Friday, October 9, 2015

Is the "One-Thousand-Copy" Book Sale Benchmark Obsolete?

The Death Row Complex
The traditional model of book selling goes something like this: When you've sold 1000 copies of your book, particularly if you can do so in the first year of its launch, you have succeeded. The vast majority of authors never achieve this benchmark, capping out their sales figures somewhere between 50 and, say, 250 copies total. The dogma states that if you've sold 1000, you have clearly done something to expand sales beyond friends and family, and that's what you need to accomplish in order to generate a long-term, sustainable proliferation of the book among readers.

It's great to have a goal, but I suspect that the target may have shifted when we weren't looking. 

The 1000-copy mantra was invented at a time when books were always sold through traditional publishers, always as hard copies, and always sold for somewhere between $5.99 and $27 per copy. So, selling 1000 copies would not only generate a significant chunk of change for the author, it was also a fairly safe assumption that people who spent the money to buy the book were actually going to read it. Methinks that's not the case anymore.

In today's world of online promotion platforms, one-click "buy" buttons, and $0.99 e-books, it's MUCH easier to sell 1000 copies. For the purpose of this post, let's ignore the fact that earning 70% of $1000 does not a professional author make. I prefer to focus here on a much bigger hurdle.

The bigger concern with selling books so cheaply and effortlessly online is that we have created a generation of book hoarders... you know who you are! Readers scoop up those $0.99 ebooks like a blue whale ingesting thousands of pounds of krill, and then they end up with a TBR library jam-packed with books that they may or may not ever get around to reading (guilty!) So, as an author, you can no longer be sure that those 1000 copies you've sold WILL EVER be read, and you can't know how how large of a buzz beyond friends and family you've really generated.

So what's the new benchmark? I'm setting mine at 10,000, for now, and dreaming that when I achieve that, it will become 100,000, and so on and so forth. I'm choosing 10,000 both because it's a nice exponent away from 1000 and because I think there's an important metric to be found in it. And here it is: I personally am finding it relatively easy to sell 1000 copies with online promotion tactics, regardless of how good my books actually are and how many of those 1000 buyers will read the book. I can't say the same for 10,000. I think that achieving the 10,000-sale mark will require that people actually read, like, and recommend my books to others. And that has been the TRUE benchmark all along.

The wildly successful marketing guru Nick Stephenson seems to agree with me. Nick has developed a comprehensive platform for finding your first 10,000 readers (indeed, it's entitled, "Your First 10K Readers") and he makes almost all of it available for free to anyone who signs up on his mailing list. Just by clicking that "subscribe" button, you'll receive step-by-step training that WORKS in your inbox. Concrete action items that have led many others to success. I've downloaded this program and am working my way through it, and I can honestly say I've learned a lot, and continue to learn a lot. If you're struggling with sales and finding new readers, check out the system for free. And join me in the race toward this new goal. 


  1. Totally agree that 1000 books is way too low a number to shoot for. I watched Nick's webinar, but in it he said the course cost something like $800/yr. Did that change? I'm on his mailing list, too. What am I missing? So far, I've been working from your promo sheet, and find it incredibly helpful. Thanks again!

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