citizens

As a group, older people control more than 50% of the discretionary income and 77% of the assets in the United States. 12% of those over age 65 (4 million people!) are employed or seeking work. 860,000 people over 65 are self-employed. By 2030, 70 million elderly will account for 20% of the U.S. population (AARP).

By the year 2000 half the people in the United States will be over the age of 50. While senior citizens tend to be more conservative and discriminating in their buying habits, they represent a large, virtually untapped market.

In 1983 the total household income of those over 65 was $263 billion. It was estimated that people over the age of 50 controlled half the discretionary income, made 40% of consumer decisions, and owned more than 70% of all assets in the country. Those numbers are bound to increase as the baby boomers continue to hit this age bracket. Seventy-seven million baby boomers will be turning 50 in the next few years.

The biggest consumers of vitamins are people over 65 (Tufts Center for the Study of Human Nutrition). Stephen Cherniske’s The DHEA Breakthrough, which touted the new anti-aging hormone, was “really blowing out of stores” in the fall of 1996, according to its publisher, Ballantine.

When given a choice on how they liked to be addressed, 78% of adults over 65 chose “senior citizens” while 64% chose “mature” and 61% chose “senior” (USA Weekend poll). Note: Many respondents chose more than one option.

People over 55 average four trips per year. 23% take as many as seven trips a year (U.S. Travel Data Center). These people spend $50 billion per year on travel.

People over the age of 50 are the most likely buyers of gourmet foods via the mail (Gallup Survey).

Grandparents spend an average of $250 per year on their grandkids. 62% of the 17,000,000 toy buyers are over the age of 65.

African Americans

There are 34.6 million African-Americans in the U.S., or about 12.3% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Data). According to the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth, they spend $572 billion annually. John's Comments: African-Americans are readers, even voracious readers. And smart. If you are intending to enter this market, don't play down to them, don't gloss over things, and don't try to trick them. They know the real thing. Also, they can be very loyal to publishers who give them what they want.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the U.S. minority population will grow from 79 million in 2000 to 178 million in 2045 - and that minority purchasing power may reach $4.3 trillion. John's Comments: Now that's something to look forward to. You might as well start seriously thinking multicultural now, because it's going to be a major fact of life on earth for the next millenium and beyond.

About 35 million African Americans represent 12.3% of the U.S. population. By 2020, there is expected to be 45 million African Americans in the U.S. 16% of African American women and 14% of men have college degrees. About 25% of women and 18% of men have professional jobs (U.S. Census Bureau).

African American consumers spent $601 billion in 2001, the equivalent of the 11th largest economy in the world. Consumer spending, particularly by black women, is increasing fastest for books, home furnishings, computers, and telephone/Internet services (Target Market News). They spent $295 million on books in 2001, from a high of $356 million in 2000.

African-Americans are more likely to click on online ads than all online adults (66% to 49%) and 73% of African-Americans online agree that online ads provide helpful information compared to 39% of all online adults (Cyber Dialogue, 2001). African-Americans use the Internet for entertainment (88%) and business (72%) while 83% of all online adults use the Net for entertainment and 57% for business.

African Americans bought $296 million worth of books in 1996 (Target Market News).

African Americans spend $32 billion annually in convention, tourism, and family reunion business (African American Convention and Tourism).


In 2001, U.S. Hispanics spent $580 billion. That spending power could rise to $926 billion by 2006 (Selig Center for Economic Growth, April 2002).

Between 1990 and 2001, Hispanic buying power in the U.S. grew from $208 billion to $542 billion. John's Comments: Ignore this market at your peril. Book clubs are just starting to grow into this market. Books Are Fun, a major display marketer of books, started up a Spanish-language division this spring. Kmart launched La Vida magazine to serve this market. A good number of major newspapers now publish a weekly Spanish-language edition. Ask yourself these questions: Which of your current titles merit translation into Spanish? How many of your backlist titles might get revived with a Spanish translation?

