21 Book Publishing Statistics and Market Insights in 2021

The publishing industry landscape is changing drastically. With the introduction of e-books, audiobooks, and platforms for self-publication, the publishing industry has been in uncertain territory for some years.

While book publishing statistics show that many readers are going digital, paperback and hardcover books are still in demand, especially since the onset of nationwide lockdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, while the publishing demand in the UK is indeed changing, it remains a cornerstone industry for the UK and the rest of the world, for that matter.

Book Publishing Facts You Need to Know (Editor’s Choice)

  • Revenue from digital books in the UK increased exponentially in the last decade.
  • The UK’s publishing market is one of the most thriving publishing industries in the world.
  • Book exports account for 59% of the UK’s total book sales.
  • Europe is the UK’s most significant export region for printed books.
  • The UK publishing industry is on course for a £10 billion valuation.
  • Typical authors earn less than £10,500 per year.

Current Book Publishing Statistics

The British publishing industry has a vast influence. While there is some panic over the death of the written word, this billion-pound industry supplies books not just to the UK but to the rest of the world as well. It has shown to be resilient, even in the face of a global pandemic, and perhaps has become even more important since the first mandated lockdown.

1. The UK’s book publishing industry had the highest value in 2019.

(Publishers Association)

According to the book publishing industry statistics, the industry saw record-high sales in 2019, amounting to £6.3 billion in revenue. This figure is a reflection of people’s need and desire to purchase and read books. The association believes the publishing industry would have been worth £10 billion if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t interrupted businesses.

2. Book exports account for 59% of the total book sales figures in the UK.

(Publishing Perspectives)

Exporting books is a huge component of books sales in the UK, accounting for 59% of the country’s total publishing revenue. Notably, the UK exports more printed books than any other country in the world.

3. The UK sold over 202 million books in 2020.

(Statista)

Book sales figures in the UK increased in 2020. This is the first time in eight years that the country surpassed the 200 million sales mark. Based on a survey among British adults, this sudden spike in book sales is a direct result of lockdowns. Perhaps one of the benefits of being forced to stay at home is that many people chose to catch up on their reading to pass the time.

4. Europe is the UK’s most significant export region for printed books.

(Publishing Perspectives)

The UK book market may experience book sales growth to export regions like China, but Europe remains the most significant consumer. The region accounts for 36% of the country’s revenue for exported books. This leads many to wonder how Brexit will impact the publishing industry’s revenue.

5. The UK’s publishing market is one of the most thriving publishing industries in the world.

(Publishers Association)

According to the recent UK book industry statistics for 2020, the industry is one of the country’s thriving markets, providing more than 70,000 decent-paying publishing jobs in the UK. Furthermore, the cultural contribution of British literature to the global creative industry cannot be ignored, with other creative industries relying heavily on printed and digital books written by British authors and exported by British publishers.

The UK’s Book Publishing Trends in 2020

The publishing industry has but one main competitor: digital modernisation. It is perhaps not the question of whether people are still interested in reading but rather how they choose to read that threatens the entire publishing industry. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an initial hit in sales everywhere but perhaps ended up saving the industry altogether.

6. Book sales statistics by year in the UK show a significant decline in the number of books sold in the past decade.

(Statista)

Data on the number of books the UK has sold over the last 10 years shows how much sales have declined. The publishing industry sold more than 300 million books in the previous decade. Notably, from 2013 to 2019, sales were hovering between 180 million to 195 million books per year. It wasn’t until last year when the UK publishing industry broke through the 200 million mark in sales for the first time in almost a decade.

7. Book publishing statistics for 2020 show a decline in worldwide sales among UK publishers.

(The Guardian)

UK publishers experienced a 17% decline in printed book sales worldwide during the first six months of 2020. Revenue from printed books went from £1.3 billion to £1.1 billion. This is likely a result of government-imposed lockdowns, which resulted in the closure of high streets and schools across the nation.

