Authors! How Many Books Did You Sell? A Survey.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So when I get back from Greece, I’m going to talk frankly about how many units my books Flex and The Flux sold.
There’s just one problem:
I don’t know whether that number is actually an impressive number.
The problem with publishing is that a) nobody wants to share their failures, and b) the successes push the top of the scale so much that it skews your vision.  Okay, if you sell 100,000 copies of your novel, you’ve done pretty well.
Yet what do good midlist sales numbers look like?
…somewhere between 100,000 copies and zero.   I guess.  Hardly anyone discusses the mid-range numbers, making it difficult to say what an author can, or should, expect.
So here’s where I ask my fellow authors: how many copies of your book did you sell?  If you made a blog post, or know of a blog post that discusses units (and not total dollars made), point me to that blog post.  (I know about Kameron Hurley’s brave revelation of her own sales numbers, but everyone else I’m happy to listen to.)
If you’re willing to share your numbers personally, identifying yourself and your book sales in public, email me at  (Telling me when it was published, if you’re self-published, and the average prices you sold it for will be a part of the equation, if’n you could share.)
And even if you’re not willing to say on the record, email me what you’ve sold and I’ll put you as an anonymous data point.
(And yes, I know you can look up Nielsen BookScan ratings, but that’s not an accurate total because it leaves out all ebooks and many many bookstores.  Everyone’s numbers on there are off by at least a third these days, maybe more.  Currently, BookScan is planted firmly in the “better’n nothing” camp.)
As a former book buyer, numbers always fascinate me.  This is a lot like Tobias Buckell’s author advance survey in that it’s a starting point for authors to know what the business is actually like.  Ultimately, I’ll compile a Google Sheets of numbers so there’s some better idea of what unit sales look like…
With the caveat that, having talked to several industry professionals, what matters for traditional publishers is not raw units, but beating your projections.  Smaller publishers are profitable on smaller print-runs, and what’s a big hit at a mid-level press might be a disappointment at a major press.  If you sold 100,000 units but the publisher printed 500,000 copies, you’re in the doghouse.
In any case, we’ve had some good studies on author advances and writing income, but raw book unit sales haven’t  been something I’ve seen talked about – at least when we’re not talking JK Rowling numbers.
If you want to share, let’s see how much data we can compile.

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