Hispanic book-buying households buy 6.4 adult books and 5.6 children's books per year (National Association of Hispanic Publications). The Hispanic market, both for English and Spanish titles, continues to grow. Don't ignore it.

According to the Commerce Department, Hispanics are now the nation's largest minority group, with 12.5% of the U.S. population, or 36.2 million people.

Hispanics, with 10% of the American population, now represent a $55 billion annual market.

45% are not fluent in English. 90% listen to a Spanish-language radio station.

The top Hispanic markets are Los Angeles area (3.4 million), New York (2.4 million), Texas (2.3 million), Miami (744,500), Chicago (590,000), and San Diego (375,000). Note, however, that Hispanics in Texas (primarily Mexican) have a different cultural background from those in Miami (primarily Cuban) or those in New York (primarily Puerto Rican), so you cannot treat the Hispanic market as one homogeneous mass.

Hispanics are better educated than they were even ten years ago. In 1985 48% of all Hispanics had completed high school (as compared to only 36% in 1974).

Gay / Lesbians

Gay/lesbian adults had $340 billion of purchasing power in 1999, which is predicted to increase to $445 billion by 2004 (Wall Street Journal). A 2000 MRI survey of subscribers to The Advocate magazine showed that 94.2% had bought books in the past year.


57% of American women read books while only 42% of American men read books. According to a 1994 Gallup survey, women make up 59% of fiction buyers while men account for 41%. When it comes to nonfiction, the sexes are closer: women buy 53% while men buy 47%.

55% of all Americans are women.

Women are said to control 80% of every dollar spent on consumer goods. According to a 1991 Gallup survey, 59% of all books bought each year (and 72% of all books given as gifts) are bought by women.

What are their favorite subjects? 81% buy cookbooks, 71% children's books, and 69% buy fitness books. In fiction, they buy romances (92%), children's fiction (79%), contemporary fiction (79%), and humor (55%).

Now that more women are working, they also value convenience. The more readily they can obtain your books, the more likely they will be to buy them.

Women tend to be more price sensitive than men. Hence, they are much more likely to buy books at a discount.

In 1996, there were nearly eight million women-owned business in the United States. They account for $2.3 trillion in sales and employed 18.5 million employees, about one out of four U.S. workers (Incentive).

In 1960, 15% of managers were women; in 1993, 43% were. One in four working mothers is a single parent, while only one in twenty-five working fathers is a single parent. In 1994, women made up 46.4% of the civilian work force (Fast Forward, 1996).

In a January 1995 poll, 21% of women would read a book if they suddenly had some extra free time. On the other hand, 33% would go out to dinner, 31% would visit with a good friend, 12% would go to a movie, and 3% would rent a video. Young women between the ages of 18 and 29, however, would choose reading only 16% of the time and movies 14% of the time (EDK Forecasts).

Among book topics, 56% of women prefer fiction while 43% prefer nonfiction. In fiction, 24% prefer novels, 18% mysteries and 14% romances. In nonfiction, 15% prefer self-help, 10% cookbooks, 9% biographies, 7% decorating books, and 2% travel guides (EDK Forecasts).

Children and Family Life

Unit sales of children's consumer books rose 4% in the first six months of 2002, to 201.1 million books, but spending dipped from $765 million to $762 million (Ipsos-NPD's Children's BookTrends). In terms of market share, special markets continued as the largest sales channel for children's books, although its 26% share of units sold was down from 31% in the first half of 2001. Special markets is made up of book clubs, book fairs and mail order and its 26% market share was its lowest share in four years. Bookstores share of unit sales rose to 17%.

According to the Bay Area Business Women newspaper (fall, 2000), here is what U.S. families look like today: 61% of children spend a significant portion of their childhood with a single mother. 1.4 million children are being raised by their grandparents. Six to ten million children have lesbian, gay, or bisexual parents. At any one time, almost 600,000 children are in foster care. Do we need more relationship manuals and parenting guides? Obviously, we do.

