Authors: Numbers You Should Know and What They Mean

Jul 6, 2023 | Writing A Book

If you’re an author you’re probably aware of some important numbers. You probably track your word count. You may know the number of days until your next deadline. Some writers track the amount of time they spend writing and some can tell you how many days in a row they did some writing.

Those are important. You probably know which ones are important to you. But there are other numbers you should be aware of.


One is the number of people who read a book at a time. When you write a book you should write to one person. Thousands may read your book, but it’s a solitary act for every one. You will write better, more conversational prose when you write to a single person.


The average business book reader reads about 300 words a minute. That’s important when you decide how long your book should be. Many of my clients aim for a book a reader can finish on a long airplane flight.


1800 is the average number of words before your reader’s attention starts to flag. I get to that number by multiplying 300 (as in words per minute) by 6 minutes. That’s the amount of time most people will pay attention before their mind starts to wander.

If you want to keep them moving along and reading to the end, you need to change things up every 1800 words or so. End one thing and begin another. Shift from exposition to a story. Shift from the story to the results of research.

3 million

That’s the number of new titles published in the US each year. That’s a lot of books!

What that should tell you is that you’re entering your book in a very competitive market. Make sure you write a great book. Then promote it till you puke.

Another 300

There’s that number again, but this time there’s another message. Three hundred is the number of books sold over a book’s lifetime.

That should tell you something else. Not only is the market really, really competitive, but the odds are stacked against you if you expect to make big money from your book sales. No problem. Most authors who make money from their book don’t make their money from book sales. They make most of their money from the effect having a book has on their business. Many also generate income from speaking fees.


Only one person reads a book at a time. Write to one person.

The average business book reader reads 300 words per minute.

1800 is the average number of words before a reader’s attention starts to flag.

Change things up every 1800 words or so.

There are 3 million new titles published every year in the US.

The average title sells 300 books or less in its lifetime.

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