As Tajja Isen notes in her piece at The Walrus, these numbers are not “especially encouraging.”
Here is a taste of her piece, “How Do You Even Sell a Book Anymore?“:
All of which highlights the two faces of the book-sale process: its ideal operation and its fundamental flaws. At best, this is the circuit working as it should: quality writing reaching an audience of admiring readers via word of mouth. The problem is that such magic, albeit there for anyone to grasp at, is difficult to replicate—and it doesn’t come from the traditional forms of publicity the industry is built on. The finicky labour of trying to bottle hype is largely offloaded onto writers through the cultivation of their social media presences or newsletter audiences or names in media publications. I was advised to sound off on big news stories and join charged social media conversations that were vaguely related to the subject of my essay collection, with the idea that positioning myself as an expert on tangential subjects would make people buy the book. This particular manoeuvre seemed far-fetched even when I knew less about publishing than I do now, and it felt close enough to ambulance chasing that I got too queasy to try.
The enigma of how to sell a book touches all corners of literary culture. It affects what kinds of titles publishers acquire and, at the other end of the pipeline, which titles readers see the most. If you’ve ever felt the uncanny sense that some shadowy agent wants you to know about a certain book, you’re probably right. The fate of a book depends on so many small but consequential decisions that accumulate to ensure it reaches your awareness: the time of year it comes out, the runway it has to get pre-publication endorsements, the way it gets positioned by the publisher. And then, once a book is released, it has to contend with all sorts of other obstacles: The Amazon algorithm. The decline of outlets offering arts coverage. The drop in book sales themselves. In response, our best defence is to read beyond the bestseller lists and the most-hyped titles and support our local independent bookstores. Every book that finds you is a minor miracle.
Read the entire piece here.