Consumers spent $766 million on 194 million children's books during the first six months of 2001 (Opsos-NPD Children's Book Trends).

Boys ages 6 to 14 spend $8.9 billion per year or $172 million per week nationwide (KidzEyes, a division of C&R Research).

On a typical day, 59% of kids (6 months to two years) watch television. 43% watch a video or DVD (Chain Drug Review, Jaunary 2004).

Children are loyal to brands they know so, once you have sold to them, your chances of selling to them again are much improved.

American children spend about $4.25 billion annually—$1.44 billion for snacks and sweets; $1.1 billion for toys and games; $771 million for movies and sports; $765 million on video games; and $162 million on gifts. Besides their own spending, children are estimated to influence another $50 billion in purchases each year.

Spending on kids, ages 4 through 12, topped $60 billion in 1991 while spending on newborn babies topped $19 billion.

TV is the most effective medium for reaching children.

If you want to sell books to this market, the books must have strong child appeal (play value or high interest) as well as value (since parents or grandparents make the final decision in most cases).

Unlike most adult books, sales of children's books tend to start slowly and, if they are good, build over time. Children's books have staying power and tend to be superb backlist sellers.

Juvenile titles account for about one-third of all book purchases by consumers (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

In 1995, total sales of children's books (excluding elementary school textbooks) were $1.255 billion. By comparison, in 1977 they were only $162.1 million and in 1986 only $386.2 million. While inflation had some effect on these numbers, they do reflect a large increase in sales of children’s books. In 1986, about 205 million children’s books were sold, while in 1995, 511 million children’s books were sold (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

60% of juvenile books are bought as paperbacks, while hardcovers account for about $37% of sales. 50% of juvenile books sold in 1996 were fiction, while 25% were coloring/activity books (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

In 1992, the average price of a juvenile hardcover book was $14.51 (as compared to an average price of $6.65 in 1977). The average price for a juvenile trade paperback was $7.34 in 1992 and $2.68 in 1977.

In 1996, books priced under $2.00 accounted for 35% of children’s books sold. Books between $2.00 and $5.00 accounted for another 38% of books sold. Thus, 73% of children’s books sold are priced under $5.00 (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

Where are children’s books bought? In 1996, according to the above research study, 29% were bought in discount stores, 18% through book clubs, 10% from large chain bookstores, 7% from food and drug stores, 6% from independent bookstores, 6% via mail order, 5% from toy stores, 3% from variety stores, 2% from warehouse/price clubs, and 15% from other sources.

According to a 1988 Publishers Weekly survey of bookstores, gross revenues from children's books break down into the following categories: 27% picture books, 17% books for babies and toddlers, 20% for younger readers, 19% for middle readers, and 17% for young adult readers.

In a spring 1996 Publishers Weekly survey of bookstores, their customer demographics are as follows: 33.9% of children's book buyers are mothers, 20% are teachers, 13.7% are children, 11.6% are grandparents, 7.8% are fathers, 4.4% are friends, and 4.3% are other relatives.

According to a 1990 Gallup poll, 82% of all children's books are bought by women.

In 1996, 72% of all juvenile books were bought by people between the ages of 25 and 49. 10% were bought by those under 25, and 18% bought by those over 50 years of age (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

In 1996, 44% of all children's books were bought as gifts—26% for the winter holidays, 11% for birthdays, and 7% for other occasions (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

The Baby Boom Echo (children of baby boomers) will result in 54.6 million school-age children by the year 2006 (Publishers Weekly, 1997).

According to USA Today, the top five bestselling books for young children in 1996 were: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown, and My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.

Sales of books in the elhi supplemental publishing market grew to $1.53 billion in 2002 (Association of Educational Publishers). Sales were divided as follows: $72.2 million for science, $99.3 million for math, $108.4 million for social studies, and $609.2 million for reading, English, and language arts.


