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I'm doing a research and I'm would like to know actually how many copies of a specific book has been sold until now. I really don't know where can I find this number and what is the more accurate way to get an accurate value.

A pratical example:

How many copies of Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (2001) by Philip Ball have been sold until now?

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Only the publisher knows. Bestseller lists, such as the New York Times bestseller lists, are extrapolations from the sales of a representative selection of book sellers. You'd need access to a similar sample to calculate copies sold. That data is not public. – what Nov 8 '13 at 22:36
@what thanks! So I've no possibilities to extrapolate the date form other sources.... – G M Nov 8 '13 at 22:37
As far as I know, no. See also: Nielsen BookScan UK offers a free trial access to their sales data for a limited time: (click "Register" on the right). I'm not sure if they will admit you, but you could try and get access to the books that you look for. Probably Nielsen USA does the same. Google for this. – what Nov 8 '13 at 23:18
You can also look at Amazon or other sellers' rankings. – Leon Conrad Mar 5 '14 at 0:50

2 Answers 2

Yes, you can, but it's expensive and not 100% reliable. See

There used to be a $85 book research service through a company called The Book Standard, but they are no longer in business.

You can try and extrapolate what current Amazon sales are like. See

Also, see the calculator that basically does the same thing for Amazon:

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Some strategies you can try are:

Contact the publisher and/or author directly.

While it does not give total sales figures and represents only one retailer (though a large one), the record for each book on includes information on its ranking in sales compared to other books offered by Amazon. In some cases of famous authors, researchers may have already determined this information. Check biographies of the author and bibliographies of works about him or her.

Books that identify first editions for the rare/used book trade, such as FIRST PRINTINGS OF AMERICAN AUTHORS (Wilson Quarto PS88 .F57x 1977), may contain this information. For books from 2001 to the current date, approximate sales data may have been gathered by Nielsen Book Scan, a subscription service marketed mostly to publishers and bookstore chains; however, the University of Minnesota does not subscribe to this service.

For bestsellers, PUBLISHERS' WEEKLY (Wilson Periodicals Room) includes estimates of total sales in annual bestsellers lists, which are usually printed in March for the previous year; for example, the 2001 lists are in the March 18, 2002 issue. BOWKER ANNUAL: LIBRARY AND BOOK TRADE ALMANAC (Several locations including Wilson Reference Z731 .A47) also includes this data.

Rarely, you might find an individual news story about the book in PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY that gives such figures, especially if it is an unexpected success.

Check the copyright page (usually the reverse of the title page) of the most recent edition of the book you can find to see if it has gone into multiple printings, and if so, how many. While this does not provide real figures (since the size of each printing is rarely specified) you can assume that a title that has gone back to press several times has sold well.


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