According to Nielson BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of all retail sales of books (including those sold through Amazon.com), the average U.S. nonfiction book is only selling 250 copies per year and only around 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
This little statistic packs both good news and bad news.
The good news is that small publishers only selling around 250 copies of a nonfiction book a year can consider themselves as having average booksales.
Often micro publishers feel discouraged when their books do not sell as well as they expect. Having realistic expections is important when selling books. Unrealistic expectations lead to discouragement.
The second part of this good news is the longevity of nonfiction books. If the average book sales are 250 per year and 3,000 over the life of a nonfiction book, this would imply that the average life of a nonfiction book is around 8 to 10 years. Of course, some books sell more per year and others less per year than the average. Eight years seems like a long time to keep a book selling. However, for authors who consistently write new books, these new books spur the sales of their older books, lengthening the life of each book.
The bad news is that, according to these statistics, it takes time to sell quantities of books. Many new publishers and self-publishers often think that they will sell the vast majority of a new book within the first year of the release of a book. If the book is not selling well in the first year, these publishers become discouraged and give up.
As I have said before, selling books is a marathon, not a sprint. These statistics back up my assertion. It is the long-haul that sells quantities of books.
Are there exceptions to this rule. Of course. There are always exceptions. Yet, the vast majority of book sales fit into the average statistics.
How do your book sales stack up? Are they average, below average, or above average?