Teens (ages 13 to 18) and tweens (ages 8 to 13) represent the largest buying bloc since the Baby Boomers. According to Teenage Research Unlimited, teens spent $172 billion in 2001 while tweens spent more than $80 billion. John's Comments: Publishers of young adult books have already noted growth in that market. Do you have content that could be repurposed or rewritten for this market as well? Get teens sold on your publishing company's books and you might be able to keep them coming back for more books from you as they age. Teens can be loyal.

The video game market, including PC games, will reach $21.4 billion in North America alone by 2005 (Jeffries Company). John's Comments: Those sales will rival retail book sales. Are you sure you're in the right market? At least, be aware of any licensing opportunities in this area. It could be a lucrative opportunity, especially for publishers of genre fiction: horror, science fiction, adventure, suspense, fantasy and, perhaps as girls get more into video games, romance.

In a 2001 Roper Youth Report, the tween population (8 to 12 year-olds) of 30 million spends $10 billion annually on direct purchases. They also influence another $74 billion in family spending. The market research firm Packaged Facts estimates that tweens will spend $35 billion on direct purchases in 2002. In 2001, American teens spent almost $172 billion (Teenage Research Unlimited). That works out to $104 per week per teen! There are currently 32 million teens in the U.S., and that number is growing. I haven't figured out how to reconcile these three surveys.

According to a summer 2000 report from Teenage Research Unlimited, here are the things that are in and out with the teenage crowd:

dyed jeans
stonewashed jeans
double-wrap watchbands
power-bead bracelets
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
portable M3 players
thin headbands
butterfly hairclips
lizard-skin pants
cow prints
suede-rope and feather necklaces
invisible-chain necklaces
Internet-ready cell phones
platform sandals
Tae Bo
recordable CDs
buying CDs
highlighted hair on guys
guys who care less about their hair
chai latte
Farrah hair
Rachel hair

In a spring 1988 Gallup Survey, teenagers reported spending 2 hours of each day watching television, 2 hours listening to the radio, and 1 hour and 6 minutes reading books.

In 1987, there were 24,000,000 teenagers. They spent $53.7 billion on personal items (an average of $2,237 per teenager).

90% of all teenage girls have bought something by mail (70% have bought magazines, 25% books and records).

According to the Rand Youth Poll, teens cited radio as the best means of reaching them. Magazines were rated second, and television third.

Working at Home

Why do people want to work at home. When IKEA, a home furnishings retailer, polled its customers this year, 68% gave as one of their reasons the opportunity to avoid using a communal bathroom, 54% like the idea of deducting certain living expenses as taxes, 43% wanted to avoid feeling fatter than co-workers, 37% wanted to be able to nap during the day, 26% wanted to control the thermostat and office cleanliness, and 23% want to avoid office birthday parties. Did these answers surprise you? If they did, then there's a book here somewhere.

Personal Finance

Americans charge $400 billion annually and pay $50 billion in related finance fees. The average credit card balance carried by American households is $8,123.

60% of Americans between the age of 18 to 29 prefer to spend money over saving it.


What do business executives and managers like to use to stay informed about current management thinking? According to a study by Leigh Advisor (Fall 2002), 65% read business books, 53% attend conferences and seminars, 39% network, 34% do online research, 33% read business magazines, 7% read newspapers, 5% watch TV, and 3% listen to the radio.

Business books, like children's books, sell better as time passes. For example, Ingram sold 60% more copies of Service America in 1987 than they did in 1986, and the trend continued in 1988. Business books have great backlist potential.

More than 1,000 business titles are published every year. The average price for a hardcover business title was $44.11 in 1992 and $18.00 in 1977. The average price for a trade paperback business title was $22.31 in 1992 and $7.09 in 1977.

In 1996, business book publishers had $666 million in net sales.

Between 1991 and 1995, sales of business books increased by 26%. Books about small business are especially hot (Simba Information).

In 1995, 65% of business books were bought in a bookstore while 20% were bought via mail order (1995 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

According to Michael J. Weiss in his book, The Clustering of America, not all book buyers are alike. Buyers of business books, for example, have the following lifestyle characteristics in common: They drive a leased car, enjoy tennis, travel by domestic air carrier, drink imported dinner wine, own a personal computer, contribute to public TV, and own a compact disc player.

