Why Your Book Sales Numbers Tell Only Half the Story

Book Sales Don’t Tell the Full Story

Indie authors, mainly, love to focus on SALES as a measure of success. Authors must understand that there are many models and paths to publication.

How many books did you sell? What’s your Amazon Best Seller Ranking?

A great benefit to social media is that we can connect with fellow authors around the world and learn what they are doing.

However, there is a dark side to seeing too often what our fellow authors are doing.

It can feel a bit disappointing to think that your well-written, professionally edited, and beautiful books are super successful only to see a Facebook post by another author with better book sales numbers.

It is hard not to allow doubt to creep into the picture if your amazing book isn’t selling as well as the rather mediocre books that claim to be “bestsellers.”

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”—Theodore Roosevelt

couple having a dialogue

Think back to the pre-Internet era where writers could keep their heads down and clack on typewriter keys until something slightly publishable emerged.

Professional comparisons and rivalries still happened to the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerlad, sure, but they weren’t reading daily claims of literary success by their peers in closed Facebook groups.

Perhaps that’s why Thoreau isolated himself on Walden Pond.

He was probably tired of seeing others’ books sales and massive book tours plastered all over his Facebook newsfeed.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.”

Henry David Thoreau

Maybe we should all find a virtual cabin in the woods. A place where we are insulated from Facebook notifications, and indie book sales brags.

If you find yourself peeking over at other author’s shoulders more often than writing your work, it might be time to turn OFF all social media notifications until your writing is solidly underway.

Comparison Can Be Useful

Sometimes, what we don’t know does hurt us. Knowledge is paramount to remove fictitious barriers we construct that block us from success.

For example, before I met children’s book authors Laurie Wright and Diane Alber, I had no idea that it was feasible to sell 50-100 books/day per title.

I had no idea.

After hiring them as mentors and learning from them, I discovered how much effort and marketing dollars go into getting those numbers. Without that knowledge, I wouldn’t know it was possible.

While knowledge is vital, we’ll still make mistakes even with those expert insights from mentors plowing the field before us.

Authors Don’t Usually Discuss Their Marketing Spend

One thing that many authors keep close to their vests is the amount of money they put into marketing.

Authors are thrilled to share their sales numbers, but they remain reluctant to share their ad spend. Why?

Well, it’s a lovely thought to believe that our books are selling well because they are wonderfully written, well-edited, and professionally illustrated or designed and NOT because we’re spending tons of money to market them.

But in many cases, mediocre books with large marketing budgets will routinely outsell beautiful, well-written books with smaller marketing budgets.

That’s how marketing works.

It takes a lot of money to stand out in front of potential readers in a crowded market.

For example, to market my Halloween book, I spent $5k on Amazon and Facebook ads over a six-week marketing blitz. I had studied, planned, and added fuel to the fire when my return on advertising was optimal. My SALES were terrific.

However, sales are only half of the picture.

If you looked at my balance sheet and saw all of the expenses I incurred to achieve those sales, you’d have a different story. You’d have the whole story.

comparison book sales apples to oranges

Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

So, in summary, comparing your progress to others’ can be a learning experience.

It’s important to be inspired by other authors’ success, but you can’t dwell in that space for long.

If you can’t help comparing yourself to someone, it’s better to become a measuring stick yourself. Compare your book sales with your previous years’ book sales.

If you have a seasonal book, use your first year as a baseline to compare future sales so you can see where you can improve.

Keep track of your monthly sales and marketing efforts so you can try to identify what techniques or marketing outlets were fruitful and which ones to drop for next time.

We are fortunate to be working in a medium that never expires, and books that are over 30 years old can be at the top of the bestseller charts.

Remember, it’s never too late to be a bestseller, so don’t let comparison rob you of your joy.

Go Deeper

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