As an indie author, you might not expect to make a living selling your book. Maybe you’re entering the book market for the first time, or maybe you’ve generated some nice revenue with previous publishing experience. Either way, you’ve worked hard to finish your manuscript, and now you have a great opportunity to earn money from your book sales.
If you’re working with a traditional publishing house, the publisher will carefully track your book sales statistics. And if you’re self-publishing, you’ll need to keep an eye on each e-book, print book, and audiobook sale—and how much each sale costs you. The first step here is learning what book sales metrics really are.
Book sales metrics are data that show you how much money you’re making from book sales. However, this goes beyond just the quantity of books sold and your overall sales revenue.
Regardless of whether you’re traditionally publishing or self-publishing, you’ll also have to track other KPIs (key performance indicators). Your profit margin, cost per customer, and how the sales cycle affects your particular book are all performance metrics that you should pay attention to.
Determining your author income isn’t as simple as looking at how much money comes in from your book sales. Although that is an important sales KPI, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Here are a few additional sales metrics to keep track of:
Each sales metric helps you understand whether your book marketing strategy is effective. You can then compare your sales data to other authors to see if your metrics are strong or if they could use some improvement.
There really isn’t a universal standard for good book sales statistics. Some authors want to build a career as an author, and others publish as a hobby and an opportunity to make a little money on the side. However, you can compare your sales metrics to industry standards.
Do some online research every few months to find out how the book market is performing. Look at traditional publishing companies and indie authors’ self-published titles. How are their printed book and e-book sales doing? What is the book industry’s current average gross margin? Compare your sales metrics to theirs. If your numbers are similar to the rest of the industry, you’re doing great! And if they’re lagging, consider investing in book marketing to increase those book sales numbers.
Many authors dream of someday being on a bestseller list. When you research other writers and publishers, look at how many books they’ve sold. Oftentimes, best-selling titles have sold hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of copies. Since these popular books are usually backed by a large publishing house, they likely have a healthy marketing budget as well.
Although a self-published author might not have the benefit of a publishing house’s marketing team and budget, they can still earn good money on their book sales.
The self-publishing industry can be intimidating to an indie author who isn’t familiar with how to sell books. The good news is that you can make money through self-publishing! It’ll take some hard work, but if you focus on book promotion, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can earn.
Self-published authors generally don’t have an extensive marketing budget. While this is part of being an indie author, it can also keep sales revenue down compared to famous authors who have book deals with large publishers. And marketing also factors into how much a self-published book will make.
Some self-published writers earn several thousand dollars each year in book sales revenue. Keep in mind, though, that you have to spend money to make money. Authors who invest time and funds into a strong book marketing strategy will sell more copies than average—and make more money than average!
There are many factors that affect how many copies a self-published book will sell. One of the largest factors is genre. If you’ve written a book in a popular genre with a large following, you have a good sales opportunity because you’re tapping into a large book market. However, if you fall into a more obscure book category, you might struggle to find potential readers.
In other words, there aren’t any universal metrics for how many copies the average self-published book sells. However, there are ways that you can estimate how many book sales you can ring up.
One of the best ways to estimate how many books you’ll sell is by keeping up with book industry trends. The e-book industry is much different than the print book and audiobook industries, so keep an eye on how both printed and digital books are selling in your area and genre. You can use those sales statistics to get a gauge of how many readers are looking for your type of book.
Traditionally published authors usually have more resources at their disposal than indie authors who self-publish their books. A traditional publishing house might even absorb costs for a marketing campaign and a literary agent as part of a book deal.
In many cases, this means that traditionally published authors sell more books than self-published writers. Even with a publishing house’s resources, though, not every author is a bestseller.
So, how many books do authors on bestseller lists actually sell? It depends on factors like genre, book market size, and which list you’re looking at. Some bestseller lists require around 5,000 to 10,000 book sales per week.
Those numbers might seem unattainable. However, remember that a large, successful publishing house can provide great resources to back your book. They consider your manuscript an investment—and they believe in your writing! The publishing industry is extremely competitive, so your publisher will do everything they can to boost your print book, audiobook, and e-book sales.
Midlist authors earn a lot of book sales revenue but don’t quite make a bestseller list. Although they won’t exactly break any publishing-industry sales records, they sell enough books to be considered successful. And if they can publish multiple books with the same midlist result, a publishing house might see them as a reliable source of author income and offer the writer a contract for multiple books.
While bestselling authors need to sell thousands of books per week, midlist authors generally need to sell thousands of books per month. Since each book sale is revenue, higher sales mean higher earnings!
Successful authors who partner with traditional publishing companies can earn a lot of money throughout their careers. However, it might take some time for you to reap the benefits of a book deal.
Many publishing houses provide their authors with a cash advance as a sort of bonus for signing a book deal. Once that advance has been paid back, you can begin earning royalties from each book sale. Royalties are basically a percentage of the book sale price and are generally around 10 percent for a traditionally published author. For example, if you receive a $10,000 cash advance as part of your book deal, you’ll start earning royalties after your book has earned $10,000 for the publisher.
Regardless of whether you’re traditionally publishing or self-publishing, you can boost your book sales and improve your metrics so you can earn more money from your manuscript.
In order to boost your book sales and improve your metrics, you need a book marketing strategy. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you outline the best strategy for you and your book:
Regardless of your budget, one of the best places to market your book and boost your book sales is social media.
Social media is one of the best digital marketing tools available to authors. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent venues for authors breaking in to the book market. You can set up an author page or a publication page in addition to your main profile and plug your book for free.
Most social media sites also allow you to pay for advertising if you want to get a leg up on the competition. You can use these paid advertisements to reach your target audience, guide people to your Kindle page or author website, and highlight the e-commerce sites where readers can buy your book.
When you pay for social media advertising, most platforms also give you access to sales metrics so you can see how your ads are performing. It’s important to familiarize yourself with common ad campaign metrics so you can compare how your book sales are performing compared to how they should be performing.
Once you begin investing in an ad campaign, you’ll need to keep an eye on certain metrics to make sure you’re earning a return on your investment. Basically, your marketing dollars should yield book sales—and you should earn more sales revenue than you spend.
Here are a few common ad campaign metrics that you should consistently track throughout your book-promotion efforts:
These metrics will provide a picture of how your ad campaign is performing. If your metrics are lower than you’d like, there are ways to improve those numbers!
New authors need to be creative in order to make a name for themselves and earn book sales. If your social media and author website aren’t performing well, look for other marketing outlets.
Talk to local bookstores about holding a book reading or a book launch event. Sponsor a book club. Or even find a popular podcast related to your genre. You’ve achieved one major goal by publishing your masterpiece. Now it’s time to make some money by boosting those book sales!
Whether you need a hand with editing, book cover design, book marketing, or anything in between, Elite Authors can help you reach your book sales goals. We can help make your book the success it deserves to be. Visit our website to learn how our wide array of services can help you reach the bestseller list!