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.
Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.