How many books are printed in one edition of a book?
November 7, 2019 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to verify the number of books printed in a edition of a book?
posted by plant or animal to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You'd need to ask the publisher -- in my experience, there's no industry standard for this, and there's very rarely an indication on the book itself of how many copies were printed.
posted by Siobhan at 8:52 AM on November 7


Yes, it really varies quite a bit among publishers and across print runs. There isn't even broad agreement about how to denote a print run, although several houses adhere to the number line convention on the verso and/or a mark on one of the final signatures. If you have a specific example there are a number of mefites with experience in these matters.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:08 AM on November 7


Echoing what others have said: To my knowledge, there's no universal way to know. Beyond the publisher, you could ask the author. They might know (or very easily might not -- or might well be unwilling to share).
posted by veggieboy at 9:50 AM on November 7


Hi. I'm a book editor. The short answer is no, unless you can get the info directly from the publisher, the author's agent, or the author. And there is no universal standard, even within a publishing house. Even within a specific line at a publishing house.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:09 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Publishing professional here. Aside from numbered print runs, this isn't possible. Frankly, sometimes we don't even know exactly how many copies of a print run got printed, because the printers are allowed some overage so if we order 1500 we might get 1582. There will be a reported number for royalties and we try to reconcile as best we can, but between printer overages, damages, and other factors, it's not possible to get too precise.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:38 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Thanks for all the answers.

So, let's say an author loses their trust in the publisher, nothing can be done?

Or, can publishers just lie about the number of books sold with no consequence?
posted by plant or animal at 10:47 AM on November 7


let's say an author loses their trust in the publisher, nothing can be done?

Or, can publishers just lie about the number of books sold with no consequence?


Librarian here, I'm a little confused about the focus on books printed, I would think an author in this situation would care more about books sold. Which also, no, you can't really get that information, it's like getting a recipe from a fast food restaurant. There IS a number, and that number is known, but it's a trade "secret" and not a number that is released to the public except in certain publicity circumstances.

That said, I am also an author and I specifically asked my editor what a likely print run for my book was going to be and she told me. There would be, however, no way for me to independently verify that without asking the publisher or the printer.

You can look at other AskMe questions about estimating books sold to see ways you could at least try to estimate this number. But yes, it's a problem.
posted by jessamyn at 11:06 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I'm a little confused about the focus on books printed, I would think an author in this situation would care more about books sold.

Sometimes the author gets a certain percentage of the printed books as a form of payment.
posted by plant or animal at 11:12 AM on November 7


I'd advise the author to look at their contract. In matters pertaining to sales of a book and royalties owed, there's often a clause in there somewhere when and how to audit your publisher if you suspect there has been an accidental or deliberate error in accounting. There are also usually specifics laid out as to what counts as being "in print."

Can you be more specific about what your concern is?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:13 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Sorry, my comment was posted at the same time as your update!

It sounds like this is a very small publisher. If the author thinks the publisher is being dishonest regarding the number of books printed, they could request to see a copy of the contract with the printer? Other than that, unless the author has a contact at the printer or maybe the warehouse who can do some snooping, there's no way to get this information short of some kind of legal action against the publisher.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:17 AM on November 7


Me again, the book editor. Yeah, the only way an author would independently be able to figure this out if they lost trust in their publisher would be to instigate an audit, via a legal process or by formally exercising some option that may be in their contract. If there's an agent involved, the first step might be to have the agent request up-to-date accounting from the publisher and go from there.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:51 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Keep in mind that number of books sold is going to be very different from number of books printed, and the number of books left over in the warehouse is not going to be #printed-#sold as in most cases, unsold books are destroyed by the bookseller rather than sent back.
posted by bq at 1:42 PM on November 7


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