The shocking number of books the average South African author sells

While globally famed authors are known to make a fortune on a best selling novel, new data shows how difficult it can be for local authors to make a decent living.

According to analysis from The Good Book Appreciation Society, a ‘secret’ book club on Facebook with almost 6,000 members, local authors are lucky if they sell more than 1,000 copies of a novel.

Using the help of some publishing insiders, and Nielsen Bookscan, the society found that there were 10.5 million books sold in South Africa in 2015.

Breaking the data down further, it found that 80% of that figure came from non-fiction sales – text books, sports books, self-help, memoirs, cook books, religious books, kids books, Zapiro’s Xmas special, etc.

Adult fiction only makes up 2.5 million of the 10.5 milliion (20%), and only a fraction of those sales come from SA fiction, the socity said. Sales mostly go to the likes of international authors including J.K. Rowling, Lee Childs, John Grisham, and Gillian Flynn.

South African based fiction sold 525,000 copies in 2015, and 450,000 of those were Afrikaans novels, meaning that only 75,000 English novels left the shelves.

“And this is where we get to the sad part of the story. Your average SA novelist writing in English, only sells 600 – 1,000 copies of a novel in their lifetime. This in a country with a population of more than 55 million people,” the Appreciation society said.

The group said that the cherry on top for local authors, is that there were only two traditionally published South African English novels that sold more than 2,000 copies in 2015, according to Nielsens. It noted that there were three in 2014.

The Good Book Appreciation Society is a private book club on Facebook with almost 7,000 members.

To join The Good Book Appreciation Society or sign up for the newsletter, email [email protected] or friend Paige Nick or Bea Reader on Facebook.

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The shocking number of books the average South African author sells