There are a lot of people on this planet. At the time of writing, there are over 322 million people in the United States alone, with another American baby born every eight seconds. In the world, there are over 7.3 billion people and climbing. And out of all those people, there is only one person who can write what you will.
That’s all great, you say, but more people means more competition. Even if I write something good, is anyone going to read it?
Well, let’s look at some facts.
According to a January 2014 Pew Internet research study, the typical American read five books during the previous twelve month period. So if each American reads five books in a year, and there are 322 million Americans, how many books are read in a year in America? We’ll multiply the number of books read by the number of Americans and get 5 x 322,000,000 = 1,610,000,000. Over 1.6 trillion books read in America each year. That gives your book a lot of chances. And remember—some people will read way more than five books a year.
Okay, so how many new books are published in America each year? According to Worldometers, there were 328,259 published books in 2010.
Let’s have some more probably-unscientific estimating fun. If only new books were read, what’s the average number of copies of each that would be read in a year? We’ll rough-guess it: 1,610,000,000 books read divided by 328,259 new works = 4,904.7 copies of each are read on average. Of course, this estimate is just for fun, because we’re assuming here that no one is reading old books. Which is obviously not the case. The point is just to give you an idea of the scale of numbers that we’re working with. You might be able to extrapolate and say that number of copies read could be a lifetime average, considering that many of the books read each year are not recent works. And hey, nearly five-thousand copies isn’t so bad, especially considering some books will sell much higher.
But how do you keep your work from being on the other end of the spectrum, selling maybe only a handful of copies? Well. There’s no easy answer there, except this: Make it worthwhile. Write the best thing you can, and then make it better. Okay, that’s some hipster inspirational talk or whatever, but seriously. Make something meaningful. Take your time. Look at the classics. Why is it that Les Miserables, for example, has been so loved and celebrated through the years, adapted across mediums from stage to screen and beyond?
Meaningful stories speak truth about the human condition and allow readers to grow by experiencing life through the characters’ perspective. These tales resonate with generation after generation because they are not bound by culture or time. The reader can relate. And through the journey of the story, learns something more about themselves.
Because in the end, it’s not about the numbers read. It’s what you say that matters.
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