Thursday, November 09, 2006

All right, all right

I keep seeing the following stats of books sales from Bookscan for 2004, followed by gasps of shock and horror:

"Of the 1.2 million titles; 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies copies
Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
Only 25,000 titles sold more than 5,000 copies
Fewer than 500 titles sold more than 100,000 copies
Only 10 books sold more than 1,000,000 copies each
The aveage book in the United States sells about 500 copies"

Let's look at this--25,000 titles sold between 5000 and 100,000 copies. That's a lot of books. 25K titles. A bookstore full, each selling between 5K and 100K.

Most commercially published mass market authors, even lower midlist authors, will sell between 5K and 100K books total. That's "normal."

"Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies"
These are the people consistently on the big bestseller lists plus titles that sell year after year (like the Bible).

"Only 10 books sold more than 1 million copies"
Here you'll find the major blockbusters like Nora, Dan Brown, Stephen King and the other famous household name authors. And the Bible, which has been a bestseller since printing began about oh five hundred years ago.

Some other factors to consider.

1. They are counting titles in print not just titles released that year. Those books that sold fewer than 5000 copies could have been in print for 10 years. Or specialty, low-print run books. Or small press books sold in Borders/Waldens (with print runs of 3000 and less). (And a few flops, I'm sure.)

2. Bookscan does not report sales at Walmart and grocery/drug stores, most serviced by Anderson news. Book sales there count for A LOT. So a book that sells 100,000 on Bookscan could potentially have sold 500,000 or more overall. Much better royalty check!

3. Keep in mind this reports sales PER TITLE. One title is not an author's entire career. I had I think six or seven titles in print in 2004, and likely all of them are on this list somewhere. Now I have about a dozen in print. I'm not expecting my four-year-old books to sell in the 50K range--would be nice of course ;-), but not expecting it.

So please, if you are not yet published, don't look at this list and cry "I'll never be able to give up my day job!" It's a fraction of the total picture.

If you publish a mm paperback book with a major house, you'll fall into that 25,000 title range at the very least. And with hard work and engaging writing, you'll make it into the top 500-10 titles that sell whopping well.

If you're whining and saying but, but, but . . . stop writing and go back to your day job.


At 6:33 PM , Blogger Erin Grady said...

Figuring book sales has to be up there with figuring the meaning of life. Good blog--thanks for sharing. :-) Erin

At 8:49 PM , Blogger Carolyn said...

Great post, Jennifer, And I loved the last line.

At 8:07 AM , Blogger Brit Blaise said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I'm still new enough I don't have a clue how to figure book sales. This is an eye-opener! But I'm not whinning...

At 9:36 AM , Blogger Jennifer Ashley said...

Hi Carolyn! Hope you're doing well.

At 9:41 AM , Blogger Jennifer Ashley said...

Brit: The line "the average book sold 500 copies" is just ridiculous. It doesn't take into account the life of the book. Maybe you sold 500 this year, but last year you sold 3,000 and the year before that you sold 75,000. What's the average for that title now?

So please don't worry about stats like this! (which is my point)

At 2:50 PM , Blogger Bonnie Vanak said...



I like wine!

And I have to go back to the day job Monday!

Great post.


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