How Do I Track Book Sales?

Q: Is there a way to find out the current sales for a given book that may (or may not) be in print? —Tony P.

A: The short answer to this is no. Due to the volume of distribution channels, there is no outlet where you can find an accurate and reliable sales figure for any book. The only one who has access to total sales numbers are a book’s publisher, and that publisher typically won’t share specific sales information—unless, of course, the number is so high it can be used as a promotional tool (e.g., “More than 5 million copies sold!”).

Jane Friedman, editorial director and publisher of Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Digest Books, says it’s worth noting that most publishers subscribe to the Nielsen Bookscan service, which tracks book sales through chain bookstores, independent bookstores and a handful of other retail outlets. But it is not a complete picture of book sales (as it doesn’t include books sold at conferences, direct-to-consumer sales, etc.), and the service is available only to publishers and industry professionals and is extremely expensive (think five figures). In other words, it’s not available to the public.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

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One thought on “How Do I Track Book Sales?

  1. Sage Evans

    We’ve found that this question often comes up with regard to gauging the success of a marketing effort, rather than ascertaining expected royalties. If you address the effect of marketing, you will know the trend of the royalty expectation.

    Thus we often advise some of the suggestions as follow:
    1. Offer an incentive in the book which may be claimed via the author’s website. The author may then track the sales and the path by which it was accomplished.

    2. Tag your advertising to respond to a variety of fulfillments; author-direct, publisher-direct, mail order company, P.O. Box, website, email address, etc. Thus you can measure which route gives the largest ROI.

    3. Conduct marketing efforts consecutively, rather than concurrently. This separates the results for easier interpretation.

    Sage E.


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