Saturday, February 6, 2010

Compare the Stats: WISE book beat the odds

New readers may not know that I (Chrystal Ocean) was the Founder of WISE (Wellbeing through Inclusion Socially & Economically), a group created for and led by women in poverty. WISE folded in late 2006 due to cuts and changes to Status of Women Canada.

In the short period of its existence WISE changed lives. Its work continues to do so.

WISE's first project had many unexpected and welcome outcomes. They included the 192-page book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health: Stories from the front.

A book not being part of the objectives for which WISE received its small Status of Women grant, I wrote, designed, published, arranged - and then paid for - printing of the book myself. It includes both the stories of the 21 women who participated in the project and the two project reports: an analysis of the issues and the storytellers' recommendations for change. It made no sense to any of us that our stories never be heard or read by others, except only by the funder.

One thousand copies of the book were sold. Now I learn how very well the book did compared to the number of books produced each year.

According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

Consider these facts:
  • The Canadian book publishing market is 1/10th the size of the US market.
  • A book researched, written, designed and published by a woman living in poverty in a small Canadian community sold 1,000 copies.
  • The podcast site for the book is approaching 15,000 24,000 30,000 visits.
  • Academics regularly use the podcast site for teaching purposes.
  • In answer to demand, the book is now selling in electronic form. That is, I'm making available the PDF files, cover and manuscript, that I sent to the printer. (Some people expect me to distribute the electronic form of my work for free. Such thinking suggests a double standard; ask most academics to do that and they'd go apoplectic.)

No comments: