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 www.novelrank.com 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.