According to USA Today, the bestselling business books of 1996 were The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, The Beardstown Ladies’ Common-Sense Investment Guide by The Beardstown Ladies, Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook by Scott Adams, and What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles.

Health Needs of Business Can Lead to Book Sales

Because most larger businesses now spend a significant amount of money on health insurance, self-funded health programs, or HMOs, there is a large market for any book, tape series, or other program that will help keep their workers healthy. To help you sell your health and fitness titles to businesses, here are some important statistics taken from a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report:

  • Disease management, which promises to improve patients' health while reducing employer and insurer costs, is now a $750 million a year industry.
  • Alcohol abuse costs American businesses $134 billion a year. Workers with alcohol problems are more like to have on-the-job accidents and are five times more likely to file a workers' compensation claim.
  • A company with 500 employees pays almost $133,000 in alcohol-related healthcare costs every year. Even a small retail business with 10 employees will have $588 per year in alcohol-related expenses.
  • The U.S. spends $78 billion a year on weight-related diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, and osteoarthritis.
  • Employee replacement costs run from $25 to $150,000. For companies with highly skilled workers, it pays to spend money to keep them well and on the job.

Computer, Technical, and Science Books

Computer books grew faster than any other trade book category during the past five years. Revenues jumped from $205 million in 1991 to $373 million in 1995 (Trade Book Publishing, 1996).

Technical and scientific books netted publishers $973.2 million in 1996, while medical books netted $860.3 million. Total professional book sales, including business, law, medical, and technical, netted publishers $3.995 billion (Book Industry Trends 1997).

77% of all technical and scientific books were sold as trade paperbacks, while 22% were sold as hardcovers (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

6% of all books purchased by consumers in 1996 were technical and scientific books (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

The five top-selling science books in 1996 were Windows 95 for Dummies by Andy Rathbone, The Road Ahead by Bill Gates, Internet for Dummies, 3rd Edition by John Levine, Carol Baroudi, and Margaret Levine Young, The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, and Longitude by Dava Sobel (USA Today).

Romance Novels and Other Fiction

According to the Romance Writers of America, romance novels sold $1.52 billion in 2001 (up from $1.37 billion in 2002). 51.1 million Americans read at least one romance novel in 2002 (41 million readers in 1998). 2,143 romances were released in 2001. Romances account for 18% of all books sold in America (35.8% of all fiction sales in 2001). Almost half of all mass market paperbacks sold are romance novels. Romance novels are sold in more than 100 international markets. The average romance reader is a college-educated working woman over 35 who spends $1,200 each year buying some 200 titles.

The top romances of 1996, according to USA Today, were The Cove by Catherine Coulter, Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts, Home Song by LaVyrle Spencer, For the Roses by Julie Garwood, and True Betrayals by Nora Roberts.

Mystery/thrillers accounted for 26.6% of all fiction sales in 2001. General fiction accounted for 17% of all fiction sales in 2001. And science fiction accounted for 6.6% of all fiction sales in 2001. All other fiction, including religious, action-adventure, occult, and movie tie-ins, accounted for the other 14% of fiction sales in 2001.


The average American woman owns 15 cookbooks. Three out of ten women and one out of ten men collect cookbooks. As cookbook collecting has increased over the past ten years, so has publishers' output (from 365 new cookbooks in 1973 to 833 in 1984).

Bookstores sold 42% of all hardcover cookbooks bought and 31% of all softcovers; supermarkets sold 9% of hardcovers and 19% of softcovers.

In 1991, 27.4 million cookbooks (cooking and wine) were sold; in 1994, 44.9 million were sold (NPD Group).

The third bestselling book in the world (after the Bible and the dictionary) is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book from Meredith, which has sold more than 30 million copies since being introduced in 1930 (Publishers Weekly).

