by Steve Laube
“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”
My simple answer?
Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.
Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):
Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300
Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756
Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000
Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)
Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900
Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300
Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400
Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900
Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900
Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)
So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.
If you take the above 10 authors and their 51 titles, they average 12,455 copies sold for every book published.
Thus I usually say that the average book sells 10,000 copies with a major publisher.
But I’ve intentionally left authors with much higher numbers out of the equation because, in general, they are the exception to the rule.
Be aware that the word “average” means that for every book that sells 15k there is one that sell 5k. And for every book that sells 20k there is one that is a disaster.
I know of an author with a major house whose novel has sold, in its lifetime, only 946 copies in two years. But I also know of others who have sold over 100,000 copies. Thus the word “average” can be problematic.
Read my follow up post which answers this question even further.
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