Monday, September 14, 2009

Dismal Book Sales Numbers (and hints that you can improve yours)

In my last post, I told you the story of the author at a conference I attended who told me I’d done very well to sell 300 copies (at the time) of my Dear America book. He said most books don’t sell more than 100 copies.

Is that true?

A few years ago there were some numbers floating around writing circles. (I wish I could tell you where they originated, but I haven’t been able to find that information. I think they were in Publishers Weekly or some such publication, but I don’t know for sure.)

Author Randy Ingermanson ( recapped them and analyzed them in his The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine in August 2007. Here’s a portion of what Randy wrote:

In the last few months, it seems like everybody has been quoting the same set of horrifying numbers, a group of sales figures for books in the year 2004.

Why 2004? Because that is the most recent year for which reasonably accurate statistics are available…

Here are some of those brutal numbers.

In 2004, about 1.2 million books were in print.

80% of those books sold fewer than 100 copies.

98% sold fewer than 5000 copies.

Only a few hundred books sold more than 100,000 copies.

About 10 books sold over a million copies.

Randy noted that many of those book were self-published by authors who couldn’t find a traditional publisher and so self-published and ended up with cases of books molding in their garages. Randy also noted that not all of those books were published that year, and therefore might be on the waning end of their sales history.

So, is it terrific that I sold more than 300 copies of Dear America?

By some standards, perhaps I did pretty well.

But I know this: I need to do way better than that next time.

And so do you.

We need to do way better than that if we’re publishing with a traditional publisher (so they’ll want to publish us again!). And if we’re self- (independently) publishing, we need to do way better than that to make it feasible to publish, and then to go beyond “feasibility” to actually, um, make a profit. (This is not a sin.) Why is making a profit important? Just like the traditional publishers: so we can live to publish another book. And, so we can get our book in the hands of as many people as possible for them to read it because that is, after all, why we wrote it. Correct?

So I’ve been thinking, brainstorming, studying, and learning all I can about how to sell books. I’ve learned a ton. And yet I think I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ll share what I’ve learned so far and what I continue to learn as this blog continues.

Sharing what I’ve learned so you can do well with your book. That’s what I intend this blog to be all about.

No comments: