Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Guess How Many Books I've Sold?

This seems to be a common question by some authors who have either self published or gone with a small publisher. It is as though there is a huge competition going on between some of them and sounds very like playground ' mine is bigger than yours' style mentality. Everything today is about numbers, but why? There are those who have got their books up on Amazon and other sites for free. What a pointless exercise that is in my opinion - and in many others too. They have slogged their guts out to write a book that sometimes has taken them more than a year to do, they've edited it, re-written where needed, done the formatting, book cover design and the whole works, then think all that effort is worth - yep, nothing!

Their reasoning? They say they've been told it's to get their name known so that when they publish their second book people will be waiting for it and will buy it. But will they? If it's ready straight after the first one maybe, but if it's taken that long to write the first one and with so many people self publishing books today, unless your first effort is absolutely brilliant and the second book follows straight away, chances are they'll have forgotten you by the time the second one is out and then what will you do? If that idea really worked, wouldn't all the publishing houses being doing that as well with all of their authors?

The only people doing it, are the self published or those who are with people who have set themselves up as a publisher and advise doing it. Then there are all the books at $0.99 or approx 70pence. Okay, they might be getting hundreds and sometimes thousands of downloads, but I am actually making more than some of the ones who give their books away so cheaply even though I might sometimes be selling less than them as I refuse to give away something I have worked so hard on, believe in and know to be worth every penny.

Besides, on the Kindle forums, there are hundreds of readers who say that if a book is free or only $0.99, they download hundreds of them all at once and never actually read most of them. There are exceptions to this of course where some excellent books are written and priced very low, but they are in the minority compared to the number actually published. Amazon Kindle even alter the prices themselves at times and we have no say in the matter when this happens. Interestingly, one of mine was reduced by Amazon to a silly cheap price and never sold as many then as it did before the reduction and again when they put it back up to a higher price than it was originally. That shows me that free books or low pricing isn't always what makes a book sell.

I have just seen someone advertising on Twitter how many books she's sold to date.She is giving the money to charity and that is why she wants to tell how many she's sold - every day. It's still strange though as most people giving to charity don't do that either, they just announce a total at the end so it must be the new author mentality as I call it that they have to show off how many books they are selling. She is doing what she's seen so many others doing and yet she isn't someone I would have expected to do that. There are lots of writers out there who have to tell you each day how many books they've now sold. Do we care? Why do they feel a need to tell everyone? Is it because they are trying to convince others to buy the book too, or is it because they have to tell themselves their book must be good because people are buying it? I have no idea, but it is something that really puzzles me and thankfully, the majority of writers don't feel the need to take part in this strange practice.

The biggest puzzle to me, is how they know exactly how many they've sold. My books (and theirs) are sold on so many different sites and I haven't got a clue how many have been sold on which ones. Amazon Kindle is easy as they give a running total of downloads made, but as for the other sales elsewhere, I couldn't tell you how many are sold as I never look at them and I just wait for surprise royalty cheques to arrive. The fact these people know to the last number means they must be watching every site every day and all day long. I am far too busy for that for one thing and cannot see the point in such a fruitless exercise anyway.

Do we have accountants, solicitors, estate agents and the like all coming on Twitter telling us how many clients they saw today? Maybe shopkeepers should come on and tell us how many customers came in their shops and how many generated sales they had too. It is a very strange practice that seems unique to some authors who have to announce to the world how many books they've sold to date. Amongst themselves is one thing when they are discussing marketing methods and what works, but to tell anyone and everyone? No, it's not for me and I haven't seen any main stream authors doing it either. The day I see the likes of Patricia Cornwell, Harlan Coben or others tell us on a daily basis how many books they've sold today, is the day I decide the writing world is not for me. As I can't see them ever feeling the need to tell us about each sale they make, I think my writing career is safe.


  1. I don't see the point either personally. I haven't a clue how many books I've sold apart from directly off my blog which are signed copies and those on Kindle. I wouldn't know how to find on Amazon, though I do know people have bought it in paperback on Amazon because they've told me.

    It took me 3 years to complete my book and I paid out a substantial amount of money to have it edited, formatted and cover designed, all worth it of course, but I don't ever expect to make that money back. I will have my next book edited and I will pay for the service if I go down the self-publishing route, but one thing I would never do is announce that I've sold x amount of books on social networking sites for fear of looking, for want of a better word, desperate. That is said with no disrespect to those who do that because each to their own in my opinion, but if I've only sold 50 paper back copies compared to thousands sold by another, more well-known author, I would appear quite trivial and particularly novice, don't you think?!

    CJ xx

  2. When I self published (on Lulu) the book my Father wrote about his mother, I purposely did not add anything to the publishing costs as I was never interested in making money out of it. I published it purely to keep the promise I made to my Father, that one way or another he would see it in print, which would mean he kept his promise to his mother. I personally bought copies for myself and my two sons as heirlooms, then other family members and some friends bought a copy. Since then I haven't checked how many have been sold.