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This 22 message thread spans 2 pages: 1  2  > >  
  • How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by smutch123 at 18:00 on 06 January 2009
    Hi

    Just catching up on what has been posted since I last checked in and saw Hopper's thread on 'Small publishers versus literary agents.' It had been hijacked but was interesting and I saw the comments on the Londonstani effect and outside links to Bookseller.com,where Alison Flood on her blog does a quick round up of advances against sales

    http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/56617-tops-and-flops-at-lbf.html

    I know it took me a while to get there, but my question is this. Is there a way that anyone (i.e. me) get some stats on how well a particular book has sold? Is this info generally available?

    It is obviosuly available 'in the trade' as Alison Flood is very specific.

    I thought that it would help in making a commercial pitch to an Agent/Publisher if it could be shown how a similar novel in a specific genre has sold.

    Thanks Smutch

  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by EmmaD at 18:10 on 06 January 2009
    The only real, industry-believed figures are available through Neilsen BookScan, from which The Bookseller and everyone else get theirs. It costs a lot to subscribe, though - corporate money, rather than personal. Everyone else gleans what they can from the charts and other pieces in the Bookseller, but obviously that's only for books which make it into the charts in the first place. Can't remember how much of the charts you can see without subscribing to The Bookseller online, or haunting the subscription big libraries will have.

    Having said that, the different Bookseller charts are quite specific, so they're not all dominated by the five big names - the Heatseekers, particularly, is specifically for authors who haven't been in the big charts for the preceding five years (or something like that).

    Emma

    <Added>

    TBH, though, while it might be interesting for you, an agent or editor will have much better access to those figures than you have, so I don't think you'd have gained a lot by quoting them.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by NMott at 18:26 on 06 January 2009
    I thought that it would help in making a commercial pitch to an Agent/Publisher if it could be shown how a similar novel in a specific genre has sold.


    As Emma says, it's very doubtful it would help your submission to quote sales figures to an Agent.
    Bottom line, acceptance depends on the quality of the writing in the first three chapters, rather than comparisons to other books - with one exception: where you are comparing your prose style to that of other authors already on that agent's list, ie, targetted submissions - showing the Agent that you have done your homework and are submitting to them because you think your novel will fit their list.


    - NaomiM

    <Added>

    If you are comparing your novel to that of an author who is not on their list, they are more likely to wonder why you are submitting to them, rather than to that author's agent.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by smutch123 at 18:39 on 06 January 2009
    Thanks for the info Emma, it is very helpful.

    Ref your added thought;

    while it might be interesting for you, an agent or editor will have much better access to those figures than you have, so I don't think you'd have gained a lot by quoting them.


    I have something specific in mind and as I have been a Sales and Marketing Director for over twenty years, I think what I have in mind is valid for my purposes. I just did not want to go into those purposes in depth in my post, but sought to offer a reason why I was interested in the info.

    What I was really after was where the info was available from and you have given me that.

    Thanks again

    Smutch

    Thanks Naomi
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by susieangela at 09:59 on 07 January 2009
    Emma, isn't there a device on Google whereby you can find out how many of each book they've sold? I suppose if so, that could be an indication of how well a book is doing generally? (How, BTW, do you find this on Google?)
    Susiex
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by EmmaD at 10:37 on 07 January 2009
    I'm afraid I was defaulting to the assumption that we were talking about fiction. I think there might be a much stronger case for finding out how non-fiction books on a particular subject sell, as an indication of the size of the market...

    Susie, not that I've heard of. There's Amazon rankings, of course, but they're a very uncertain indication, because they're not cumulative...

    Emma
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by NMott at 13:46 on 07 January 2009
    Ah, sorry, I assumed you were talking about fiction, too.
    Amazon rankings are not reliable indicators, and some books do comparatively well in their field despite having a small print run.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by susieangela at 14:18 on 07 January 2009
    Emma - was having a very senior moment. I meant Amazon.
    Susiex
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by snowbell at 16:36 on 07 January 2009
    Can anyone explain in a nutshell how Amazon rankings actually works? Does it relate to anything that makes any kind of sense or not really and should just be forgotten about?
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by NMott at 17:05 on 07 January 2009
    It's a ranking of how fast the book is selling over a given period of time, not of total number of copies sold. So you could have a book in the top ten over the course of a weekend if a couple of thousand copies are sold, but it will gradually sink down to xx,xxxth, or even xxx,xxxth, place, if no more books are sold.

    <Added>

    maybe that should be: ..if a couple of thousand copies are sold over the course of a weekend, but it will gradually sink down to xx,xxxth, or even xxx,xxxth, place, if no more copies are sold.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by snowbell at 21:38 on 07 January 2009
    Oh. I knew you'd be able to explain it simply Naomi. Thank you! I was looking up websites and they were coming up with so much goobledigook I couldn't understand.

    Not sure what to make of that though. Sounds a little useless if you don't know what it corresponds to, isn't it? Probably better that way, maybe.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by EmmaD at 22:47 on 07 January 2009
    Amazon keep the algorithms involved very close to their chests, I think, to avoid people trying to influence it.

    I think the ranking rates searches and so on, as well as actual purchases. I know publishers use it to see if some PR effort or whatever has had an effect, because it'll spike if it has. (Indeed, I've seen mine spike enormously, and I know exactly why, because the friend who's just ordered, has just told me the have) But as Naomi says, it's only relative to other books in that day or that week. And then it gradually drifts downwards to whatever its normal sort of level is at the moment. In many ways, I think the movement is more revealing of what's going on than the absolute figure, if that makes any sense.

    Emma

    <Added>

    How often it's updated varies too - it may have changed, but a year or two ago they updated something like the top 1000 every hour, and the top 100,000 every day, and the rest once a week. Or something. So the spike an obscure book does one day is actually caused by the cumulative sales of a week, but chances are that isn't many, in any case.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by Steerpike`s sister at 12:24 on 08 January 2009
    If you ask a Waterstone's bookseller nicely they might be able to tell you how many the book has sold company-wide. Then multiply by four to get total sales. A regional manager for waterstone's told me this and I find it accurate for my books so far, comparing it to royalty statement.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by mariaharris at 11:05 on 09 January 2009
    You can try asking your publisher...if you dare. They can just look them up.

    I never have (dared), but once my agent did and also once, when she was calling up to give me some bad news (that my editor was leaving), the MD of my publisher looked up the sales figures and teold me there and then - I guess to be able to give me some nice news too.
  • Re: How do you find out how many copies a book has sold?
    by EmmaD at 12:04 on 09 January 2009
    I did ask my editor about TMOL, about three months after the pb came out. She came back to me with a round figure, but as it hb and pb and the export editions as well, it was more satisfying, but sort-of less meaningful. And I do try to work it out from royalty statements, once I'd got my agent to pass those on (I think they don't normally bother until a book's earned out) but they're horribly difficult to make much sense of.

    Emma
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