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Bad Horse

Beneath the microscope, you contain galaxies.

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We are the two percent · 2:35am Nov 13th, 2014


Total books sold in America in 2013: 2.6 billion.
Total print books sold in America in 2013 and reported to Nielsen's Bookscan Retail & Club Channel: 501.6 million
Fraction of Bookscan sales included in its Retail & Club Channel: 0.8
Fraction of books sold in America reported to Bookscan: 0.75
Total print books sold in America in 2013: 501.6 million / 0.8 / 0.75 = 836 million
Fraction of books sold in 2013 that were e-books: 0.3
Number of e-books sold in 2013: E / (E + 836 million) = 0.3, 0.3E + 0.3*836 million = 1E, E = 250.8 million / 0.7 = 358 million
Total books sold in America in 2013: 836 million + 358 million = 1.19 billion
Fraction of books that are fiction: Something like 0.6. 0.454., though this may be an underestimate because a higher fraction of e-books are fiction
Length of a typical novel: Under 100,000 words (literaryrejections.com, writersdigest.com).
Total words of fiction sold per year in America: 2.6 billion * 0.6 * 80,000 = 125 trillion words 1.19 billion * ~0.454 * ~80,000 = 43.2 trillion words

(Most of these figures were surprisingly hard to find. Everybody reports on trends, percent change, and dollars. Nobody cares about number of books sold.)

I can’t tell when stories were read, but the number of reads on stories published within a single year would approximate the number of reads per year if our time series were long enough and constant enough. Counting reads of stories published in 2014 counts reads in 2015 of those stories, but not reads in 2014 of stories from 2011-2013.

Total words of fiction read on fimfiction since its beginning:
sqlite> select sum(views * words) from story;
2682702309872 (2.68 trillion)
(This is "story views" times words per story. It's an over-estimate, because about half of readers quit a story on fimfiction after the first chapter. But it's the same kind of overestimate you get from counting books sold instead of books read.)

Words read on fimfiction of stories published in 2014: 1,150,665,091,621 (1.15 trillion)
Fraction of those words read in America: 0.679, from the statistics from my user page
Words read on fimfiction in America in 2014: 1.15 trillion * 0.679 = about 0.781 trillion words
0.781 / 43.2 = 0.0181


fimfiction accounts for about 2% as much reading as do all of the new books sold in America.

That makes ponyfiction more popular than Westerns, and nearly as popular as horror.

All that doesn't take into account people who read library books and old books, though. I understand some people still do that. :ajsmug:

(Caveat: Listing all the stories with over 100,000 views, I found Merlos the Mad has a 47,000-word story called "Thunderstruck" that has 8725 views, except for chapter 7, which claims to have 262,000 views. That's an extra 12 billion words reported right there. Hopefully there aren't many database errors like that.)

Report Bad Horse · 2,007 views · #math #fimfiction
Comments ( 35 )

I want to say that can't possibly be right, but the numbers seem to check out (i.e they look superficially plausible).

We're growing. Expanding in exponential degrees. Just wait till they see our final form.

Interesting. Of course, it needs to take into account fiction written in other places, like fanfiction.net. Still makes you realize the sheer size of this site.

Horse, you are a friggin genius with the stuff you figure out :rainbowderp:

There is nothing like a book--
Nothing in the world!
There is nothing on your Nook
That is anything like a book!

Makes me wonder what the sum total of all fanfiction reading compared to all traditionally published fiction looks like.

I know that I personally have been reading at a much faster rate since I found fanfiction compared to before, judging by a rough words per day count, and I wasn't exactly a slouch previously.

Math - making people feel less like outcasts since 1957*

*Or roughly around there, really.

Comment posted by SpaceCommie deleted Nov 13th, 2014

I think the only thing you've proven here is that fiction that is not published in the traditional manner and then sold in bookstores constitutes a significant portion of Americans' fiction reading. You don't appear to have accounted for unpublished or independently published works that are made available for free to anyone who knows where to look.

2591386 True! I tried fanfiction.net, but it doesn't give out any statistics at all.

Awesome stats! So many horse words, so little time!

And here I was, literally thinking as I logged on that I hadn't seen you post anything lately. It's not creepy! I just enjoy your stories and blogs. :twilightsmile:

Cool. Stuff self-published on amazon isn't tracked either so that's going to be a big boost to the non-fanfic side of things. Still, even if FimFictionjavascript:void(0); only comes out to 0.5 percent, that's impressive.

2591415 I'm pretty sure self-published stuff on Amazon is tracked. e-books are tracked, and Amazon is the biggest e-book seller.

Re. that Merlos the Mad story, it turns out there is an AWESOME "PHOTO" of Sweetie-Bot in chapter 7:


Perhaps somebody linked people to that chapter to see the picture?

