Grumpy old writers – not me!

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.


Our World in Data – Books


Author: Petra Kidd

Norfolk UK is my home, I live in Norwich by the River Wensum where everyday there is something different to see and learn. I feel a big affinity with the river as I grew up in Cambridge, another great river city. My childhood and teens involved many walks along the Cam where we would watch 'The Bumps,' raft races and as we grew older we enjoyed adventures on our punting pub crawls. Growing up in a multi cultural university city definitely influenced my reading choices, I am a big fan of Japanese fiction, love French literature and enjoy Shakespeare. As a young teen I entertained myself with Jilly Cooper and Dick Francis and then became quite obsessed with Henri Charriere's Papillon. At school all I cared about was English, Art and French, in that exact order. When I finished with school I went to live and work in Greece for a wonderful year before returning to study English Literature and Sociology. At this point I read more classics like the Wyf of Bath, Wuthering Heights and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man plus poets such as Wilfred Owen. My first UK full time job was with Heffer's Paperbacks where I devoured several books at a time, excited by the fact I could borrow what I liked. Bizarrely for me I remember reading The Zurich Axioms, I have no interest in the stock markets but it had me gripped. I can't remember why I picked it up but I have never forgotten it. Heffers introduced me to so many authors, via their books and sometimes in person. It was here I learned about all the genres, it fascinated me that science fiction and horror were so popular, I tried reading it all. Aside from writing letters, it didn't really ever occur to me to write anything myself for many years as I worked my way through a variety of interesting and varied jobs. Then on a visit to the London Aquarium I became struck by an idea so powerful I sat down and wrote my first novel. It went nowhere as really I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote another novel and again, didn't have the persistance or determination to take it further, I simply enjoyed the process of writing and my characters. Then years later another idea struck me and during a severe bout of Pleurisy where I couldn't do anything physical for months, I wrote the Eight of Swords and The Putsi. This time I published them as ebooks and they became pretty popular. When I fully recovered, I had to concentrate on my business and looking after my mother who has various health issues and the writing went adrift again for many years until 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. March 2020 I moved to my apartment alongside the Wensum to live alone for the first time ever. During the first lockdown I began to write a diary and then the idea for a new set of short stories came to me and in February 2021 they will be published. The Covid-19 Pandemic is not simply a scary virus, it is a historical time and here we are trying to live through it. To many it will feel like a punishment but to me as a writer, in some ways, it came as a gift. Please stay as safe and as well as you can. I hope to entertain you with my stories as we all try to get through this together, even though we are apart. Petra

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