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scope
02-21-2009, 03:26 AM
Anyone know how to find out total sales by a publisher of one particular book over a 40 year period? I tried the publisher but can't get any info.

Lauri B
02-21-2009, 04:40 AM
no. But if you can figure it out you'll make some money.

CheshireCat
02-21-2009, 05:08 AM
Haven't we seen this question before?

scope
02-21-2009, 07:31 AM
Haven't we seen this question before?


Not from me, and I never saw it. More important, do you recall if there was an answer? I can't find the info wherever I look -- for any book. I think Lauri B is right -- if anyone has the formula they will make a lot of money.

Wayne K
02-21-2009, 03:50 PM
I tried to find this out for a few books when I was writing the competition part of my proposal and came up empty. Don't the houses have to pay taxes? That would seem to me to be the way to go at it.

scope
02-22-2009, 12:27 AM
I tried to find this out for a few books when I was writing the competition part of my proposal and came up empty. Don't the houses have to pay taxes? That would seem to me to be the way to go at it.

Wayne K,

It sure makes sense to me. For a bunch of reasons (e.g., royalty statements, taxes) I can't imagine they don't have the info. But for whatever reasons--maybe privacy--they don't want to make it public. Interesting.

Lauri B
02-22-2009, 02:58 AM
I often wonder if houses really know--I mean *really* know--how many copies books have sold over long periods of time. You can certainly get a pretty accurate count since the days of the pc, but what about before that?

scope
02-22-2009, 03:46 AM
I don't know when the use of computers became relatively standard, but lets say somewhere around 1985. My own books began to be published in the 1970's, right after I graduated from college. I received very detailed royalty statements from publishers (usually every six months) that stated the number of books sold (domestic and foreign--and when foreign, number sold in each country), less percentage of the sales (previously agreed upon-a small amount) held against "returns," amount of money due me based on X% of books sold, and if still applicable, less any balance of advance paid me. I would imagine that when publishers started to switch to computers they carried such records forward. Maybe they didn't, maybe they let them rot away, but that doesn't make any sense to me. I may be wrong here, but I believe that publishers can tell us how many of any book they published were sold, whenever the book might have been published. But who knows. Maybe some AW editors and agents can enlighten us.

scottVee
02-22-2009, 05:12 AM
I don't believe that any royalty-paying business could fail to know how many units they have sold, and stay in business. However, there's no reason to expect that this information will be freely made public. It's fairly sensitive business-critical data. Even less reason to expect to find some cozy online database that tracks it all for more than a few willing publishers or titles.

You might check Publishers Weekly to see if there are any mentions of sales reports from big publishers.

You could probably ask a publisher about a specific title, but I think you'd need some kind of reason for asking. If you were the author, by all means, they should have info for you. Now, if I were to get nosy and ask about books I have no legal interest in, I would expect to be blocked by privacy concerns, or at least fail to make a case for needing the numbers.

I don't know that you can expect a tally of records from decades ago -- very few businesses can keep their whole history at their fingertips. Old records take a lot of time to digitize, and if it will cost a half million dollars to scan tens of thousands of documents that you don't expect anyone will ever ask about, why do it? Surely, among day-to-day operations in the 1990s, a royalty statement for a book that's been out of print for 20 years is not a high demand item.

Although you'd never guess it from looking at the web, only a small percent of the paperwork from before the Computer Age has been digitized.

scope
02-22-2009, 08:46 AM
[quote=scottVee;3314988]However, there's no reason to expect that this information will be freely made public. It's fairly sensitive business-critical data.

I agree that privacy is more than likely the underlying issue.

Even less reason to expect to find some cozy online database that tracks it all for more than a few willing publishers or titles.

Agreed. Although I tried, I didn't expect to have any success.

You could probably ask a publisher about a specific title, but I think you'd need some kind of reason for asking. If you were the author, by all means, they should have info for you.

The titles I asked about are not mine. They are titles I'm using in a book I'm writing. Fortunately, it's not a problem for me to work around the lack of total books sold--although it would be better with the numbers./quote]