8. The latest book publishing stats show that 36% of small presses are at risk of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(The Bookseller)

There is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is putting strain on many businesses across the UK. The book publishing industry is no different from other industries struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic. Like many small businesses in the UK, a significant number of small presses were unsure if they could make it into 2021. Additionally, an unsettling 36% believe that they are at medium to high risk of closing for good.

9. Global book publishers expect the market to recover and grow by 2% from 2021 to 2023.

(PR Newswire)

Researchers expect global book sales statistics to report a positive growth rate from 2021 to 2023. While the industry experienced a worldwide decline in 2020, publishers believe it will eventually recover. Predictions report a compounding annual growth rate of 2% in the next couple of years.

10. Book sales figures in the UK in 2020 were performing better than publishers expected.

(Printweek)

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic driving revenues down in other industries, the book publishing industry seems to be resilient. According to recent statistics, 2020 saw a 5.2% growth in the number of books sold across the country. Researchers believe this increased demand is a result of people looking for new activities to fill in all their extra time from being forced to stay home — nothing like a global health crisis to allow Brits to fall in love with reading again.

21 Book Publishing Statistics and Market Insights in 2021

Real Print Vs Digital Book Publishing Trends

The ability to adjust to an increasingly digital society is something that publishers need to address in their business strategies, especially at the height of mobile app usage and download. To be sure, e-books and audiobooks are gaining in popularity. It seems that many still prefer the old-fashioned forms of reading, however, with paperback and hardback copies still being favoured by readers.

12. Revenues from digital books in the UK have increased exponentially over the last decade.

(Statista)

According to e-book publishing statistics, revenues from digital book sales reached £710 million towards the end of 2019. This is a significant increase since online publishers only earned £126 million a decade earlier. Data on e-book download frequency confirm consumers’ inclination towards digital media over the past few years, with more than 15% of the British population downloading an e-book in the last three months.

13. The majority of people who read books prefer paperbacks over any other medium.

(Nielsen Book Research)

The latest research on the publishing industry shows an in-depth analysis of book sales data in the UK, and while e-books are gaining popularity, Brits still prefer paperbacks, with as much as 51% of total sales coming from paperback purchases. Comparatively, e-books and audiobooks combined only accounted for 29% of sales.

14. Book trends in 2021 show women are more likely to download e-books than men.

(Statista)

The latest survey on reading preferences among British respondents shows that only 17% of men download e-books, while the percentage of women who download e-books is up to 19%.

15. Academic books have the highest digital book publishers market share in the UK.

(Statista)

For 10 consecutive years, academic writing has been the leading genre in digital books in terms of market share. In 2019 alone, the genre earned £318 million, which is £83 million more than fictional books, which is the next highest-selling genre.

16. Professional book sales grew by 1.3%.

(Publishers Association)

Book publishing statistics show a 1.3% growth in sales among academic journals and professional books. The Publishers Association states that much of this growth comes from digital publishing, which accounts for 70% of the total sales. This is unsurprising since sales in digital publishing for academic books rose by 4.2%, which offsets the losses from decreased sales for printed copies.

17. Fiction book sales rose by 13%.

(Publishers Association)

According to book sales statistics in 2020 that was released by the Publishers Association, the fiction genre is making a comeback in the UK. In the first half of 2020, the sales for fiction books rose by 13%, translating to £285 million in revenue. The majority of these sales were in the digital e-book format. However, even audiobooks made a significant claim in the market.

18. Book publishing stats show a 35% increase in hardback copies of fiction books.

(The Guardian)

While it may seem that digital alternatives are replacing the good old-fashioned physical books, the statistics show us quite the opposite. As the only genre that saw growth instead of a decline in the first six months of lockdown in 2020, hardback copies of fiction books remain a premium reading experience still much desired by the British people, especially when they aren’t allowed to leave the house.

