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Flint
01-15-2010, 09:37 AM
Is there any way to find out how many copies a certain book has sold or is this not possible?

Unimportant
01-15-2010, 10:06 AM
The only people who would know how many copies total a title has sold in all venues would be the publisher, the author, and the author's agent. You could ask the author, though I doubt you'd get an answer.

I think that for a very large sum (five figures?) you can subscribe to Neilsen Bookscan, which tracks the majority of book sales (though it does not cover all venues, so niche category books sold outside the standard distribution channels would probably fall off their radar).

At one time it was possible to call Ingrams and get the number of copies that this particular warehouser had shipped for a given title/ISBN, but I don't know if they still have that service available.

CAWriter
01-15-2010, 11:12 AM
Even when you're the author or agent, it's not as easy to get accurate numbers as you'd hope.

With my first book, I knew how many books were printed (first and second printings) and I knew when the book was "unavailable in the warehouse," (as in virtually sold out) so you'd expect that the sales numbers would have been in the neighborhood of the two printings combined, but my royalty reports left 5,000 or so unaccounted for. Even with my agent's assistance, we never really did get straight numbers.

So, if the people directly involved can't get good numbers, I'd say it's fairly impossible for anyone to find out about another's books. In the case of best sellers, publishers will brag on the numbers, but for mediocre sales, they probably won't publicize those.

I wish it were otherwise though; there are a few books I'd like to have that kind of information about.

Terie
01-15-2010, 12:25 PM
Even when you're the author or agent, it's not as easy to get accurate numbers as you'd hope.

I go further and say it's essentially impossible. Royalty statements include holding back sums to cover returns, so it's all very vague and impossible to figure out. And if you ask your publisher directly, they won't tell you.

We're all pretty much stuck trying not to think about it and just working on the next book. Sigh.

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2010, 06:38 PM
I've never had a problem getting exact numbers for my own books, though because of returns, you usually run one royalty statement behind. It generally just isn't that difficult. And you can, of course, have your publisher audited.

But tracking sales of my own books has always been pretty darned easy. I just have to remember that everything really runs a few months behind each royalty statement, and that editors are usually very helpful in such matters.

I've never worried about tracking sales of anyone else's book. I figure it's really none of my business.

thothguard51
01-15-2010, 08:33 PM
This is all very interesting. I have never wondered how many units a particular book sold, but now, with my book in the submission process, I do wonder how does an author keep track of all this. I mean, I keep track of hrs and benefits at my real job, so why would an author not keep track of units sold for each book they publish.

I suspect with e-books its easier and there are no returns...

Claudia Gray
01-15-2010, 08:39 PM
You as an author will get statements with your royalties, which give you a number of copies sold, but even then, as they said, some are held back against returns, plus foreign sales can take a long time to be accounted, etc. I have a vague idea of how many copies I'd sold approximately six months ago, but right now? No clue.

Jamesaritchie
01-16-2010, 11:25 PM
You as an author will get statements with your royalties, which give you a number of copies sold, but even then, as they said, some are held back against returns, plus foreign sales can take a long time to be accounted, etc. I have a vague idea of how many copies I'd sold approximately six months ago, but right now? No clue.

That's probably about average. I think all writers run at least one royalty statement behind, and it's good to compare the numbers on each royalty statement with the numbers from the last. Royalties held against returns should be held for only so long.

I have found editors to be pretty helpful. They usually don't know what teh real numbers are, but they know someone who does, and if you're on good terms with your editor, and don't push, I've found most are very helpful in getting answers.