How many books will I sell?

 It’s impossible to tell how many books you will sell because it depends on so many factors.

  1. The quality of your book
  2. Whether people like it enough to recommend it to others.
  3. The strength of the opposition from other similar books.
  4. The size of your target market.
  5. The price you are charging
  6. The quality of your marketing.

Notice that I’ve put marketing last. No amount of marketing will sell a bad book, but a good book may sell well without much marketing if it gets word-of-mouth recommendations.

But I need to know probable sales so I can work out how much I can afford to spend on publication .
Any answer is going to be a guess, but we can narrow it down a little. For instance, most books sell at least two copies: one to you (just to test the system) and one to your best friend, lover or mother. You are very unlikely to make no sales at all. If you do, you’ve done something really wrong (like forgetting to click the publish button on Kindle Direct Publishing).

 At the other extreme, you are unlikely to sell books in huge numbers. Although we all read stories of authors who sell hundreds of thousands of copies, they are in the minority which explains why they are news. Most books sell in modest numbers that hopefully add up over time to something more satisfying.

When you are working out your costings, it’s safest to assume you’ll only sell a few hundred at most and be pleasantly surprised if you sell more than that. Also remember the golden rule of self-publishing.


Not all books earn enough to cover their costs and even traditional publishers don’t make a profit on all their books. So don’t be surprised if your book doesn’t sell as well as you’d hoped.

Will I sell the same amount all the time?
No. Sales will vary through the year. I watch my Amazon sales closely and have found that

  1. They are much higher in the run-up to Christmas
  2. They drop off in Februray/March
  3. They are low in May/June when my target market is doing exams.
  4. They pick up after the exams are over and during the summer months when people buy books to read on the beach.

I guarantee that your sales will vary through the year, but you may see a different pattern to mine. For instance, books on dieting often sell well in January, gardening books are popular in the spring and summer and the exam period that hits my fiction sales gives revision guides a boost.

 What else makes sales vary?
Any promotions you run can increase sales as can Amazon deciding to discount your print book (which is something you can’t control). A big story in the news can boost sales too if it triggers interest in the topic your book covers, although you may need to do some marketing to make the most of this effect.

The passage of time also affects sales. They may go up as word-of-mouth recommendations build or drop off as the impact of your initial publicity dies away. Whatever happens, don’t be despondent and don’t spend too much time worrying. Once the book is on sale and you’ve done your best with marketing, success or failure is largely out of your control. So take what you have learned from creating this book and start writing the next one.

Diana Kimpton

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