1. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    How many copies can a first time writer expect to sale?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Gottagocit, Feb 14, 2011.

    I am finally in the editing stage of my first book after nearly 3 years of on again off again writing and I am starting to look forward to finally trying to find an agent and eventually a publisher. It is about 110k words and is a fiction based century long treasure hunting suspense novel.

    I have no illusions about instantly becoming a NYT best seller but hope to get published and sell at least a few books. My question for you more experienced writers here is how many copies of your first book did you sell? What genre was it? And finally after later writing additional books how have the numbers improve from the first one?

    Please also include where the book was self published or through a traditional publisher.

    Thanks so much for the help.
    Chris
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    keep in mind that most of the writers here who have books in print were self-published...

    so, in order to relate to your goals, i think you need to ask for sales figures from only those who've had their mss accepted and put into print by traditional/paying publishers...
     
  3. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Good point


    Good point, mammamaia. I hadn't considered that although now that you bring it up it would be interesting to see how the numbers compare between the two methods.

    If I am unable to find success going the tradional route I may also have to try self publishing. In that case the data might help me understand that method better. Time will tell.

    Thanks,
    Chris
     
  4. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I'd guess that the quality of your work has the most to do with it, followed by how much money and effort is put into advertising.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I advocate you go with a traditional publisher. It'll be worth the effort. First of all, if you're sending your manuscript to every pub house in the nation and not getting anywhere, there's probably a reason -- your story needs to be improved to become marketable to bookstores and fully enjoyable for readers. Also, as Maia noted, a traditional publishing company will pay you. A self-publisher will make you pay for all the editing, marketing etc costs, which can put you out several thousand at least, but you'll only sell (literally) a few copies. The average self-published author only sells 50 books, and the majority of buyers are family and friends. Plus, the lack of professional editing in self-publishing companies is a huge turn-off to bookstores, many of which won't even shelve copies of self-published books.

    There are always the few exceptions, of course. Some people have met with success with self-publishing, but I wouldn't recommend you try your hand at being one of them.
     
  6. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I know a guy who self publishes locally here in Seattle area. He was frustrated because agents and publishers wouldn't go near his book. I tried reading the book, and, wow, talk about telling and not showing.

    Not sure how that relates to anything. I guess my point is that if your book is good enough, an agent will take you on, so why not go that route? If you get rejected, most likely there's a good reason for it.
     
  7. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Interesting.

    So the average sells for a self published title is just 50 copies?

    Wow! I hoped to get a answer from those who have gone the traditional route to get a feel of how many copies of their first one sold but don't seem to be getting anyone to respond to the question for some reason.

    Is it 'need to know' info?
     
  8. Kevin B
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    Kevin B Member

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    Not necessarily true. I know mid-list writers that have been dropped by their Agents, and/or Publishers, and it wasn't because their books weren't good enough. It was because the economy took a nose-dive, and the agents were thinning their "crop". The Publishers are sticking with the bestsellers, and some mid-listers are getting cut because the publishers are cutting back their client lists to save money. So, "if your book is good enough", isn't enough anymore.
     
  9. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    It just means the standard for "good enough" has risen. I suspect that a first time author has always had to bring something special to the table to get published, maybe more so now. But there's still a "good enough" line you need to cross, even if its higher than before.
     
  10. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you happen to get picked up with a decent publisher, you also need some luck.

    You're only going to be picked up if they feel you'll make them enough cash to keep running. It's a business and 9 out of 10 times, they'll now what will sell.

    There is a difference in selling a few books, doing what is needed and making the firm happy, and being lucky and selling quiet a few, and getting another contract.

    I don't think enough people actually realise how many authors who get picked up by a nice publisher actually don't get a second chance. Even if they do sell okay.
     
  11. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Make sure to get it beta read before sending it to a publisher. They can help you pick up anything that you may have missed, and help improve your story. You editing it is great but if you don't have anyone else look at it first then you are just wasting your time.

    Friend are no good for this, they won't be critical enough of your work for their feedback to be useful.
     
  12. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Another thing, you may have better luck with a small publisher. Your book is also a lot longer than a normal first submission,60-80k words is about right.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Someone going with a traditional publisher may only sell 50 copies, their books then sent back to the publisher to be pulped. At least when you self publish you get to keep any copies you have purchased instead of having it pulped.

    Whether you go with a traditional publisher or self publisher it pays to edit the book well, write well etc. Then marketing is now mostly down to you - learning to use the internet, talking to people, doing visits etc There isn't a huge difference between what goes into a traditional well sold book and a self published one - except you do it all yourself.

    Fact is you the author can affect hugely how many books you sell it is about the work you put into it as well as luck. That doesn't seem to matter whether you are published or self published. And there are success stories with self publishing I know quite a few - what they all have in common is good books they learned how to market.

    I am contemplating it because I am concerned one of my books may be required to compromise in ways I don't want to.
     
