10 October 2009

Some Numbers on Chess Book Publishing

In 'I'd be on my very own from the first move', I quoted Chess.com member DrawMaster asking, 'Why not give up completely on traditional chess?', then making three important points,
  • 'You would never waste another $20 on some nearly useless openings manual.
  • Or waste another moment trying to remember lines.
  • Or waste another thread post ruminating on the merits of the QGD or the Ruy.'

Note that the question is not about giving up completely on chess; it is about taking up chess960 and giving up on traditional chess. If this should happen -- and it's not at all certain that it will -- any obsession with specific chess openings would disappear. What then would chess writers publish, what would chess players study when they're not playing, and what would they talk about with other chess players?

The issue of chess publishing is the most critical. Along with playing and teaching, writing is a source of income for many professional and semi-professional chess players. Are books about openings really so important to the publishing industry? Let's look at the British Chess Magazine's (BCM) Chess Books & Reviews for Q3 in 2009.

  • September 2009 • 8 books reviewed, 4 on the openings : King's Indian; Trompowsky; Pirc; Secrets of Opening Surprises, Vol. 11

  • August 2009 • 9 books, 6 openings : Sicilian Dragon; Colle-Zukertort (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3); Catalan; Spanish (Ruy Lopez); Sokolsky (1.b4); Sicilian 3.Bb5

  • July 2009 • 8 books, 3 openings : Ruy Lopez; Dutch Stonewall; Sicilian

Out of 25 books reviewed over the three month period, 13 were on the openings. That implies that about half of all chess books published today have something to with openings. What are these opening books about?

Although a few opening names appear more than once in this list -- Sicilian, Ruy Lopez -- the 13 recent books cover a variety of different openings. Extend the three months over a longer period, and we start to see a lot of duplication. Taking the first opening on the list, the King's Indian, here are titles from Book Reviews on JeremySilman.com ('Our complete archive of book reviews. Dwarfs anything else on the web!').

  • ART OF THE KING'S INDIAN, THE by Gufeld
  • BEAT THE KID by Jan Markos
  • BEATING THE KING'S INDIAN AND BENONI by Vaisser
  • BEATING THE KING'S INDIAN AND GRUNFELD by Taylor
  • BRONSTEIN ON THE KING'S INDIAN by Bronstein
  • CONTROVERSIAL SAEMISCH KING'S INDIAN, THE by Ward
  • DANGEROUS WEAPONS: THE KING'S INDIAN by Palliser, Dembo, and Flear
  • EASY GUIDE TO THE NGE2 KING'S INDIAN by Forintos & Haag
  • KILL KID 1 by Semko Semkov
  • KING'S INDIAN AND GRUNFELD: FIANCHETTO LINES by Janigava
  • KING'S INDIAN DEFENCE: MAR DEL PLATA VARIATION by Gligoric
  • KING'S INDIAN WITH h3 by Breutigam [CD-ROM]
  • OFFBEAT KING'S INDIAN by Panczyk and Ilczuk
  • PLAY THE KING'S INDIAN by Gallagher
  • SAMISCH KING'S INDIAN UNCOVERED by Cherniaev and Prokuronov
  • STARTING OUT: THE KING'S INDIAN by Gallagher
  • UNDERSTANDING THE KING'S INDIAN by Golubev

These are titles that have been reviewed in the seven or eight years that JeremySilman.com has been on the web. There are certainly others.

How profitable are these books? That is a question that only the publishers and authors can answer. My guess, based on what little I know about the chess publishing industry, is that the average number of copies sold is in the four digit range and that each copy sold makes a couple of bucks for the publisher and similar for the author.

1 comment:

riku said...

Some of those authors could start writing and selling books about chess960 too. We need some good general books describing how to deal with 960 when you start a game: what to look for and how to strategize.

Hopefully sites like chess.com will make their databases of finished 960 games available for analysis. With enough data authors could start cranking out books about the best ways to handle each one of the 960 layouts.