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By: Deb Werksman

We had our quarterly meeting at Sourcebooks last week, and I came back with some very interesting data.

Did you know that 93% of books published in 2005 sold fewer than 1000 copies?

And 98% sold fewer than 5000 copies.

At Sourcebooks, we acquire with an eye to selling significantly more than that--10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and above.

Looking at readers, among "heavy users" there's a lot of exploration, so if you are just starting out and have a great "hook" that can get their attention, you can begin to build readership. "Light users" will tend to rely on bestsellers, because they want what's tried and true and they're relying on tastemakers to point them in the right direction. So while there's a "long tail" of many, many titles that sell just a few copies, the bestsellers are still going to outsell the aggregate of the "long tail."

All this argues, once again (my favorite subject) for the strong "hook." It's the hook that's going to sell your book!

Ok, here's what I'm looking for:
*single title romance (includes single title series and trilogies) in all subgenres
*90,000 to 120,000 words
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*I can sell it in about 2 sentences

Questions? Bring 'em on!!!!


  1. Hi Deb!

    The stats are surprising!

    How true with a hook to pull in the reader. When I'm reading I want to be drawn right in.


  2. Hey, Deb! I was at the NJ conference and got a chance to "plug" In Over Her Head at the afterparty when they gave me my pin for my first sale. I said, "He's a Mer man and she's terrified of the ocean and I hope you like their...tale." Got a bunch of laughs and everyone LOVES the cover! I'd like to be in the 50K + sales range, thankyouverymuch.

  3. I'd like to be in that over 50,000 range myself!
    My question is: Have any of us ever actually reached that goal?

  4. I've seen Judi Fennell's cover, and her new website, and can't wait to get my hands on her books! I see Cheryl Brooks commented as well. Cheryl, can I just say "Slave" is hot, hot, hot, and I loved it?? Can't wait to read "Warrior"!

    How's this for a hook? Jane Eyre, with hot sex.

    I figure after the popularity of the Mr, Darcy novels, Charlotte Bronte should be next for those of us who prefer our romance a bit more gothic!

    Interesting stats Deb, and nice to know you have such high hopes for your authors. I hope to be one of them some day!

  5. Good afternoon, Deb.

    The stats are very surprising. I knew a lot of books didn't sell well - I didn't realize how many.

    What do you think keeps a book from selling well? What can we (as authors) do to help?

    Tracy Garrett (your "tech lady" at RWA National)

  6. Thanks, Pat!
    I love the idea of Jane Eyre with hot sex! Rochester was blind when they first married, wasn't he? Hmmm, might be interesting....

  7. Cheryl, I saw somehting on another blog last week, where someone said "Who wouldn't want to read a hot, sexy scene between ROchester and Jane?"

    This one has the requisite dark castle on the cliffs, the master of the house is bitter and brooding, bearing a scar the length of his face, a "gift" from his faithless, treacherous late wife. No wonder he's not exactly excited when the heroine, an independant spinster who happens to be his late wife's half sister, shows up, worried about her 4 year old niece. Then the accidents begin. As the danger escalates, so does the heat between hero and heroine.

    I love the old gothics, and am glad to see them making a comeback!

    Then again, I also love the world building you and Judi do! Such hot heroes!

  8. Pat,
    LOL! The only thing missing from the gothics was the hot romance! Maybe now they can be written to include some more interesting details!

  9. Hi, Deb, sorry I'm so late to the discussion. I'd forgotten you were visiting the Casa blog today.

    Intriguing -- and terrifying --stats! I noticed those were for 2005; are more current statistics available? I'm guessing not because it probably takes a few years to gather the information.

    Some questions (and please forgive my ignorance LOL): The terms "heavy" and "light users" -- what do they mean exactly? I think I can make an educated guess on that one, but the phrase "long tail" escapes my pea brain.

    However, I do get your bottom line: Attention-grabbing hook, hook, and more hook.

    Thanks for the info; your posts are always filled with great writer-stuff!

  10. Interesting and scary, as others have said. Kind of makes one wonder how any publishing companies stay afloat! I mean, is there a profit if only 1000 copies are sold? I guess I am already a record setter as my self-published version sold more than that! LOL!!

    My questions: Do these 2005 stats include every book published? Including non-fiction, self-help, coffee table books, etc.? Do we have stats on just fiction novels and/or romance? That would be interesting and probably more enlightening. And what about the averages for the Casablanca novels thus far?

    Thanks Deb for popping in!

  11. Hi Tracy:
    Many things go into a book selling well--the package, the title, the positioning, the marketing, the author's ability to deliver the marketplace...and sometimes you do everything right and the book still doesn't take off. It's much more of an art than a science.

  12. Hi Pat, gotta love Jane Eyre with hot sex!

  13. Tracy, I hadn't answered your second question--what authors can do to help. In a nutshell, develop yourself as a self-promotion machine! I'll defer to Danielle on the specifics, but there are so many vehicles for marketing now and it's just essential to realize that writing the book is only the first step.

  14. Hi Jo--the "long tail" is a marketing term to describe the large number of niche products that are now available because the Internet has made it possible for customers to have access to everything that exists.

    "Heavy users" are the enthusiastic consumers in a category, who'll buy just about everything in that category. "Light users" buy in the category, but in very small numbers. I suspect everyone on this blog is a "heavy user" of books.

  15. Hi Jo: These 2005 stats are the most recent ones I've seen. I'll update you all as I get more updated info!

  16. Sharon, that's exactly right--your self-published edition's sales put you in the 92nd percentile.

    Cheryl, We do have authors who've sold in those higher quantities. We're really bullish on all of you!

  17. Sharon, those 2005 numbers are for all trade books in all formats (no textbooks). Romance represents 25ish% of all books sold. RWA publishes a lot of great stats about the romance category. Maybe I'll tap into some of those for my next blog.

    All Casa authors are above the 93rd percentile and the vast majority are above the 98th percentile. If anyone wants specific info about your own specific book, email me (and then be patient :-)

  18. These are surprising statistics. Thanks for joining us again, Deb! I'm glad that Sourcebooks sets its goals a little higher than the average . . .

  19. I'm chiming in late. I had a muscle spasm in my back yesterday and sitting at a computer was out of the question.

    But there is something I've always wondered. How many copies must a book sell to be called a best seller?

  20. Hi, Deb
    I'm late. Being on Digest does that sometimes. I enjoyed meeting you and sitting in on your workshop in Seattle. I only wish I was more 'brilliant' in the hook department.

    I knew the small press I'm with doesn't make for huge sales numbers; your stats were real eye-openers.

  21. So what were the bestsellers in romance? That would be interesting to know. Does a particular brand name like Harlequin sell more than other brands combined or does it come down to the story first and the publishing brand second?

  22. Hi Deb~

    Sorry to be commenting late. I too am amazed by the numbers and am doing my best to be in the 50K bunch.

    Robin :)
    Who had her first drive-by signing last night.

  23. I agree, I almost always have to be pulled in immediately for the book to keep my interest; however, as a reviewer, I'm often asked to read books I wouldn't have dreamed of reading and become enthralled. One I find an author I love and there are several (lol), I then MUST have everything that author EVER writes. I also become an automatic free plug to anyone I can rope in to listen about that author and his or her books! Shameful, I know, but I can't seem to help myself. (lol)


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