Writing Your Proposal — Estimated Sales

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In this section:

    What are estimated sales?

    Estimated sales is the part of the proposal where you enter the sales figure you expect your book will achieve in its lifetime.

    If you have published before, please enter here sales recorded on your royalty statements. If you do not, the publisher will have to judge the sales potential on the trade figures we get from Nielsen in North America and the UK.

    Be aware that most people unfamiliar with the industry overestimate book sales by factors of ten. For an honest look at what to expect from book sales read – Average Book Sales Figures: A Transparent Look Into Publishing By Sam Jordison.

    Be as honest and realistic as you can!

    • We won’t be put off by a low figure.
    • We won’t be impressed by a high one, either.

    What makes a bestseller?

    “Bestseller” status is not based on cumulative or lifetime sales, and there is no set threshold, nor any single authoritative “list”.

    It is based on which titles sell the most copies in a particular time period, which could be a week, or a month.

    It could be a bestseller in a sub-category on Amazon for a day which might imply a sale of a handful of copies, or at the other extreme it takes thousands of books ordered during a week at some chosen bookstores to have a chance at the New York Times bestseller list.

    Although estimates and facts change all the the time, according to OkDork:

    In order to hit #1 on Amazon, you’ll need to sell somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 copies in 24 hours. Want to hit top 10? You’ll need to sell roughly 300 for print, or 2,000+ copies for combined formats. Those numbers aren’t exactly set in stone, but they’re a pretty close approximation.

    To get onto Amazon’s Bestseller Top 100 radar across all titles you’re usually looking at about 1,000 sales of your book.

    All you need is an objective, respectable source to quote, rather than inventing the term for yourself.

    Bestseller status depends on many things

    Looking at the latest Bookseller analysis of sales in 2013: in the kind of non-fiction specialist areas that we mostly publish in, a sale of 3000 copies in a year in, for example, "popular philosophy" (rather than academic philosophy, where good sales are in the hundreds), would easily get you into the top 20 titles in the UK in 2008, into the company of authors like Julian Baggini, Alain de Botton and Bertrand Russell (yes, he still sells).

    In the MBS (Mind Body Spirit) category it is 4000 copies.

    In the larger area of "popular science," a sale of 6000 copies would get you into the same top 20 as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, or in Fitness & Diet, it's 25,000. In a smaller area like environment/green books, 300 copies gets you into the top 20.

    Sales needed in the USA would be a little higher, but not in a different ballpark.

    Given the tens of thousands of new titles coming out in each of these areas each year, these achievements are rare.

    It is one reason why it makes sense for us (and you) to publish for all markets around the world, despite the extra costs of servicing more than one.

    What makes a CI Bestseller?

    We use the term infrequently, because it can easily be devalued by overuse. We do though consider publishing a bestseller to be aspirational, so at CI we use the word to describe any book that reaches sales of 5000 (print and ebook combined). We send out a notification to the author advising when this has been achieved.

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