In an effort to estimate just how astonishingly rich and famous I am going to become from my Sci-Fi writing, I decided to calculate the potential readership of my books; a sort of Drake Equation for Hard Sci-Fi.
Let’s look at the terms:
R, Number of technically advanced readers
This is the magic number we are looking for; the higher the better!
p, Rate of people formation on Planet Earth
As I am new to the market, I don’t need to rely on new people being born, let’s just make this easy and go with the current population of the planet. We do need to remove kids,(25%) so I will go with a nice round 6 Billion.
r, Fraction of population who can read
As my books are not translated into other languages, here we need to restrict ourselves to those who can read English. 20% of the world speak English, and of these 75% can read (as with the actual Drake Equation, these figures are estimates). We are down to 900 Million. Looking pretty good! But, just to be on the safe side, I will wait a few more terms before putting in my order for a Lamborghini!
f, Fraction of readers where reading of fiction actually occurs
From studies in this area, averaging between men and women, it looks like approximately 50% read at least one book/year.
B, Number of books read per year by each reading individual
The numbers are getting less precise, but studying a few articles on the topic, it seems the average reader reports that they read about 4 books/year. About half of these are fiction.
Whoa! We are at 2.2Billion books/year. Forget the Lambo, I’m going to talk to Richard Branson about buying an Island!
fs, Fraction of books read that are Science Fiction
Here it gets tricky. We don’t have a very scientific classification system for genres. Some studies claim 25% of people read Sci-Fi, but these often lump in fantasy (which is clearly corrupt!). It seems that out of the ‘Speculative Fiction’ bucket, only 20% is actually science fiction.
fhs, Fraction of Sci-Fi readers who enjoy Hard-Science Fiction
We pair-down our readers again here. Of the remaining science fiction readers, the majority seem to head for Science Fantasy (Star Wars) or military space opera. Actual Hard Sci-Fi seems to be about 5% (based on a back of the envelope calculation comparing the sales rank between Science Fiction and Hard Science Fiction on Amazon)
We are still at 2.2 Million books/year.
ftw, Fraction who have heard of me (…or you if you use your numbers below)
Unfortunately, this is where things get nasty 🙁
My author page has 1000 likes on Facebook and I have 4500 followers on Twitter. So let’s say 5K out of a potential population of 900 Million. (It’s probably not quite as bad as this as many people will see my posts and tweets and not end up following me. There will also be some word of mouth, this probably scales non-linearly at some point.) To keep it simple that’s about 0.00005% of the population who have heard of me.
6000000000 * 0.2 * 0.75 * 0.5 * 2 * 0.25 * 0.2 * 0.05 * 0.0000005
Substituting these estimates and working through the equation, rounding to the nearest integer because I don’t think we can count half a person, we get 1.
I hope you bought your copy already! 😉