...why don't I get fan art like that?

Well, it's biased since it is comparing Fimfiction to published fiction, and does not account for all of the other fanfiction out there. Fimfiction is not 1% of all fiction, but it may be equal to 1% of published fiction sold (based on these highly selective numbers).

On the other hand, the 2.6 billion number from your link includes journals, so you may be OVERestimating the amount of fiction sold each year. Publisher's Weekly has total (print) sales for 2013 at a bit over half a billion books sold in the US, and less than half of those were fiction. It does note, though, that ebooks hit adult fiction sales much harder than other types, so total fictions sales including ebooks may be a higher percentage.

...After a bit of digging, I can't find any specific reliable sources to cite, but several sources estimate ebooks to be roughly 25% of the total book market, but 50% of fiction. (US only. The percentages are much lower in Canada and the UK for some reason.) Extrapolating from the previous numbers, that would put fiction at about... 60% of total, just like you originally had. :ajbemused: But that's still only 450 million books, now that journals are removed from the equation, or roughly 36 trillion words (possibly lower, since these numbers include juvenile fiction which tends to be shorter). So Fimfiction is equal to more like 3-4% of published fiction sold. Again, not counting all the other fanfiction out there on the interwebs.

I swear these numbers do not feel right, though. I suspect we're missing a variable somewhere that makes fimfiction look a lot bigger than it really is, similar to the fanfic.net numbers that made Master of the Universe (the early version of 50 Shadres of Grey) look more popular than most NYTimes bestsellers when it was still just a Twilight fanfic. Of course, that...thing eventually became an ACTUAL NYTimes bestseller.

Wait... You can't compare one kind of fanfiction to published fiction, then declare it a set percentage of all fiction without checking other non-published sources of fiction. That's like me declaring Australia produces one percent of the world's wool because I found it produced one percent of the USA's wool (this is a hypothetical, not the actual state of world wool production). It just doesn't work.

Amazon tracks what they sell, but they don't give those numbers out. A lot of the self-published stuff doesn't have an isbn or anything except amazon's internal number codes so it's really hard to get concrete numbers.

2591439 You're right, but do you think other non-published fiction accounts for more than 20% of all fiction?

It still holds that fimfiction readers read about 1% as many words as people read from books. Still pretty impressive.

ADDED: Er, that fimfiction readers read about 1% as many words as people read from new books.

… I feel like this should make me rethink my plan of publishing a science fiction novel. Oh well, I already wrote the thing, what else am I going to do with it?

As already mentioned, there is error in the published books figure due to other fanfiction and such, but there's another significant contributor: Libraries. I'm sure that it's possible to at least estimate the number of words of fiction read from libraries.

But that's still pretty neat. Really small, but big enough to (probably) not be lumped in with "other things" on a pie chart.

2591431 Journals should include fiction journals. When I go to Barnes & Noble, there are a lot more nonfiction than fiction magazines, though.

Within an order of magnitude, fimfiction is safely 1% of all fiction read in america.


I couldn't afford to keep reading as fast as I did with bookstores, and libraries didn't update their stock fast enough for me.

Fanfiction is the only way I can conceive of getting enough literature into me in a month whilst still being able to afford such luxuries as food.

Author Interviewer

Knowing nothing about the story, can I assume that chapter 7 is where the clop happens?

Author Interviewer

I was wrong, there's no clop. :B Sweet new avatar, btw.

2591342 I confess, I found my reading habits have changed since I started ready ponyfic. I'm much more likely to read non-fiction works as the fiction I tend to read is pony.

One cavet: The stats on Fimfiction.net are a little wonky in places. I've got one story with a thousand chapter views nearly all the way through, and 45,000 chapter views on a single chapter in the middle, and that's not because of any cute pictures.

2591354 Sway over publishers isn't measured in readers, it's measured in dollars, so...

Not intrinsically. Most of us fanfiction readers probably spend the same or less on books than we did before we discovered fanfiction. I, personally, have less pull over publishers, because I spend less. I'd still consider buying a novel, but now that comes after I browse fimfic with "over 200,00 words" and "complete" as my search queries and still find nothing interesting-looking that I haven't read. Fanfic is free, after all, so I'm more likely to try something that might be fun, because if it isn't I can click a new tab and be done. Buying a novel, even a paperback, and finding out it isn't good is more of a disappointment.

On the other hoof, if Pen Stroke or bookplayer wrote a new story and published it through a traditional monetized publisher, I'd be inclined to buy it. I am in a market.

On the other other hoof, that market can be tricky to tap, because they can't sell it as horsewords or even by the author's username. So the ability for me to know about such a book is limited.

On the other other other hoof, (having four limbs is useful sometimes) E. L. James is a millionaire. So, we have proof of concept.

...so we're richer than skimmed, but less than whole?

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