Sunday, June 8, 2008

Eighty Percent of Americans Want to Write a Book

A recent survey showed that more than eighty percent of Americans want to write a book. This extraordinary statistic is somewhat puzzling considering that the National Endowment for the Arts estimates that only fifty-seven percent of Americans have read even 1 book in the last twelve months!

What is it that makes people -- even non-readers -- want to put pen to paper?

Perhaps it's the desire for fame and fortune, the need to earn the respect of others, or maybe it's just the wish to leave some mark on the future, a permanent record of a life lived.

Whatever the reason, for those who actually complete a manuscript, the odds of seeing it published by a reputable firm are slim.

For the estimated 2 million manuscripts currently completed, there are only 64,000 publishers of record, and only a fraction of those are actively seeking new manuscripts.

So what are the millions of hopeful authors to do?

Well, the first step would be to ensure their manuscripts are the best they can be. This can be done by re-writing, editing, proofreading by an outside firm or even by a well-read and literate friend.

Even then, most of those two million books stand no chance of being accepted by a traditional publisher. Those authors that do make the cut are not necessarily the best writers, but rather are those who can sell themselves and their stories most convincingly.

Some authors, after rejections from the trade, will find themselves victims of vanity publishers, who take advantage of the hopes and aspirations of writers to extract an exorbitant fee to 'publish' their book.

Luckier will be the writers who publish through firms like iUniverse and Lulu, for although their books will likely never see wide distribution, at least their losses will be minimal.

And finally there are the select few who decide to become publishers themselves, even if it is only to self-publish their own book.

These publishers will find great obstacles, and a great deal of work in this route, but the challenge and reward of having one's success or failure entirely in one's own hands is a powerful feeling.

Whether they choose to publish electronically, or use short run printing service like Lightning Print, or even to go full boar with a print run of 1,000 or more, their success depends on how well they sell themselves and their story to others.

And so, if you are about to embark on a new manuscript, educate yourself thoroughly about the industry, its scams, and potential pitfalls. And more importantly, learn to market yourself well, for this, more than any other skill, is the determining factor in your success or failure.

(C) Book Writing


Palmero Tom said...

Everyone should consider print on demand services like This way there's no real cost associated with getting published. Especially publications on a specific topic/niche can be very rewarding as Google (and other search engines) will point people looking for information on these topics/niches to these books.

Patricia said...

Yes, please, before getting involved in the highly competitive publishing industry, study what it's all about. How? Read books such as my "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book," as well as books by Dan Poynter, Brian Jud, Marilyn Ross and other professionals. Join publishing organizations such as SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network), SPAN and IBPA. Follow blogs such as this one and those by other professionals.

Knowledge is key to your success as an author.

Patricia Fry

relief11 said...


I've been trying for months to find that survey about people wanting to write books. Can you tell me how to see it? Thanks!

- Lynette

Allderdice said...

Response to Lynette... if you're still out there (I realize you posted seven years ago) the New York Times published a version of this story in 2002, here:
The article doesn't give much more info than this story does, except it is in the NYT after all, and it says (parentheses original): "(In the survey of 1,006 Americans, sponsored by a small Michigan publisher, almost equal numbers of people said they wanted to write a novel, a nonfiction work, a self-help book or a cookbook.)"