For a long time I've been highlighting books that were indie bestsellers - that is, books published by small publishers which have sold a lot of books. While some of those have made the New York Times list, many have not - yet many of those have sold more copies than a typical New York Times bestseller.
Which would you rather have: a New York Times bestseller or a book that sold twice as much as a typical NYT bestseller?
I know which one I'd rather have. Every time. Give me the sales.
In going over some very old issues of my Book Marketing Update newsletter, I came across some interesting numbers. Let's take you back 24 years (1987):
Marine Aquarium Handbook had sold over 55,000 copies at $9.95. Most of those sales came from pet stores rather than bookstores. With no returns.
Do It sold over 175,000 copies at $2.25 retail. 30,000 copies were sold through Waldenbooks (where it was on their required stock list), 8,000 coplies through B. Daltons, and 45,000 through Publishers Central catalogs. In addition, tons of books were sold via Amway. All those names clearly date this post.
Let's Cook Microware, a self-published book, sold 700,000 copies over ten years - all with no advertising whatsoever. At the time, they were still receiving 200 to 300 mail orders every week, all from word of mouth. They also had bookstore distribution via Publishers Group West and Pacific Pipeline. Whenever they would go back to press, the minimum press run was 50,000 copies.
Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends quietly sold more than 175,000 copies without any advertising. The publisher, Impact Publishers, had a number of other quiet bestsellers: Your Perfect Right, with 650,000 copies sold at that time, and The Assertive Woman, with more than 250,000 sales.
With Love From My Kitchen sold over 40,000 copies primarily outside the bookstore. "Gift and gourmet shops reorder and reorder."
Yes, there are legitimate reasons to want a New York Times bestseller, but sometimes sales are more important, especially if you're trying to keep a business in business or food on your family's table.
John Kremer, revealing how old he is by digging so deeply into the past . . .