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  #1  
Old 01-25-2016, 06:03 PM
hakuchen hakuchen is offline
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Default Probability That Any Book May Be Read

I have a question and I'm hoping people can impart some wisdom to my dilemma. My dilemma is lack of data to apply to this problem. The question I'm trying to answer is the probability that any book (in the English language) may be read by any Joe Bloggs.

The reason I want to know is because of the protagonist in a new novel that's being written, who is a writer, is on the brink of publishing his book and wants to ascertain his possible readership. This is what has been written:

"Jay grappled to calculate his possible readership—based on a universe of 2 billion English learners, according to Wikipedia. A prominent American research institute cites, eighty-five percent of these “English learners” don’t actually buy books in any given year, approximating to a market-size of 300 million people, which coincidentally, correlates roughly with the number of active customer accounts on Amazon.com. If every one of these people bought the mean number of books, which Pew says is fifteen, from the range of books ever published in human history (129 million books according to Google), each publication would be bought at least thirty-four times, giving him a readership of at least the same amount. And considering that of that number of books consumed in any given year, only forty-three percent will be read to completion—effectively, this means that his book would be read in full by only seventeen other people in the entire universe."

Is Jay's thinking correct? Is there a better way to think about solving this problem? I think it yields inaccurate results because it is calculated using average. I'm thinking somewhere in there we need the probability of something (e.g. non-fiction books consumed or fiction book consumed, etc). Could we say it with a reasonable degree of certainty?

I'd appreciate discussion to solve this very perplexing problem.
Thank you
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Old 01-25-2016, 06:11 PM
nonlnear nonlnear is offline
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Rather than thinking about populations and market sizes (a great way to come up with rosy projections about any non-existent product), Jay should look at the life cycle of a typical low circulation book's sales. But well before even that, Jay should consider the following problems: how likely is it that one person will read his book? This is a non-trivial problem. Then, how will he go about finding 10 people to read it? After those two calibration exercises, Jay can get back to working towards earning his Field's Medal in consultant arithmetic.
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Old 01-25-2016, 06:42 PM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is online now
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Why does "Jay" care if his books are read?
He should care that the books are bought.

"Jay" should work to get a nice, non-refundable advance, than have his commissions start after the advance has been earned.
It's the publisher's job to get the book printed and bought.
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Old 01-25-2016, 09:32 PM
hakuchen hakuchen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nonlnear View Post
Rather than thinking about populations and market sizes (a great way to come up with rosy projections about any non-existent product), Jay should look at the life cycle of a typical low circulation book's sales. But well before even that, Jay should consider the following problems: how likely is it that one person will read his book? This is a non-trivial problem. Then, how will he go about finding 10 people to read it? After those two calibration exercises, Jay can get back to working towards earning his Field's Medal in consultant arithmetic.
Jay doesn't care so much, principally, whether he profits from his writing, moreso that it be read. Perhaps some context would be useful here. As a minimum, Jay's book would need to be read by at least 1 other person (the editor) for it to be published, assuming that he doesn't self-publish his book, which is the case in this example.

Jay goes to a publisher--his book may be read by more people in the value chain (agent, production, design, marketing, et al). Assuming zero sales in the marketplace upon launching his book, it would have to be read by at least x number of people to get it to the stand.

Thanks for your heads up nonlnear and Dr T Non-Fan.
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Old 01-26-2016, 12:45 AM
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You're going to want to significantly differentiate between books that have been published more recently and those from long ago in your (129 million books). Those long ago won't get the average # of copies, and those from more recent will get the balance. So presume 100 million will get 3 copies each, solve for the # sold of the other 29 million, you might have a more reasonable estimate of expected copies. [Pick your own numbers, maybe play with it a little bit to see the sensitivities.]
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Old 01-26-2016, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hakuchen View Post
Jay doesn't care so much, principally, whether he profits from his writing, moreso that it be read. Perhaps some context would be useful here. As a minimum, Jay's book would need to be read by at least 1 other person (the editor) for it to be published, assuming that he doesn't self-publish his book, which is the case in this example.

Jay goes to a publisher--his book may be read by more people in the value chain (agent, production, design, marketing, et al). Assuming zero sales in the marketplace upon launching his book, it would have to be read by at least x number of people to get it to the stand.

Thanks for your heads up nonlnear and Dr T Non-Fan.
You might try to Google "slush pile." I haven't tried it myself, so I don't know what you'll find there.
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:47 AM
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The uniform distribution (34 each of 129 million books) is a pretty poor assumption. I would expect it to be closer to some sort of exponential distribution, ranging from The Bible and Harry Potter near the top end, and Bob's Irish Cheese Making Guide at the other end.
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:14 AM
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I like cheese.
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Old 01-28-2016, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hakuchen View Post
Jay doesn't care so much, principally, whether he profits from his writing, moreso that it be read. Perhaps some context would be useful here. As a minimum, Jay's book would need to be read by at least 1 other person (the editor) for it to be published, assuming that he doesn't self-publish his book, which is the case in this example.

Jay goes to a publisher--his book may be read by more people in the value chain (agent, production, design, marketing, et al). Assuming zero sales in the marketplace upon launching his book, it would have to be read by at least x number of people to get it to the stand.

Thanks for your heads up nonlnear and Dr T Non-Fan.
Then I don't care so much to solve the problem.
You're welcome!
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