How many copies will my self-published book sell?

Here are some further thoughts on the Ten Home Truths About Starting in Self-publishing and a more recent popular post How much does self-publishing cost?

How much will your self-published book sell? To far too many starry-eyed authors, this question does not enter into the equation, which is why the Ten Home Truths point #1 is the following:

1. You know Amanda Hocking, and Joe Konrath and them?
Yeah, you are going to forget their names and the fact that they’ve had phenomenal successes right now. They exist in a different universe where possibilities and probabilities have been interchanged and where luck smiles down on everyone. That is the universe you’ll find if you take a right turn at the sign that says winners only. But the way is almost always blocked.

The wide-scale brushing aside of this point leads authors into the situation described in How much does self-publishing cost? They get easily roped into expensive schemes because they have a completely unrealistic expectation of their sales.

So, how much will you sell initially (or maybe full stop)?

Well, take the lowest of your personal estimates–or should I call them wishtimates. Take 10% of that (not 10% off–if that’s what you think, go back to point 3 of the Ten Home Truths: learn to write). That’s right, 10% of your estimate. Now divide by two.

Have any sales left? No? Excellent.

It is impossible to underestimate your initial sales. You may be lucky and do better, but most likely you will not. If you work hard and produce fiction with a decent level of competence, your sales will probably increase slowly, but this self-publishing gig is not fast. Don’t outlay huge amounts of money in the assumption that your will see your money back within a year (or at all). Spend only if past sales justify and fund it.


4 comments on “How many copies will my self-published book sell?

    • My policy is that my friends, family, Twitter tweeps and Facebook feebs get plenty of opportunities to get my book for free.

      I do not expect (nor want) my friends to artificially prop up my sales. That’s just wrong to me.

  1. I told everyone about my first book but very few about the second – I give away most of my friends and family copies and just hope that those people will enjoy them enough to tell their friends. It takes ages to build up any sales momentum and every time they get off the floor Amazon change the algorithm and I’m back to square one again… Proof positive, as if you needed it, of another important point; not to pub all your eggs in one basket.



  2. Thanks for this realistic perspective. I’ve been finding that it’s hard giving my work away even after it’s been published/endorsed/vetted/whatever by someone other than me (#3 “First, make sure you can write” in “Ten Home Truths” post).

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