Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Brian Hill & Dee Power

21 Full Grown Elephants? That’s a Lot of Books.
By Dee Power

      The 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 tracks.

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

2006 Past Columns


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