Michael Hyatt (President and CEO of Thomas Nelson) has posted some interesting thoughts on future publishing trends.
Interestingly, Hyatt notes that 23% of titles (at least at his company) drive 90% of the revenue. Stated differently, 77% of titles bring in only 10% of the revenue. Does this mean that there are too many books being published? Probably.
Hyatt writes that Thomas Nelson publishes, on average, 700 titles a year (two books a day) and that each of them takes (basically) the same amount of work to bring to publication. Why not reduce the total number? This could be done without impacting revenue significantly. Makes sense.
My only concern is what about important books that might have a marginal market? I’m planning on writing more about this at blog.followingchrist.org because it is a concern for many folks who will be at that conference (i.e., future academics and authors).
In an ideal world writing/publishing not only responds to, but affirmatively shapes, the market it serves. To my mind, simply giving readers what they want isn’t enough. Christian publishers have an obligation to give us what we need, even when we don’t want it. Doing this carelessly, however, is a good way to run a company into the ground. Doing this cautiously and conservatively (i.e., choosing one to two excellent titles a year) is a way of being a redeeming influence on the Christian market. And, God knows, we need it.