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Thread: Can a publisher's book sales be independently checked?

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    Default Can a publisher's book sales be independently checked?

    Might any book authors know if there is an independent way of checking actual book sales figures, to see how they compare to what the publisher has provided? Can a hired agent, for example, legally gain access to a publisher's records (not that these couldn't be doctored)?

    I have no reason to doubt the numbers recently given to me by the publisher, but it seems inherently wrong that an author should have to rely on his or her publisher for sales figures.

    In the case of my specialty-subject RAF book, with small sales totals, my guess is that it is too expensive, and not worth it, to hire an agent, even if an agent could uncover actual sales figures, or verify the publisher-provided numbers.

    I would just like to feel confident in sales numbers, not caring about the chump change I make in royalties. It's really a curiosity thing.

    Thanks,

    Matt

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    Hi Matt,
    I had the same idea years ago but finally give up so I am afraid I will be not able to help you. I do not know the law in the UK and USA but here in Czech Republic you have to rely what the publisher said. No one else has right to access his records.

    Generally the publishers are not keen to share any numbers, one in the past when there were fixed royalties was just telling me all the time "the book is selling well" withou letting me know any number.
    I have heard also some rumors (not about my books but others) that the outlay was different than stated and publisher than made a reprint without paying any royalties to the author.

    That is all what I can add to this topic.

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    I know with some retail items, magazines I think, sales can be totally misleading as a chain may order, say 500 copies, sell 10 but later return any excess to the publisher. So are the sales 500 or 10 or the figure net of returns which may differ from 490?

    What you really want to know is how many people actually paid for the book and took it home. Do libraries and museums pay for books or are they donated?

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    Thanks, Pavel and PNK.

    I began to add something more to my original post, regarding library copies and, as PNK said, chains ordering copies but returning some -- making the whole issue of book sales much more complicated. Then I deleted it, to keep the post from being too detailed.

    Fortunately, I'm not in this game to make a living at it, and royalties (I'm pleased that there are some) are absolutely just a bonus.

    I keep a daily spreadsheet of highest rankings in three different Amazon sites where an RAF-themed book has a better chance of selling -- amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca, and amazon.com.au (UK, Canada, and Australia). Just for the intrigue of it, I enjoy noting whatever the three highest-ranked sub-categories of books are at any one moment. Leading the way on amazon.co.uk is, typically, the HUGE category of WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Burma, though, strangely, some of the Top 10 books are always non-Burma-themed. Currently, for example, 6 of the top 10 books are non-Burma subjects:

    #1. BERLIN by Antony Beevor (Kindle edition)
    #2. BERLIN by Antony Beevor (Paperback edition)
    #4. NEMESIS, The Battle for Japan 1944-45 by Max Hastings
    #6. THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN by James Holland (Paperback edition)
    #9. DAMBUSTERS by James Holland (Paperback edition)
    #10. TO END ALL WARS by Gordon Ernest.

    That last one, I think, covers only Death Railway activities in Thailand, even though the subject is the Burma-Siam Railway.

    For all I know, one book sale on Amazon.co.uk will make the WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Burma ranking for that book jump from 90 to 10!

    My head is in the right place. I was just wondering if there is any such thing as accountability in the publishing business, because knowing sales numbers, with some semblance of certainty, is a bonus in its own right.

    Cheers,

    Matt
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 2nd May 2019 at 01:59.

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    A problem with sales figures is where the figures are taken from. Is it what the printer prints, the wholeseller passes to the retailers (what about returns). Is it including the many freebies and statutory copies to the Brit Library and the other national libraries (six copies in total). Does it include the numbers which the publisher passes to the 'remainder' sellers. What happens if the book reprints.

    If it is an option for you, do it yourself. I get somebody to produce the book for printing and then I order what I want using 'print on demand'. Of course this involves plenty of pre-publication nerves and a willingness/ability to stump up funds for the initial publication. I have no idea if paying up front and selling yourself is viable but it is worth thinking about.

    Colin Cummings

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    Matt

    The norm (as I understand it) is that royalties are based on nett sales value i.e the transfer price from the publisher to the "buyer". If the buyer is a distributor their buy price may be 45-60% below retail price. If a retailer it may be 30-50% below retail. So your royalty payments may be rather less that you were anticipating.

    Normally an author contract (or memorandum of understanding) will include a "right of audit" clause, whereby, if you distrust the sales out numbers provided, you can ask for an audit of the numbers. This, initially, would be at your expense, but would be reimbursed by the publisher if the discrepancy (if any) were more than, say, 5-10% (in your favour).

    Lastly: Do not, repeat not, get even slightly interested in Amazon rankings. That way, madness lies.

    Hope this helps
    NiallC

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    There was a tool allowing to monitor Amazon sales, but the support has been withdrawn by Amazon and the site ceased to operate.
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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    Thanks, Colin, NiallC, and Franek for your responses. I have a couple of words to add, but it's late, so I'll post at a more convenient time. Cheers to all. Matt

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