Book Sales Expectations

Q: What kind of sales can I expect from my books? How well do Sunbury Press’ best sellers do?
A: Sunbury Press, Inc. is a privately-held corporation. Information about company performance is not made public to protect the privacy of the shareholders. Likewise, the performance of individual titles, except where available through information aggregators like Nielsen Bookscan or Amazon, is tightly-guarded so as to respect the privacy of our authors. Information from those aggregators does not capture 100% of the market. They completely miss Sunbury’s direct sales to readers and direct distribution to independent bookstores and other venues.
Book sales for individual titles range widely from near zero, to the many thousands over the life the book. About 80% of our titles do not break even over their lives. It is the 20% of successful titles that carry our business. Of that successful one-fifth, only a small portion of them do exceptionally well.
Nonfiction generally performs twice as well as fiction in our experience. Generally, only about 30% of nonfiction titles break even or better while 15% or less of fiction titles do so. Nonfiction has the benefit of SEO discovery and is more likely to be of interest to the media so as to gain earned media opportunities. Fiction success is more unpredictable.

Keys to success with fiction:

  1. The author is actively selling books – making appearances at conventions, bookstores, and other events – (as long as the author is not too shy and unable to connect with readers)
  2. The cover, description, and subject matter align with the book’s categories and quality expectations.
  3. The author is active on social media on at least one platform.
  4. The author has a website, is actively promoting themselves as an author, is building a following and an email list
  5. The author has a presence on Goodreads and Amazon Author Central and uses the features and functions of the sites to their advantage.
  6. The author is writing a series or the body of work is related in some way.
  7. The author is releasing new books at least once a year, preferably every six months.
  8. The author and/or publisher is actively seeking film or television opportunities as well as foreign translation opportunities.
  9. The publisher has placed the book(s) in the major marketplaces and channels of distribution, has priced the book in alignment with the category, and has produced the book in the demanded product forms (print and ebook at a minimum).
  10. The book wins a legitimate award or receives significant endorsements or accolades.
  11. The author is putting out content that entices readers to read the whole book and invites readers into the story

What doesn’t work well for fiction:

  1. Paid print advertising.
  2. Paid television or radio advertising.
  3. Paying a publicist.
  4. Sending press releases.
  5. Most SEO-oriented pay-per-click or (worse) pay-per-impression advertising.
  6. Most Facebook ad boosts. (If the author has a medium to large following, boosts can help)
  7. Most blog tours. (unless the author finds very relevant blogs and is choosy)
  8. Most BookBub or other free giveaway campaigns. (we’re still trying to figure out how this might work for our authors, but so far it hasn’t done much)
  9. Most book signings at Barnes and Noble or other big chain stores.

Leave a Reply