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I'm a writer, working on a non-fiction book proposal. Finding public, free sales numbers for comparable titles is nearly impossible. BookScan is a subscriber service run by Nielsen. "Above the Treeline" is a subscriber service that collects sales data from some independent book sellers. But I'm looking for reliable services that I could tap into.

Any suggestions?

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3 Answers 3

Ingram is the largest book distributor in the business. You can call their automated stock check number at (800) 937-0995. Enter a book's ISBN, and you'll get back its current sales data.

You can also get Amazon's historical data by signing up for an account at TitleZ and selecting the books you want to track.

Both of the above are free services.

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In my experience, you're not likely to find much of anything useful without paying. The Association of American Publishers has some statistics for free (2009 Preliminary Estimates), but you'll have to buy the report to get anything meaningful. Is it worth $1250? Probably not in your case.

Sales figures for the publishing industry just aren't readily available. Slushpile.net ran an interesting post in 2007 on the matter, "More on Book Sales".

I can't provide a reason for the lack of availability.

You might try developing a list of similar titles and then seeing if the publishers of those titles would share at least print-run statistics.

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1  
Reason? Simple: greed. Okay, "wanting money". Of course, there are costs involved in compiling a report (or Nielsen's figures) But how high are those costs? We don't know, and they're not telling. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 8 '11 at 12:59
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Another factor is: if authors did know actual real figures, they may be in a better bargaining position. Keeping them (that is, us) in the dark is "good for business". Oh, and it's also a good thing (for them) to keep the numbers (the actual numbers) from the better-selling authors. It's surprizing (if you believe in honesty) how many well-known authors had to sue and/or do an audit on the sales to get at the real figures (accompanied by sometimes hefty "late" royalty payments) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 8 '11 at 13:06
    
In case your wondering: yes, I'm pretty much a cynic when it comes to business. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 8 '11 at 13:07
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Any author can see their up-to-date & historical BookScan numbers at Amazon's Author Central (free). –  Dori Feb 8 '11 at 20:06

In my experience, as a general rule-of-thumb, if you look at the number of reviews a book has on Amazon and multiply by 100, you'll be in the ballpark of their sales on Amazon.

Some books might be double or quadruple this, and others might be half or less, but it gives you a general idea of whether you're talking about a book that sold 1,000 copies, 10,000 copies or 100,000 copies.

Indie-published genre novels on Amazon might account for 90% of that title's total sales (in other words Amazon sales divided by Amazon and non-Amazon sales), whereas a traditionally published book's sales on Amazon might account for 30-50% of that title's total sales.

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