The KSeeker

In Search of Knowledge…

Mole in the book business!

Posted by Girish Krishnan on July 31, 2006

On an average, if a book sells around 5000 copies, its considered a success in India. I suspect that the break even for a publisher should be around that number for an average priced book (Rs 300 to 400).

Though i havent read this book titled – ‘A Call to Honor: In Service of Emergent India’, it is supposed to offer a privileged insider’s view to various important events that took place when the BJP government was in power. Thanks to the seemingly non-existant mole, the book has turned a bestseller with 20,000 copies sold since it hit the bookstands nearly a week ago. And that makes it a smashing blockbuster in the Indian context!

Grapevine has that Jaswant Singh and his old MP friend are writing another book on Ayodhya. This one is supposed to have answers for more earth shattering questions like whether Advani gave a speech instigating the Sangh Swayamsevaks when the Babri Masjid was destroyed. While we eagerly wait for that, i would like to share some information about the life expectancy of best selling books.

Trend #1: Did you know that the life expectancy of best sellers have come down significantly over the years – a drop to almost 1/7th of what it was 40 years ago!.To quote numbers – the average number of weeks that the New York Times Bestseller remains on the #1 spot has fallen from 5.5 in the 1990s, 14 in the 1970s and 22 in the 1960s to barely a fortnight last year!

Trend #2: Another trend to be observed is that the number of best sellers have gone up considerably – In the 1960s, fewer than three novels reached No. 1 in an average year; last year, 23 did!!

Trend #3: The number of copies sold by the current best sellers is also far lesser than the ones on top decades ago. There is also the phenomenon of Classics catching up over a period of time. (reproduced from Slate) Take Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It sold 110,000 copies in 2002 according to Nielsen BookScan, which excludes academic sales from its calculations—which means these numbers aren’t inflated by students who have no choice but to buy Austen. Compare it to figures for, say, The Runaway Jury by John Grisham, which was the No. 1 best seller in 1996: Last year, Grisham’s novel sold 73,337 copies—almost 40,000 fewer than Pride and Prejudice!

The reasons for these trends are numerous

  • Increased Availabilty and Publicity is a major factor
    • Similar to movie releases, a book makes most money in the initial period. Books of big name authors come out with huge number of copies and media hype which is more effective than earlier year – eg: Harry Potter 5 sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hrs!
  • Asymmetric competition from information available on the net
    • Partly due to the increasing maturation of the industry (no one sells many books on how to repair cars any more either), partly due to cutbacks by the retail channel, but it is also partly due to the increase in choice.
  • Propagation of other forms of electronic media also has its effects in shaping these trends.

Trivia: Longest time at the top

#1 “Advise and Consent,” a political thriller by Allen Drury, 57 consecutive weeks on top from Oct 14, 1959

#2 “The Source,” an historical epic by James Michener, 43 weeks on top from July 11, 1965

#3 “Love Story,” by Erich Segal,numero uno for 41 weeks starting from May 10, 1970

The only recently published book that comes close to these number is Dan Browns “The Da Vinci Code” – On top for 13 weeks starting from November 16 2003

Fastest Selling book in the history(from wiki): In 24 hours, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” sold 6.9 million copies in the United States alone, or 287,564 books per hour, making it the fastest selling book in history. It generated over $100 million in sales on its opening weekend, outpacing even the combined take of the top movies at the box office that same weekend. Bookseller Barnes and Noble reported sales averaging 105 copies per second in the first hour of sales This also was the number one selling book in the U.S. for 2005 and its first day’s sales outsold other books’ yearly totals!

Some interesting links i dug up about the publishing business are given below:


4 Responses to “Mole in the book business!”

  1. Karthik said

    Dei, good research da. well-timed…

  2. Thanks – This is called true “vettism” 🙂

  3. Alex said

    Thank You

  4. counterstr said

    pre teen pageant gown

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