The five bestselling cookbooks in the late 90s were The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Russo and Shelia Lukas, New Basics Cookbook by Julee Russo and Sheila Lukas, Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, and Martha Stewart’s Menus for Entertaining by Martha Stewart (U.S. News & World Report). Note how important backlist books are for cookbook sales.

During the past six years, cooking/craft books have accounted for 10% of all book sales. This category includes cookbooks, crafts, animals, antiques, photography, automotive, home improvement, gardening, nature guidebooks, sports and recreation, and transportation. (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

In 1996, 56% of all cooking/craft books bought were trade paperbacks, while 1% were mass market paperbacks and 43% were hardcovers (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

The highest advance ever paid for a cookbook was $1 million to Rose Levy Beranbaum for The Pastry Bible.

According to the James Beard Foundation, the following cookbook topics were hot in 1996: books with a healthy focus, foods of the Americas (especially Mexican and Southwest regional cooking), reference books, hedonistic rich desserts (in the baking category), and Italian cookbooks.

New Age and Self-Help

According to the Book Industry Study Group, 92.3 million books were sold in the Body/Mind/Spirit category in 1999, representing between 8 to 9% of total sales of adult books. Of that number, 34% were inspirational titles, 28% were diet/exercise/health books, 16% psychology, 13% new age.

Sales of self-help books rose 96% in the five years between 1991 and 1996 (American Bookseller).

In 1987, 1.5 million people mountain biked. By 2002, 7.8 million people were mountain bikers.

According to Michael J. Weiss in his book, The Clustering of America, buyers of self-help books share the following lifestyle activities: They buy jazz records, drive convertibles, travel by cruise ship, enjoy skiing, and belong to a health club.

The top-selling inspirational self-help books of 1996 according to USA Today were Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray, Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. Most of these titles continue to sell thousands of copies every year. Some have become perennial bestsellers.


The cost of healthcare keeps climbing. According to the Center for Studying Health System Change, healthcare costs rose 6.6% last year. People have an incentive to stay healthy. That's one reason why books on staying healthy and alternative healthcare strategies sell so well.

According to a 1998 issue of The Columbian, due to rising medical costs, aging populations, and increased demand for quick fixes, health care spending will double in the next ten years. The U.S. government projects healthcare spending in this country to rise to $2.1 trillion. Per capita spending will rise from $3,759 to $7,100. The trend toward outpatient care will also continue. What does this mean to you? If you publish health books, you can ride this trend to greater sales. If you don't publish health books, you might want to expand your lines. With healthcare costs doubling, people are going to want to be more informed so they can make better decisions on how to take care of themselves.

The total cost of personal health care in the U.S. in 2002 is $1.1 trillion (compared to $404 billion in 1987).

A 1987 Gallup Survey showed that 66% of the buyers of diet, health, and exercise books were women. The largest percentage of buyers of fitness books (35%) are among people over 50 years of age. Fitness book buyers also tend to be less educated and poorer than the average book buyer.

Where do people go to buy fitness books? 45% go to bookstores, 13% to discount or department stores, 12% to supermarkets, 7% to book clubs, and 12% via other mail order outlets.

According to USA Today, the five bestselling diet books of 1996 were The Zone by Barry Sears and Bill Lawren, Make the Connection by Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution by Robert Atkins, The 5 Day Miracle Diet by Adele Puhn, and Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil. Most of these books continued to be bestsellers in 1997 and beyond.

Religious Books

Religious books now represent 11 percent of trade sales, or $1.9 billion out of a $13.7 billion market, according to Book Industry Trends 2004. [Religious titles accounted for 7% of all books purchased in 1996 (Book Industry Trends 1997). Religious publishers sold more than $1 billion and 150 million copies during 1996 (Forbes).]

According to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, 37 million people bought at least one Christian book during 1983. 48% of those sales were through Christian bookstores.

60% of religious books sold in 1996 were trade paperbacks, 36% were hardcovers, and 4% were mass market paperbacks (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

Between June 1993 and June 1995, demand for religious and spiritual titles jumped more than 300% (Ingram). Between 1991 and 1994, sales of religious books in general bookstores increased 92% (Thomas Nelson Publishers).

