How Many Books Were Sold?

In case you needed another reason to think the publishing business is standing on quicksand, now we find out publishing companies can’t/won’t tell anyone how many books by a given author have been sold.

Bonnie Nadel, a veteran Los Angeles literary agent, is weary of the questions she’s constantly getting from Hollywood industry types: “They want to option a book for a movie or TV, and they’ll ask how many copies the book has sold,” Nadel said. “And I’ll tell them I really don’t know the exact number. I would need inside information, which is very hard to nail down.”

The flabbergasted looks Nadel gets from people who are accustomed to poring over weekend movie grosses or overnight TV ratings underscores a telling reality about the not-so-modern book business. Publishers are notoriously reluctant to divulge sales numbers, and the complex, arcane nature of bookselling makes it hard to determine how well or badly a title is doing.

It makes Print On Demand (POD) look better by the day.


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