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The Good Book Appreciation Society

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How many books get sold in SA every year?

An excerpt from The Good Book Appreciation Society August Newsletter:

Have you ever wondered what SA publishing looks like from the inside? How many books the average South African author sells? Or what constitutes a local bestseller? We took a closer look at the numbers, read ‘em and weep:

There were 10.5 million books sold in South Africa in 2015*.

But let’s not pop the champagne quite yet. The majority of this number, about 80%, is made up of non-fiction sales; text books, biographies, sports books, self-help, memoirs, cook books, the Kardashians telling all – again, adult colouring-in books, religious books, kids books, joke books, Zapiro’s Xmas special etc.

Out of those 10.5 million books, adult fiction only makes up about 2.5* million sales annually, or around 20%, if that. And only a FRACTION of those sales come from SA fiction. The rest are internationals; your JK Rowlings, Lee Childs, John Grisham, Gillian Flynn et al.

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South African fiction sells somewhere in the region of 550 000 books a year across thousands of titles (and that’s being generous). BUT here’s the zinger, more than 450 000* of those are Afrikaans books.

And this is where we get to the sad part of the story. Your average SA novelist writing in English only sells 600 – 1000 copies of a novel in its lifetime. In a country with a population of more than 60 million people** (**2013).

The cherry on top: there were only 3 traditionally published South African english novels that sold more than 2000 copies in 2014. Any guesses which those were?

So please, give something local a shot next time you’re buying. It’s not life and death, but it kind of is.

* Nielsens Bookscan. Nielsen’s measure book sales at mainstream retail outlets – these figures do not include independent book stores.

The Good Book Appreciation Society is a ‘secret’ book club on Facebook with almost 6000 members.
To join the Good Book Appreciation Society or sign up for the monthly newsletter, email or friend Bea Reader on FB, and we’ll add you to the club.

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