  14. Anonymous Writer
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    Anonymous Writer New Member

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    Speedy - you made me curious, what does "they sell okay" means in the case of the writers you are reffering to? 10000, 20000, or over 100000 copies? Were any writers with over 100000 copies droped out? Please let me know.
    Thank you in advance!

    Best regards!
     
  15. ShortBus
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    what about this scenario. say you get a book published then they drop you. can you self publish a book after it has been published by a company?
     
  16. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    Sure. Unless you sign away "All Rights" which no legitamate publisher would ask for, and no sane author would ever agree to.
     
  17. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the contract--how and when rights revert back to you, the author. Often it depends on the definition of 'out of print' and with ebooks and POD technology, this is a tricky thing more suited for an agent or literary attorney to negotiate as opposed to a first-time author.

    Sometimes you will find authors who give specifics as to sales in the industry, but usually not. Beyond that, it is often unclear immediately how many books have 'sold' as there are returns that may take several months or much more to show up. (Just because a bookstore orders/stocks it on the shelf doesn't mean it was sold).

    Many mid-list authors in the past few years have had trouble getting contracts with similar advances, if they can even get contracts with publishers they've been with for a while. Many times, an author is only as good as their last novel. If it flopped...it may be difficult to sell another novel to that publisher.

    Self-publishing is an option, which is really a discussion for another thread...actually there are a number of threads in the forum that discuss this. But in either case--publisher or self-published (as has been stated above), the quality is a key factor to success.

    With a publisher, in theory, the author will have been offered a contract based on the manusscript's quality and market potential--and professional editing and cover art and distribution and market access, and more will help the author along with sales. With self-published, anybody who has a little computer savy amd the money to do what's needed can give it a shot--in theory, whether there is quality with the work, or not.
     
  18. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    What if the publisher is illegitimate, and the author is just out of his mind?

    Ok, I went too far, again.
     
  19. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Forgive me but.....

    I still have no idea what one might expect for their first book.

    Is there any data or personal experience available to indicate what is typical, average or better yet ever actually seen by anyone on this board to give us hopeful writers an idea of what one should aim or hope for?

    Don't get me wrong. I am very happy to have simply finished writing a complete novel and will be even more so if (when) it's in print but I would appreciate very much hearing from of you as to what realistic aspirations one might have when it comes to selling ones work.

    Thanks so much,
    Chris
     
  20. Anonymous Writer
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    Anonymous Writer New Member

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    I am not a published writer and I am a beginner just as you and this is the approximated data that I found on the internet regarding the subject :
    - as published, if your book is in the acceptable range (nothing exceptional, but not bad), might get 10000-20000 copies sold - and to give you a heads up, just go to Amazon and see that some really bad books are still published today and if your book is better than those, theoretically, you get a chance
    - if your book is good but you are unknown, it can yeld in the 50000-100000 copies sold, that if the publisher has faith in you and takes the risk and effort to properly invest in the advertising of your book (wich might or might not yeld a return, so there is a risk there for the publisher, reason for wich they are quite reticent to invest the proper ammount in the advertising of most of the books published, preffering to invest the difference in bestsellers)
    - as a self published, you have more control of what you are doing, but you can actually get into trouble - if your book will not sell, you will get worse than you were before - at a loss
    - even as a successful self published, you canot hope for more than 500-1000 copies sold, 5000 max
    At least this is the data I could gather and put together.It seems to be pretty accurate, as I collected it from many sources, but I do not guarantee for its accuracy.I have presented it just for informative purposes.

    Best regards!
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    realistically, you could expect to sell from 0 copies on up to whatever the highest sales number is for the most successful 'first novel' of all time, depending on whether you self-publish or can snag a paying publisher and on whether any but family and friends buy the book...

    or, in other words, there is really no way to narrow it down to any 'typical' or 'average' number of sales... that's just a fact of life in re being a writer...

    you never know if you'll ever see your book in print unless you pay to have it done and even then, you can never tell if anyone will actually buy it... or if some do, how many [or few] will...
     
  22. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Thanks for the input. I am sure you are right. I hoped to learn from others here about their first experience with sales but it seems that isn't going to happen. I'll continue with my attempt at editing and rewrite followed by looking for an experienced eye that I can persuade to give it a critical review and
    Just wait to see what comes next.

    Thanks for your help
    Chris
     
  23. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I was kind of disappointed that nobody really answered your question, just so you could see what people have done. The successful people probably want to be modest, and the unsuccessful have nothing to share. (By unsuccessful I refer to sales, which doesn't necessarily capture the complete definition of the term.)
     
  24. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    I was also

    I was disappointed also. Perhaps you have identified the reasons. Perhaps my being new to the site may also be contributing.

    It does seem a bit odd to me that such a relevant question related to one of the primary reasons for writing shared by practically every writer would be received this way. There seem to be many published writers posting here daily.

    Nonetheless I will continue to occassionally read threads posted by others to pick up what I can.

    Thanks

    Chris
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there actually aren't all that many members who have had books published and most who have, are probably loath to reveal how few copies they've sold...
     

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