Self-Publishing Sales Statistics

Before the onset of digitalisation, authors depended solely on publishing companies to monetise and distribute their work. Nowadays, self-publication is a very viable option for authors, which can offer returns that were previously unimaginable. Authors don’t usually earn much through old publishing avenues; luckily, the industry was able to adjust for it to survive.

19. Self-published authors get 40–60% royalties per book.

(Self-Publishing School)

When looking at traditional vs self-publishing sales statistics, you will notice a huge gap in royalties. Self-published authors take home 40–60% royalties per book. This is four to six times higher than what they make with traditional publishing, where they get only 10–12% per book.

20. Self-published books made up 30–34% of e-book sales in 2020.

(Self-Publishing Advice Center)

When looking at self-publishing statistics in 2020, it’s easy to see that indie authors are revolutionising the way the publishing industry operates. Just a little over a decade ago, the idea of self-publishing was almost laughable. Today, self-publishers are already responsible for 30–34% of e-book sales in the UK.

21. Typical authors earn less than £10,500 per year.

(ALCL)

A survey by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society showed some alarming publishing facts in the UK. Based on this study, seasoned authors or those who have been writing for at least 20 years typically earn less than £10,500 annually. Notably, the top 10% of authors account for 70% of the total revenue in the industry, which makes anyone question the sustainability of being a professional author in these modern times.

21 Book Publishing Statistics and Market Insights in 2021

Final Words on the Trends in Book Publishing

While the publishing industry may be at a crossroads as digital formats and self-publication become more available and popular, there’s no doubt that physical books are not going anywhere anytime soon. Publishing companies are a cornerstone in the UK, providing books not just to Brits but to the rest of the world as well.

However, with today’s book publishing industry trends, some adjustments have to be made as self-publication is readily available and seems to yield better income for authors than traditional avenues ever did. Still, it remains to be said that a good ol’ revitalisation is already on the way for the publishing industry and is predicted to continue its growth over the coming years.

FAQ

According to some publishers and editors, the probability that a manuscript proceeds to publication is only 1% to 2%. This assumes that they will publish one or two out of every 100 manuscripts they receive from different authors. This doesn’t mean that all manuscripts publishers receive are of high value. The majority of the manuscripts don’t pass the standards because they are unoriginal and of low quality.

The number of books the UK publishes every year fluctuates. The most recent available figures suggest that the country publishes anywhere between 180,000 to 200,000 titles annually. The publishing industry also has its peak seasons, wherein it releases more titles than usual. For example, in one autumn season, publishers across the country released 600 titles in a single day.

The answer to this question depends on the author’s goals and budget. When you self-publish, you have more creative control, but you also have to pay upfront fees. Also, self-publishing authors receive higher royalties at 40–60% per book.

In traditional publishing, the royalties are only 10–12% per book, but the authors don’t have to worry about the publishing process. Instead, publishers are responsible for editing, formatting, and marketing their books, so they don’t have to hire editors and marketing assistants. They simply have to write a good book.

Publishers are always on the lookout for good content and natural talent. Before you research what publishers look for, it’s important to remember that the benchmark depends on the type of print they publish. For example, a magazine publisher might have different criteria from a publisher of fiction books.

While book publishing facts show that magazines consider length and relatable content for regular readers, fiction books focus more on having solid plots and exciting character development. What’s certain, however, is that publishers want content that they think is financially viable.

The rise of technology and the internet is making it easy for authors to self-publish their works. According to the latest statistics, there are more than 750,000 self-published books in the UK. This number is likely to rise in the next couple of years as more authors feel encouraged to pursue their creative works. Not only does self-publishing give authors more creative control, but it also allows them to earn more in royalties.

The most recent data available shows that self-published books account for 22% of the digital-book market share in the UK. Self-published authors will likely continue to eat away larger chunks of the market share.

Today, more authors choose to self-publish and sell their books at lower costs than publish traditionally. In just five years, book publishing statistics saw a 68% growth in self-published e-books. Ultimately, self-publishing will continue to grow and drive more revenue away from major publishing companies if they don’t adapt to the changing dynamics of modern publication.