Roughly three weeks ago, I posted this about the first milestone for Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change.
A couple of people asked about the actual numbers–that is, how many sales did it take for me to conclude that self-publishing the book wasn’t an outright failure?
Since I answered them and the earth didn’t open up and swallow me, I guess there’s no point in being coy about it. The first milestone was 100 copies (actually 101, since the first copy was my own and doesn’t count).
The second milestone–the point at which I’ll consider the book and publishing process to be a success–is 300 copies. The time frame for that milestone is two years, although I’d surely love to see it happen before then (if it ever does).
I’d call 500 copies a big success. A thousand copies would be remarkable.
In between, well, it’s neither success nor outright failure. (In the three weeks since that milestone? Well, it’s summer and there was ALA. Sales haven’t stopped entirely…)
I don’t think these are excessive milestones. For my “traditional” books in the library field, “success” would be around 1,200 copies in the first two years, with “big success” around 2,000 copies and “best-seller” somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 copies over the first five years. I’ve had two best sellers out of 13 traditionally-published books; most of the rest have been at least successful, a few of them fairly big successes.
Is it possible to sell as many of a self-published book as a traditionally-published book? Absolutely–if you’re in a position to promote the book to enough audiences. I’m not in that position and don’t really have the personality for it. So my goals were more modest.
Of course, if 20% of those who appear to have read Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″ would buy this book, I’d have a best-seller by general library standards–but, you know, pigs still aren’t flying overhead and dropping bags of gold coins.