How Many Books Will I Sell On Amazon?

I get asked lots of questions about this subject via my Dear Della page in Writers’ Forum. So I thought it might be interesting to reproduce a recent letter on my blog.

Q I am about to publish my first novel, an historical romance, on Amazon kindle. I know this is probably a difficult question to answer but how many copies can I reasonably expect to sell? There seems to be a shroud of mystery over the whole business of copies sold.  Most authors I know are very tight lipped about it. What would be realistic?

A This is another one of those million dollar questions.  How many copies you sell will probably depend to a large extent on how many people know it’s there, i.e. how much publicity you do.  You are right – the whole business of numbers of self- published (and traditionally published) books sold is shrouded in mystery and the only truly accurate way of finding out figures is by asking people who will tell you the truth.

Other than that, you are probably aware that Amazon rankings are partly based on book sales.  No one except Amazon knows exactly how the rankings work but a book will move up the rankings when copies are sold. However, I have noticed that as few as two or three sales can propel a book from having a very low ranking of say, 480,000 to an exalted 65,000. I am not a mathematician, but this would imply that several hundred thousand books listed on Amazon simply don’t sell any copies at all. I

There is a rather interesting website that uses Amazon’s ranking to guesstimate book sales. If you visit you can track any book listed on Amazon over a given period, for example, the last month, the last week etc. Novel Rank uses a calculation based on movement in the Amazon ranking to guess the number of sales. I know from experience that it’s quite an accurate guess, especially when sales are few and far between. The more copies of a book that are sold, the less accurate Novel Rank is able to be, its figures get more conservative, not more optimistic. Which is great if you are with a traditional publisher because you tend to be nicely surprised when your royalty cheque arrives.

Novel Rank is not able to supply historical data. So if you start tracking a book today, you can only view its sales from this point on. But it’s a worthwhile tool to know about.

My book, The Novel Writer’s Toolshed sold 30 copies in a day to become a Number One Best Seller in one of its categories.

This little book, which outlines the differences between short stories and novels in detail is just 99p until Thursday. Click here to check it out.


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7 Responses to How Many Books Will I Sell On Amazon?

  1. Carol Hedges says:

    It is all very random isn’t it! I have refused (unlike may writers) to obsess about Amazon. It does what it does…including slashing prices and getting your rankings wrong. How many books you sell, as you say at the top of your piece, will depend on how many people know of you and THAT has nothing to doo with Amazon, and everything to do with YOU and your presence on social media!

    • Della Galton says:

      Yes, Carol, it is a bit. I’m more and more of the opinion that it’s a numbers game. Getting your book in front of as many relevant people, i.e. those who might be interested in the subject, is everything when it comes to sales. Thanks for taking the trouble to comment.

  2. I was staggered to find my ‘Easy Money For Writers And Wannabes’ ranked as an Amazon Number One Best Seller in its category when – to my mind anyway – sales had been quite modest. At a recent writers’ gathering, I asked the owner of a small publishing firm how many copies sold represented success and she said, ‘Anything over 100.’ Having just reached 250 at that point, I must confess that I preened a little. I do agree with you, Della, about self publicity. If we authors don’t beat our own drums these days, no one is going to do it for us.

    • Della Galton says:

      Thanks, Maggie, yes it’s amazing how ‘easy’ it is these days to get a best seller. And I’m being tongue in cheek with the word ‘easy’ as I’ve had two in a week. How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim was also fleetingly a bestseller – and those sales didn’t go near 100. Bestseller, of course, has always just meant top of its category. I remember once talking to an author who was on the New York Times bestseller list (a long time ago) and he said that he was not rich, not even close. Even though all his friends and family assumed he was and wanted free copies of the book. So maybe times haven’t changed as much as we think.

    • Mary Papas says:

      Maggie, I got your book ” Easy money for writer’s and wannabes’ and I loved it. Great info!

  3. Mary Papas says:

    Interesting post, Della. I am still confused about how the whole thing works though. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. With such fierce competition out there, I don’t know how can a new author manage to stand from the crowd…

    • Della Galton says:

      I think it’s always been hard to stand out. The competition has always been tough too. I think it’s a case of write as much as possible, make our writing as good as we can, do all the social media stuff and keep our fingers crossed. That’s my rather muddly approach anyway. 🙂

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