poetry book sales survey: results

I’ve closed the informal, unscientific survey on poetry book sales after running it for a couple of days. I was pleased to get a total of 74 responses to its three questions, which were:
1. How big was the initial print run for your book or chapbook? (possible range presented was 50 to 2,000 copies. In hindsight: should have included a ‘print-on-demand’ option, and possibly a ‘more than 2,000’ option.)
2. How many print copies of your book or chapbook were sold? (range same as above, also included a ‘don’t know’ option)
3. Was your book or chapbook published in any other formats? (options were PDF download, website, e-book, audio or ‘no, only print’)
Click on graphics below to see larger versions.

Size of print run: a topic of interest to me since writing this post way back when. The numbers from the survey pretty much confirm the range discussed in that post and exclude the multi-thousand runs of real best-seller poets. According to this survey, nearly 80% of initial runs are less than 500 copies; close to 50% are less than 200 copies; and 35% are less than 100 copies. Our world is indeed a small one…
print run survey results
Number of copies sold: 74% of respondents reported selling less than 500 copies of their book; about 50% reported sales of less than 200 copies; and 27% less than 100 copies. These numbers are skewed, however, by the ‘don’t know’ category, which represented 15% of responses. In reality, each is probably a few percentage points higher.
copies sold survey results
Publication formats: This was the real surprise, although perhaps it should not have been. Almost 90% of respondents said their book had been published in print only. Five respondents (7%) reported PDF downloads as well; four respondents report e-book publication too; while two said their poems were published on a website, and one said it had also been published as audio.

I’ve gone on at length about the advantages of multi-format publishing in previous posts, and will do so again, now that this survey is done. Watch this space…
publishing format survey results

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

8 thoughts on “poetry book sales survey: results”

  1. Thanks, Nick — very interesting. It makes me wonder if this homebrew industry keeps statistics somewhere, and what they might be.

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