Self-Publishing Tips: How Many People Could Potentially Buy Your Book?
The Magical Mystery Book Sales Number
Do you know how many potential buyers there are for your book? That is a difficult and complex question, even for traditional publishers. However, traditional publishers often have large and well-funded marketing and research departments working for them to help make their projections more accurate. For self-publishing, this question might be next to impossible to answer.
Complicating the issue is that even if one could estimate a potential audience size for self-published books, estimating the actual buy percentage might be a discouraging exercise. Prospects and actual buyers can be a fraction of a fraction (no, I didn't mistype that) of all readers for a genre or type of book.
If self-published authors knew the limited number of sales they could potentially make of their books, do you think many would go through with publishing? If they are overly optimistic, they might think they'll be "The One" who will be the next self-published literary sales sensation. Others who have a better grip on the reality of the market may still do it, justifying it by calling their books part of an inbound marketing program. Not a bad intent. But even at that, knowing how big the potential pool is can avoid over-investing in the endeavor.
So how many books can you potentially sell?
You Have to Start Somewhere: Selling Your Self Published Book to Family, Friends and Followers
As with anything else, your book marketing will likely begin with your pool of immediate family, friends, and followers. Look at your current email marketing list and social media accounts that you've set up for your writing business. If you added up those family and friends, your email subscribers and social media followers, how many are there? That will give you an idea of your total immediate pool of prospects. Granted, not every friend or follower is going to buy and read your book. Don't take it personally.
On a side note relating to family and friends, be aware that you may be prohibited from actively marketing your book or business on your personal social media profiles, especially Facebook which requires you to set up a business page for this type of activity. Check each platform's terms of service to verify the rules that apply to you.
So What Percentage of Your People Might Buy Your Book?
There is no exact, standard percentage of potential buyers you can estimate that will actually purchase your self published and promoted book. But for comparison, here are some common returns for popular and productive marketing methods.
In the old days, a 2 percent response to direct mail was considered normal, sometimes excellent when compared with less trackable media such as broadcast advertising. These days, on Internet advertising platforms such as Google Adwords or Facebook ads, a 1 percent click-through rate might be considered a stellar response. Notice that this is NOT a sales conversion rate. The click-through rate is the number of people who click for more information, not those who actually bought. Self-published authors who have mere hundreds in their immediate pool of book-buying prospects could be looking at actual sales of maybe a handful of books.
In case you wondered, doing a book pre-order will not magically bring in sales if few people are familiar with your work. Also remember that having your book available for sale in and through retail stores or sites does not automatically mean that sales will be made.
That is the sobering reality of your situation.
In the beginning, estimating a very small, even single-digit, or fractional percentage of sales from your immediate book-buying prospect pool of family, friends, and followers would be realistic, though even that is not guaranteed. Creating an optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic sales forecast is a good exercise. Then monitor and adjust forecasts as actual sales results begin to come in, regardless of how small those numbers might be. Continue monitoring and adjusting over the entire sales life of your book.
Also, always compare your marketing costs against your sales results. True, aggressive marketing (e.g., investing heavily in Facebook ads) may bring more sales that could boost your ego. But if it doesn't boost your profit margins, then it might even create a loss. Only experimentation and monitoring results will tell you where you're getting the most bang for your marketing buck.
Discouraged yet? Don't be. Your book is a long-term effort and investment. Books that have a burst of sales upon launch may have sales that drop off or even stop over the long term. Some books don't take off until long after they're published. Other books may create small, but continuing income streams from the beginning.
The real lesson here is that selling books is a numbers game: More ideal prospects equals more potential sales. Constantly build your author platform and fan base pool.
... Selling books is a numbers game: More ideal prospects equals more potential sales. Constantly build your author platform and fan base pool.— Heidi Thorne
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2016 Heidi Thorne