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No One Reads Fiction Anymore So Why Bother Writing It
And why that’s the silliest thing I ever heard
I hate to get on a soap box. I’m not the soap box kind of person, except on those rare occasions when I see a group of people on a similar bandwagon of self-pity when I feel they should be the absolute opposite! No one reads anymore? Everyone is on their phones scrolling away? Really? I beg to differ. On a global and national scale there is a boom in the book selling and buying industry unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And the pandemic may have caused a lot of these numbers OR it’s just the way the world is going. I’ll let you decide…
The U.S. book industry made $29.33 billion in revenue in 2021
Including self-published and commercially published, over 4 million new books were published in 2022.
Romance is the most popular genre of books sold in the US, achieving over 32 million print copies sold in 2022.
In the U.S., approximately 1,700 independent bookselling companies are operating 4,100 stores.
Total U.S. book sales hit 788.7 million units in 2022 across all print sales
EVERYONE IS DOOMSCROLLING & NO ONE IS READING BOOKS!
Turns out, that just isn’t true. Turns out the number of users on Twitter and Tik-Tok pale in comparison to the number of physical book sales. In fact, Print books (hold on to your bloomers here, folks) sells hand over fist more than ebooks.
PRINT VS. EBOOK STATISTICS
Despite the ever-growing presence of technology, eBook sales still fall far behind that of print. Here are some insights our research uncovered:
eBooks only make up 9% of total Book industry revenue.
Of the $26 billion in revenue made last year, $22.6 billion came from print books, while only $2.04 billion came from eBooks.
eBooks sold 191 million units in 2020.
This was a sharp 12.6% increase over 2019, likely due to the pandemic.
Printed book sales reached 825.7 million units in 2021.
While printed book sales didn’t rise as much as eBook sales, there was still an almost 10% increase in units sold. That marks the largest uptick in units sold since 2010.
YEAH, BUT WHAT ABOUT US POOR SELF-PUBLISHING FOOLS?
Again, the self-publishing industry as the rest of the print book selling industry is BOOMING and we don’t even have to take Brandon Sanderson into account to see it!
As of 2021, 2.3 million new books were self-published in the U.S.
That’s an increase of over 93% within the past five years and makes up 57.5% of the total new books published.
Do you like charts? Who doesn’t like a good chart! Let’s look at a chart:
PEOPLE RATHER GO TO THE MOVIES OR WATCH NETFLIX ALL DAY THAN READ A BOOK!
True, but do you realize there are more movies and tv shows that are coming directly from books (and short stories) today than ever before. In fact, all you have to do is Google to find articles written left and right about X number of books being bought by all the major production and streaming studios with major actors signed on to direct and start in these books. No one is reading books anymore? Seriously? Think again. Reading is where it’s at!
Just read this great article that takes a deep dive into 85+ Books Becoming Movies or TV Series in 2023! And this is just this year mind you. Not to mention those books we’re going to see adapted in the distant future.
Sure, are Marvel and other franchise movies making billions. But they aren’t the only horse being backed these days in the race. Even screenwriters know this. Contests screenwriters enter know this. I’ve even seen some open up entries for short stories because even shorts are being sold at 6-figure deals to major production and streaming studios! Managers are having to learn how to take on not just screenwriters but prose writers as well. Screenwriters are having to hone their skills to adapt a book and short story now to compete.
And I’ve got even more news for you, the book doesn’t have to make a million or a billion. And neither does the author to know it’s got so many more lives to live. The same can be said for book printing and buying as well. I would argue more time and effort (yes, and money) will be put into literature because that is where the streaming and movie industry get their ideas now.
YES, BUT ONE CANNOT LIVE OFF NUMBERS THAT DON’T APPLY IN MY LIFE
Again, very true. Just because book buying and selling is a billion dollar industry doesn’t mean a hill of beans if you’re trying to pay the bills and your writing just isn’t selling. No one’s buying. NO ONE! I hear you. We all hear you. It sucks. Some of us are lucky and the rest of us just aren’t. I could shrug and say, “get over it.” But I won’t (yet). Instead, I’ll say, writing is something you love. I love baking. If I couldn’t bake I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in the kitchen. Maybe cook a savory meal? Bleh. How boring.
I earn zero dollars from my passion in baking. There are dozens of cook books. Home cooks (like me?) on “reality” cooking competition shows winning hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do I have envy? Sure. But you won’t catch me saying I’ll never bake again because no one’s buying my baked goods.
We treat writing differently because we feel it’s only worth doing if we can make a living from it. I know many of us need to earn a living from it because they literally can’t do anything else. Fortunate for me I have a 9 to 5 that I don’t hate and pays well so writing, for me, right now, isn’t a passion that I simply can’t afford to have. We should be able to afford our passion and not feel like it has to earn something to continue to have that passion. I can think of plenty of passions I have where I don’t hold it up to the same standards but for some reason, we all put writing in that “if I’m not making money to live off of I might as well stop writing,” standard.
Try to treat writing like those other passions you have where you have no expectations from them to do anything for you but make you feel good and happy.
With the book selling industry expected to increase (globally) at least 1.8% year over year, why give up on writing or publishing a book. Even if little old me is able to get 0.00000000001% of the currently $120bn+ pie that book buying (in all it’s forms and facets) is making, that won’t be half bad.
And yeah, it doesn’t happen to everyone. Sure, there are those of us who become an overnight success and others of us who’ll do this for YEARS (decades, even?) and zero pesos to show for it. I won’t, and can’t, speak for their passion or tenacity in how they went about achieving their goal. All I can do is look at the numbers (facts) and my own personal effort (severely lacking) to know if it can be me. Right now, it can’t. I am not putting in as much effort or time as I know I can and that’s on me.
I’m also not going to cry in the corner because everyone else is making it and I’m not. I’m not going to spend my entire day lamenting that I’ve written more than they have and been doing this work more than that person so why do they have thousands of paid subscribers and I have zero. I am not you and you are not me. My experiences and journey, my current needs, my current dreams and ideas of success are vastly different. They aren’t yours to worry about or fulfill. It’s not your job to make my dream come true. Just like it’s not mine to feel obligated to pay you for your work. How we get to that point on the path we are on will be different and will look different and I’ll shake your hand and pat you on the back (as we all should to each other) when it happens and I’ll use you as fuel for my own dreams and an example for what I might be able to achieve some day if I stick with it.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers or know the exact steps to take to “make it” as I still have not defined for myself what “making it” looks like. I know I don’t need a Netflix series contract or a 6-figure payout. I also know I’m satisfied, immensely, with the handful of Likes I get every day with the stories I share. It makes me no income and will never pay my bills but every time I get an email from a satisfied reader who is a total stranger, that’s WILD to me! That’s priceless.
What priceless aspect do you find in your own daily passion? Let’s not confuse the want and desire of money with our own sense of daily accomplishment. The reward is in the work and not in the dollars and cents.
Doesn’t mean it isn’t mighty nice to know the pie is getting larger. The readership is there. And all I can do about that vast knowledge is keep creating the words. Worry about what you can control. Not what you cannot.
Seriously, don’t ask about where those readers are or if there are so many readers why aren’t they buying my stuff. Control what you can. Write what you want. And heck, bash me in the comments for probably being so short sighted and narrow-minded in my thinking. I can take the hate and the criticism. It gives me food for thought and a topic for my next post.
Now go, as I know you will, and find something else to complain about, so I can find something else to write about next week! 😉
Zippia. "23 Gripping Book Industry Statistics : Average Book Sales Over Time And By Genre" Zippia.com. Mar. 2, 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/us-book-industry-statistics/