How Many Books Will I Sell?

This is one question that I am constantly asked and it’s one that is only unanswerable if the market that you hope to sell into hasn’t been thoroughly researched. Of course, the answer is never an absolute but it is possible to produce a reasonable estimate.

Forecasting anything is difficult but I when I put together a sales plan I concentrate on what I consider to be the three main determining factors; marketing, distribution and the size of the market. It is important to give equal consideration to all three elements as they relate and depend on each other. You may have identified a potentially lucrative market for your book and you may also have a terrific marketing plan, however if you have a poor distribution plan in place the book will be difficult for potential purchasers to find and therefore difficult to order. Balance is the most important thing to remember, in this case “two out of three is not so good”

The market

Try and put a number on the total market that you addressing, this is not the number of books that you hope to sell but the number of potential purchasers in the market. Once you have a number that you are satisfied with you then need to estimate the percentage that will purchase your book. Doesn’t make the mistake of overestimating, it is very unlikely that 50% or even 10% will by a copy of your book. In larger samples it is likely to be well below 5%. Smaller samples or niche markets will generally generate a larger percentage.


Margins on book sales are very slim and you therefore need to get as much bang for your buck as you can. Free publicity is the best option if you have the get up and go to promote to the media. Start with the local press as they will be more willing to support local talent and it’s a great way to practice your story before approaching larger media outlets.  Always remember that everybody is looking for free publicity so make sure you have a strong story that will appeal to the readers of the media outlet that you are targeting.


The secret to effective distribution is to make sure that your book can be easily found, it is therefore important to make your book visible wherever your prospective customers are. Distribution costs range between 35% and 75% of the recommended retail price so make sure that your publicity drives enquiries to your most profitable outlets.

For more ideas on marketing have click here to purchase a copy of The Self Publisher’s Marketing Guide

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