An author recently sent in the following when asking about his book sales:
“I know I had sales in August. NovelRank, which only counts Amazon sales, shows 9 books sold. BookScan, which grossly underestimates, shows 2.
For print on demand titles, and for many other titles as well, Amazon orders from Ingram, the largest book distributor. Ingram then ships that book to Amazon’s customer directly, even using an Amazon.com return address label. For this author in particular, Ingram didn’t report any sales of his book in August. I explained to him that some of the sales reported by Ingram in September (see numbers below) may have been some of the same ones reported by NovelRank or BookScan. Ingram may report a sale only after they have been paid for that sale.
NovelRank uses Amazon’s rankings to estimate sales but everyone knows you can’t use Amazon’s rankings to accurately report sales. A book can move up in ranking while selling zero copies just based on the number of products added to or removed from Amazon in any given day, along with other factors. For more information on Amazon’s rankings, click HERE and HERE.
BookScan is also not 100% reliable – far from it. We have audited Ingram’s sales on numerous occasions over the years and we’ve never found even one missing sale from their reports. If we or any publisher approached them saying, “BookScan reported xx sales for this title so you need to prove that many DIDN’T sell,” they’d probably laugh at us, and with good reason. Third-party databases aren’t accurate enough to “prove” a sale actually occurred. The person requesting the audit of sales on that title would need to provide copies of receipts for proof of payment from real customers because that’s the only trackable method to prove a sale occurred.
If you ask BookScan for absolute proof of those sales (customer receipts), they can’t provide it because, of course, it doesn’t exist. Amazon’ won’t give their customers’ purchase information to BookScan, or anyone else. NovelRank also can’t prove a sale occurred. It’s unfortunate that authors think those services are a 100% reliable indicator not only for number of sales, but also for when sales occurred. They are not.
The fact that both firms claim to be getting their information from Amazon, yet one number is 4 times higher than the other, makes it obvious there’s a big problem with reporting.
Finally, Amazon and, subsequently, Ingram, may not report sales in the exact month they occur. They may not report a sale until they are paid for a sale. If a customer issues a chargeback, or if a book is returned within a short period of time, that may not show up as a sale, either. If they resell a returned copy, that may show up as a sale but you’re not going to get paid twice because they didn’t get paid twice for the book (they refunded the first customer’s money). As you can see, a variety of factors come into play.
The months that BookScan and NovelRank claim to represent sales are also not accurate just based on their conflicting numbers.
For this author in particular:
NovelRank – August: 9 copies reported sold
BookScan – August: 2 copies reported sold
Ingram – August: 0 copies sold
Ingram – September: 8 copies sold
Ingram – October: 15 copies sold
If any author wants to dispute their publisher’s or Ingram’s sales reports, they must obtain proof of sales from customers (copies of receipts). Again, BookScan and NovelRank can’t do that because they don’t have that information. And, since they don’t have that information, they obviously don’t know how many copies have sold, or if any have sold at all. They should not be permitted to publish false information but they do.
Of course, you can buy copies of your book yourself from stores to audit Ingram later.
For more tips on how to test your publisher’s (or Ingram’s) sales report, click HERE.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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