88% of general bookstore shoppers consider themselves as Christians. 42% have bought a Bible or other religious book in the past year (Publishers Weekly).

43% of religious/spiritual books are bought on impulse (Innovative Resources poll).

2,619 religious books were published in 1993 (Publishers Weekly).

Religious books include Bibles, biblical studies, Christianity, Judaism, world religions, ministries, devotions, Eastern religious philosophy, theology, new age, and inspirational titles.

Racing Fans

42% of NASCAR racing fans earn more than $50,000 per year. 40% are women. NASCAR is the second highest rated sport on TV. Thirteen million people attended NASCAR races last year. Fans spent over $1 billion on officially licensed NASCAR products in 2001. John's Comments: Racing fans are more rabid than hockey, soccer, baseball, or basketball fans. You don't have to publish NASCAR-licensed books to get their attention. They love all sorts of car racing, from Formula One, NASCAR, sprint cars, and more.

Travel Books

In 1995, international tourism accounted for $372 billion of business (World Tourism Organization). Gerald Katzoff, president of the International Spa Association, estimated that by 2000, the travel industry would be the number one employer in the world.

Only 1% of all books sold in 1996 were travel or regional titles—but that’s still a lot of books! (Book Industry Trends 1997).

91% of travel books are bought in trade paperback editions while only 9% are bought as hardcovers (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

Crafts Market

The craft industry had sales of $25.7 billion in 2001 (Nationwide Craft & Hobby Counsumer Usage and Purchase Study, Hobby Industry Association).

More than 38 million women knit and crochet (Craft Yarn Council of America).

According to the Hobby Industry Association, the avid craft hobbyist spends $1,230 on supplies each year. Intense hobbyists pursue 51 projects each year (Adams, Harkness & Hill). The average customer of a Michaels craft store spends $18 each time she visits.

Home Design

Besides statistics, another category of information that media love to feature and which is useful in planning new books is the listing of ins and outs, the hot and cold. Below, for example, is a list of the ins and outs recently noted by catalog merchandising consultant Leila Griffith after cruising the October High Point Furniture Market, the largest wholesale home furnishings show in the world (Catalog Age, December 2000). Here are the things that are hot and those that are not in the field of home design:

jewel tones
fruit colors
fruit motifs
throw rugs
cheetah prints
zebra prints
Asian fusion
Far East
painted furniture
distressed furniture
anything French
anything Western

Do you see a book in any of the above? I do. Perhaps a book on painting your own furniture. Or one on French design. Or a book about Asian fusion (whatever that is). Of course, the new trends could also have an impact on your book design. Instead of blue and silver, go with greens and golds — or fruit colors and cheetah prints. It could be exciting!

American spent $158 billion on home improvements in 2001 and $173 billion in 2002 (Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University). The average selling price of new one-family houses in 2002 was $124.000.

According to Michael J. Weiss in his book, The Clustering of America, buyers of gardening and home repair books tend to have the following lifestyle activities in common: They enjoy bowling, belong to a veterans club, travel by car with camping gear, drive a sport or utility vehicle, enjoy hunting, collect records of oldies songs, and visit theme parks.


According to Catalog Age (April 2001), here are their picks for what's hot and what's not for 2001.

What's Hot
What's Not
reds and purples
greens and yellows
retro toys
high-tech toys
embossed leather
distressed leather
martini shakers
vegetable motifs
fruit motifs
dining rooms
the 1980s
the 1970s
tea time
coffee breaks

Magazine Launches

One of the best ways to gauge the level of interest in an emerging subject is to watch the magazines that are launched to serve that market. How many magazines are launched? What's their frequency? How many subscribers do they have? And so on.

