November 16, 2018


By Steve Bradshaw

Global book publishing is a robust $112 billion industry. To put that into some perspective, the global recorded music industry is a mere $16 billion. Although these numbers present an enormous opportunity, authors seeking success today face a very different world than the greats of the 20th century.

Earnest Hemmingway, J.D. Salinger and John Steinbeck wrote their ground-breaking novels more than fifty years ago. In the 1950s, when Hemmingway stood at his chest-of-drawers and pounded out For Whom the Bell Tolls on his Royal Deluxe typewriter, I suspect the most influential author of the day spent little time thinking about his target markets or his productivity goals. Hemmingway and the other greats of that day lived in a world very different. They had half the population, a sliver of the competition, and minimal competing technologies. The Hemmingways of the world could focus on the creation of their masterpieces. Most authors today do not have that luxury.

Unlike Agatha Christie (85 books) and Dean Koontz (91 books) and many more of the most successful, modern-day authors, Hemmingway achieved his greatness with just seven books published, three more posthumously. The Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Peace Prize recipient created exceptional literary works and set the bar high. Today an author must deliver a quality product or perish. However unlike the 20th century the great authors of this day can be swept away in the tsunami of titles that flow into the world each year regardless of the quality of their work.

The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) reports 2,233,893 new books published worldwide last year. Amazon adds ~1,000,000 new titles each year. The Pew Research Center recently reported 65% of Americans read at least one printed book a year. The average is twelve printed books a year (the median four). They also reported 28% of Americans read at least one eBook, and 14% listen to at least one audiobook.  Based on the current U.S. population, Pew’s findings translate into 214,000,000 printed books, 92,000,000 eBooks, and 46,000,000 audiobooks sold in a year. How many of the combined 352,000,000 books sold in America were yours?

Regardless of the decade or century it is safe to say all writers like to write. It is also safe to say all writers want to be read. Unlike the Hemmingway days the writing talent in the world is a hundred-fold greater in numbers, more educated, and more equipped to produce high-quality literary products. As reported by UNESCO, a morass of new titles pours into the world every year now. Would the J.D. Salingers and Ralph Ellisons and Harper Lees and Truman Capotes be found today? Probably not! Are there undiscovered greats walking among us? Yes! Why those answers? And what can we do about it?

Most writers today do not have the luxury of just focusing on the creative process and the quality of their product (book). Most must also identify and aggressively pursue their piece of their target market. More than ever before a writer must understand their market, the segments, trends, and market expectations. Doing the marketing research today (or paying for it) allows you to shape your unique promotional strategy that increases your chances for discovery and success.

Do you know who reads your books—age, gender, education, social media practices, entertainment preferences, and the like? Do you know how your target market finds the books they read? Do you know how they like to experience a book—printed, digital, audio, at launch, on sale, etc.? Did you know printed books are most preferred today, and sales are increasing? Did you know eBook sales are flat, and more people are moving away from eBook readers to tablets and smartphones? Did you know audiobooks are peaking at 14% of the market? If you did not know these basics, I suggest you start doing your research.

Do you believe you write as good as some of the bestselling authors? I would bet writers with five or more published books in the world know their work is good. I also suspect they are focused on writing their next novel and implementing their marketing plan. Do not accept low and slow sales. 

Do not be patient. And do not stop writing. Just market your babies with the same intensity that created them. Unless you are a New York Times bestseller with one of the big five publishers, your great works may never be discovered unless you do your research and implement a sensible market plan.

Steve Bradshaw writes international mystery/thrillers. He draws upon his experience as a forensic investigator and the founder, President/CEO of an innovative biomedical venture. Steve writes lightning-paced forensic thrillers and speaks at companies and organizations about fascinating worlds of forensic investigation, fringe science, and pursuit of new ventures. Steve has six published novels in softcover and eBooks. His audiobook collection releases the end of 2018. Excerpts of all books can be viewed on his website, To schedule Steve for speaking and book signing events call (901) 230-7343.

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