Steven Piersanti, the President of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, recently updated his 2009 report on the publishing industry earlier this summer. Previously I posted an essay here that referenced Piersanti’s points raised in 2009 and how authors could overcome the 10 big mistakes big publishers make (February 28, 2011).

Piersanti’s assessment in 2011 reflects the changes in technology and the economy in the past two years. In summary, here are “The 10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing”:

1. The number of books being published every year has increased, but of the 3 million titles published in the U.S. in 2010, 2.7 million were non-traditional, e.g. print on demand, e-books, reprints of public domain works, self-published and audiobooks.
2. Book industry sales have continued to decline since 2007.
3. Despite skyrocketing e-book sales, overall book sales are still shrinking.
4. The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
5. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.
6. It is getting harder every year to sell books. Investing the same amount today to market a book as was invested two years ago will yield a smaller return in sales today.
7. Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities.
8. Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers.
9. No other industry has so many new product introductions.
10. The book publishing world is in a never-ending state of turmoil. Thin profit margins, complexities to the financing, churning new technologies, intense competition and the bankruptcy of Borders and precarious positions of other bookstores make the book business more complicated, less fun.

Expect even more changes and challenges in the coming months and years.

What this industry update means for authors is game changing and daunting. Authors aren’t just writers anymore.

As an author you are now the director of marketing and sales and close every deal. Leverage your personal and professional platforms to negotiate publishing contracts. In a crowded market, your voice – your brand – must stand out. The author must master inbound marketing, channel community building, and direct digital sales campaigns. Traditional publicity has been replaced by events and experiences that immerse the readers in book buzz. Build books around a big idea. Front load ideas and keep books short.
To learn more about Berrett-Koehler, an independent publisher dedicated to an ambitious mission, or about Steven Piersanti, President, visit

To learn more about how to write a book that gets published and succeeds in the marketplace of ideas, contact Jill Swenson ( and let Swenson Book Development LLC help you as an author’s advocate.

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