According to Samir Husni's Guide to New Consumer Magazines, here is the number of new magazines launched in 1999 for the top ten subject fields:

108 — media personalities
095 — sports
059 — crafts, hobbies, games, models
048 — sex
043 — computers
039 — home service and home
038 — automotive
027 — metropolitan, regional, state
026 — epicurean
025 — entertainment and performing arts

People like to read about people. That's why personalities top the list. Editorially, this means you should be sure that every book you publish tells good stories.

Other hot subjects: Sports and crafts. Now, to go deeper, try to find out which sports and which crafts are hot. Those are the ones you want to publish for.

Popular Search Terms

Some of the major search engines regularly list the most popular search terms for that week or month. These terms are the ideas or things that people search for via that particular search engine. For example, earlier this spring, the most popular search terms at Lycos were the following: 1) Pokémon, 2) Dragonball, 3) Britney Spears, 4) WWF (World Wrestling Federation), 5) the IRS, 6) 'N Sync, 7) tattoos, 8) Pamela Anderson, 9) the Masters (golf tournament), 10) taxes. At #17 was prom dresses, #31 the Bible, #37 capital punishment, #39 rap lyrics, #42 the Holocaust. During the first week in December, Dragonball, Britney Spears, Pokémon, and WWF were still in the top 10. Tattoos and Pamela Anderson were still in the top 20. Greek mythology is at #50. Check out the current Top 50 list at Can you find any book ideas in the top 50 search terms of Lycos or other search engines? How many books are there on tattoos? It seems like the demand is there.

What to know what's hot? What people are searching for on the web? To find out, see the following sites:


Kanoondle Search Spy

Yahoo! Buzz Index

Online Interests

Online sales this year (2000) during the second week of November increased ten times over last year's sales during the same time period (Goldman Sachs/PC Data). During that one week, people spent $56 million on books! Also $230 million on travel, $16 million on pet supplies, $32 million on sporting goods, $34 million on home and garden supplies, $22 million on health and beauty aids, $89 million on toys, $32 million on videos and DVDs, and $45 million on music. See any directions for your books? More pet books? More children's books? More travel books?

More than one in ten adults go online every day to get information on investing and personal finance (Mutual Funds magazine).

What do people do while surfing online? According to Roper Starch Worldwide (November 1999), here are the percentages of people doing the following activities:

92% — research
88% — communicate with family and friends
73% — get information about products to buy
70% — get news
56% — send and receive instant messagess
50% — get local entertainment information
48% — communicate with business associates
46% — get sports information
44% — play games
42% — make purchases
36% — chat
35% — book travel reservations
35% — track stock portfolios
31% — listen to music
22% — meet people with common interests
17% — bank online
14% — trade stocks

Again, these stats give a good indication of what people are interested in doing online. There are dozens of book ideas here: books on how to find lost friends, how to play games online, how to trade stocks online, etc. These stats should also give you an idea of how you might attract more people to your web site — by providing the things they want to do online.

Books as E-Books

By the year 2005, the market for ebooks is predicted to range from $251 million (Forrester Research, Fall 2000) to $2.3 billion (Accenture, June 2000) to $100 billion (Dick Brass, vice-president of technology development for Microsoft, Fall 1999).

2002 Industry Sales Projections

According to the Book Industry Study Group, book industry sales are expected to be $24.41 billion in 2002 on sales of 2.39 billion units. Projected sales are broken down as follows:

  • Adult Trade Hardcover — $2.65 billion
  • Adult Trade Softcover — $1.98 billion
  • Children's Hardcover — $870.1 million
  • Children's Softcover — $882.1 million
  • College — $3.63 billion
  • El-Hi — $4.46 billion
  • Mass Market Paperback — $1.58 billion
  • Professional Books — $4.85 billion

Total sales are expected to rise to $28.02 billion by 2006.

College Store Sales

According to the National Association of College Stores, college students spent an average of $670 during the 2000-2001 academic year. Total sales via college stores hit $10.7 billion during that academic year. Course materials accounted for $7.1 billion of that amount.

More Statistics: Following the Trends

Copyright © 2011 by bestseller marketing expert John Kremer

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