A number of people new to publishing have never seen Publishers Weekly magazine. At times I will find a few copies of the current issue on Borders or Barnes & Nobles. I’d encourage you to try and find it just to become aware of this trade magazine.
Or if you are at your local library, ask your reference librarian if you can see one of their recent issues. Librarians keep it behind their desk and not out where the public can access it. Why? Because librarians use PW to learn about forthcoming books, read the reviews of books and keep up on what’s happening in the book world. Each issue of the magazine covers a different type of book. For example, the September 11th issue (the last one that I’ve received in the mail) has a large feature article about the new travel books entitled, ‘Where’s the New There? Travel book publishers have to keep up with changing tastes, Internet chatter and world events to know where to go next.”
I learn a great deal from my Publishers Weekly subscription and I’ve had one for many years. It comes like clockwork once a week and I try to make time almost immediately to read through it. I learn from each issue.
As general background, you should know publishers tend to keep a lot of number information confidential. Unless you have a remarkable bestseller with soaring numbers, many numbers the publisher doesn’t want the public to know about them. If you are working on a book proposal and looking for sales numbers related to your competitive titles, it will be a challenge (read difficult) to even find this information. On occasion you can find it but usually you can’t locate the sales numbers. Most of Publishers Weekly is about words and rarely they have something about numbers. In the Foreword section of PW, they have a column called By the Numbers. I enjoyed this iUniverse by the numbers article from May 2005.
In the September 11th issue, they included Thomas Nelson By the Numbers. It’s a pretty amazing set of statistics and I thought you’d like to know about it. Notice how they’ve increased their number of new books released in fiscal 2006 compared to fiscal 2005–-by 50 books. I believe Thomas Nelson is the ninth largest publisher in the world (or so my memory tells me). Also notice the number of books on their backlist (3,900) and also the percentage of publishing division sales generated from the backlist titles in fiscal 2006 (54%). Also look at the numbers of their accounts—while they have 15,000 retail accounts, they are also working with 18,000 church, school and other accounts.
I found it fascinating insight into one publisher—recognizing that it’s just a snapshot and not a detailed look at the numbers.