The Message in the Book Numbers
From my perspective, there are at least two ways to interpret those numbers. You could moan, "My book will never get published. I can barely get my book written. Much less get the attention of an agent and get a publisher."
Or you can take a much different attitude and one that could open the doors for publishing success. You could say, "Yes there were a lot of books published last year but how many of those books actually reached their audience? My book is excellent and I'm going to redouble my efforts to find the right place for it."
These two views are common. One side says I can't and the other perspective says Yes I can. As I've said in the past, one of the keys to publishing anything (magazine or book) is to approach the right person at the right time at the right place with the right material. Yes, lots of "rights" have to align for that to happen but it is entirely possible and much of it is in your control--especially when it comes to creating an excellent idea.
The foundation of every bestselling book whether fiction or nonfiction is great storytelling. You learn to write great stories as you practice your storytelling technique over and over. I recommend the shorter writing form of magazine articles as a way to learn to tell good stories. If you are writing nonfiction, then write magazine articles for printed magazines. Yes, any of you can blog and publish newsletters online but the higher standard in the publishing community is writing that appears in printed publications. If you are writing fiction, then you need to be crafting short stories and publishing those stories in printed magazines. There are markets for these short stories and you need to be actively looking for them, sending out your material to editors and getting those stories into print. Why? It helps you build credibility (a publishing track record) with editors and agents plus it gives you experience with a shorter form of writing rather than a long novel or full length book.
Peter Guber encourages authors to tell stories with purpose in Tell to Win. If you have not read this book, I recommend this book because of the insight in it. He emphasizes that it's important to use storytelling in your persuasion process but don't just tell stories for the sake of telling them. You create a story which moves the audience toward your intended purpose. To be successful with this storytelling process you have to know your purpose and be intentional about the writing process.
In addition, to excellent writing, you have to continually focus on reaching out to your audience and touching them with your writing. I've heard the horror stories from every type of author about their lack of book sales. Whether you have been published with a large mainstream publisher or a small independent press or self-published, the reality is still the same: the author has the greatest passion for your topic and your own writing. What are you doing each day to pour that passion into telling others about your work. You have to make continual and steady effort in this area. No one else will do it for you or do it to the extent that you will do it. Step out of your comfort zone and speak or use social media to tell others in a targeted fashion. Follow the instructions and insights in this handout that I recently used at the Tucson Festival of Books about social media.
Finally, another way to build your audience and overcome the message in the book numbers is to give back to others around you. Some of you feel like you are just beginning in publishing and have nothing to give others. That is untrue. No matter where you are in the publishing world, you have learned things that you can pass on to others. This process of giving will help draw people to your message and help you enter the publishing community. It is a foundational part of my operation in the community. Here's a simple way every reader can give to others: support good books with a few words of review and a positive Five Star review on Amazon or another review site. These reviews do not have to be long or involved or complicated. They take a few minutes to write and are a way to support good books. I've written over 300 Amazon reviews. No one pays me to write these reviews but it is a consistent way that I can support good books. You can take this step with good books that you are reading.
Don't let the numbers of books overwhelm you. Be aware of these numbers but keep focused on telling good stories, getting those stories into the market and building your audience.