Competition seems to be a dirty word to some. Every now and then I come across a groaner on social media, woeful that there are too many other writers to compete with, and that’s why they are not selling enough of their books. Now the arrival of AI is raising even more groans.
It is almost impossible to accurately say how many authors there are worldwide, but, prompted by the grumbling, I looked for some statistics.
In 2021 there were around 49k authors in the US. Add to this self-published authors, this figure must be upshot of 2.5 million by now, if not more, given the figures below.
In its report, “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2013-2018: Print and E-books,” the total number of print and e-books that were self-published in 2018 was 1.68 million, up from 1.19 million in 2017. From Publishers Weekly
There are (at last count) 8 billion people in the world.
So, that’s just in the US which has a total population of 332.28 million. Which leads to the question… how many people read books in the USA? Well, 778.7 million books were sold in 2022.
In the UK there are 78,200k authors. 67.8 million people live in the UK. 212million books were sold in 2021, which is the highest figure of the last decade. (Source The Guardian).
So, taking the US and UK as examples, I would say that the hunger for books looks increasingly healthy. And that’s just books. Add to that magazines, chap books, and online publications, and the market increases even further.
The truth is, the hunger for the written word continues to increase. We are human, we want stories, and with 8 billion people in the world, there are endless stories to be written.
Writing for TV/Movies/Series is also a growth area.
Sure, there is competition, but there is competition in everything, whether you are selling shoes, jewellery, food or absolutely anything, but the market for books and writing in general is humongous!
One author (who shall remain anonymous) was bemoaning the fact that everyone seemed to be a writer these days. Isn’t it the human condition that we all want to communicate in some way? Writing is one of the main ways to do so, next to speech. He felt that his books weren’t selling because there were already too many authors out there. This isn’t an uncommon worry. The thing is, if you are on social media and you are a writer, it is likely that you are followed by other writers. The support groups on social media are terrific! This no doubt leads to the assumption that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet is an author these days, but when you stop and realise that, at the time of writing this, Twitter has over 397 million users, you can rest assured that authors and writers will make up a small proportion of this. And that’s just Twitter. I am sure the same applies to other social media platforms.
The same guy went on to complain that other people had far more followers than he did. I am guessing he hadn’t quite made the connection that, unless you market your books, they are unlikely to sell. Even with extensive marketing, it is a struggle for many. But the name of the game is to get your books seen by as many people as possible and to actively engage your readers. It isn’t easy, but then nothing ever is. It’s a simple equation to make: the more followers you attract, the more people are likely to read your books. It’s up to you, as the author, to capture their interest. Even more so when you are self-published.
Sure, it’s hard work, but as with any business, customers don’t simply fall out of the sky! You ask any publisher, and I know they will tell you this.
It may be a tough world out there, but selling books isn’t the only option if you want to sell your work as a writer. I am currently investigating more ways to publish work and will keep you updated on progress.
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Interesting further reading.