21 Full Grown Elephants? That’s a
Lot of Books.
By Dee Power
year 2005 saw 172,000 new books released in the United States, according
to Bowker, the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information.
The number of new titles dropped about 10% from the record high
of 195,000 in 2004, but 172,000 titles is still quite a few books.
I’ll try to put this number into perspective. If the books
were shelved side by side one would need two and three quarter miles
of shelving. If the books were stacked one atop the other, they
would reach almost nine times higher than the world’s tallest
building, the Taipei 101, which measures 1,671 feet. To transport
one copy of each title, the vehicle would have to be capable of
hauling 86 tons or 21 full grown elephants. Laying the books down
in a straight line would require a little over 16 miles of railroad
182 cords of wood would be required to manufacture the paper to
print one copy of each title. If the cords were laid side by side
they would be four feet wide, four feet high and 1,536 feet long.
If an average person read a copy of each title, it would take them
163 years to get through the entire pile. If one cup of coffee was
drunk while reading each book, nearly 29,000 gallons would be consumed
by the time the last page of the last book had been read.
If a copy of each title was purchased at retail, the total expenditure
would be enough to send one student to Harvard for 70 years. However,
it would have only been enough to cover less than 20% of the cost
of the most expensive diamond ever sold (A 100.10-carat, pear-shaped,
"D" flawless diamond sold for $16,548,750, at Sotheby’s,
Switzerland, on May 17, 1995.)
If each author received a $5000 advance, the total would nearly
approach $1 billion. Oddly enough if the author was paid ten cents
per word the total would approach $1 billion. And most interestingly
of all, if one author wrote all these books, consecutively, he or
she, would have had to start writing during the time of Neanderthal
Man, nearly 100,000 years ago.
How difficult is it to get a book published by a commercial publisher?
Well the odds are better gambling in Las Vegas. We surveyed over
60 literary agents. On the average these agents agreed to accept
only a little more than 2 in 1000 of the authors who contacted them.
It has been estimated that 25 million people in the United States
consider themselves writers and only 5% have been published anywhere.
Ready for another dose of reality? Only 1% of manuscripts submitted
to publishing houses are accepted for publication. And the Jenkins
Group has estimated that at any one time there are six million manuscripts
floating around looking for a publishing home.
If 99% of all manuscripts submitted are rejected, by any standard,
a writer whose book has been published has achieved a major milestone.
However you look at it, 172,000 is a lot of new titles and a lot
of happy authors.
Dee Power (Ms.) is co-author with Brian Hill of
The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors
and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them,
Dearborn Trade, ISBN 0793193087
Over Time, the novel, ISBN 0974075418
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