How many books do you need to sell to be successful in Ireland?

Eoin Purcell

Here’s A Question
I’m trying to get to grips with what people in Ireland THINK about success is in terms of booksales (of any kind of book: Fiction, Non-Fiction, High, Middle or Low Brow, hardback or paperback). It is something, as a publisher you always wonder. It is also a pretty important thing to have a handle on. After all if you KNOW what constitutes success and your authors have a PERCEPTION of what constitutes success and those two do not match, then you have a problem.

Mostly I suspect that both Irish authors and Irish consumers either have no clear idea of what a successful book would sell or THINK that they have a good idea. Much as nearly everybody I have met who doesn’t work in the industry thinks that editors, commissioning editors and publishers are paid large salaries (if only!). My sister is better off as a primary school teacher than most editors I know.

In any case, to try and get to the bottom of what people think or know I’ve devised a quick poll. It is not sophisticated or clever. In fact, it is quite basic but it does what it says on the tin. I’d love if people could share it, link to it and encourage as many people as possible to offer their thoughts and opinions.

If you have any follow up questions, let me know (eoin[DOT]purcell[AT] and I will get back to you.
UPDATE: If you would like to base this on a time period, try per year!

Beautiful morning walk/run along Dun Laoghaire pier (I’m sure the vista of a running Eoin was amusing for those watching)!

18 thoughts on “How many books do you need to sell to be successful in Ireland?

  1. The first book sold felt a success to me Eoin! But I have quite a way to go with Barbelo’s Blood from that particular success!

    The little successes do count though, first book in post to the USA yesterday, that felt good..


  2. Eoin,

    I reckon for the Irish market 3750 units sold would be a marvelous success for most average authors in a country with just over 4m population.

    Though, interesting, with a UK population of about 60m, that would equate to 50,000 units! And considering that, it puts the modest 3750 units sold on the Irish market into real perspective.

    Still, whether the book is non-fiction or fiction does make a considerable difference.

  3. I opted for 4,000.

    Funnily enough I would have thought it a lot higher — but having a book published and starting to see some real sales figures adds a bit of perspective.

    Of course 400,000 would be better ;-).

  4. I’m going with 15,000, especially for ‘general fiction’. Less for non-fiction and books for teens and kids. Really curious to see what you have to say about it though, and what others think.

    1. Though I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘success’ – doing well enough to get another book published, or doing well enough to be thought of as ‘successful’? I’m presuming there’s a gap between the two, but maybe I’m wrong on this one…

    1. Now that is a tricky question. It depends on the week. The necessary number for a week in the Christmas run in would be huge, for a regular week not so high maybe 750 upwards!

      1. Is that fiction? Surely I could find 749 friend and family to buy my book in one week. Does every bookshop count or only certain ones? I’ve read that some supermarkets don’t report

  5. Eoin,
    Greetings. I’m sorry for not staying in touch. I hope you are in great form.

    I ought to know the right answer to this, being the son, grandson, & brother of a bookseller. People who bought books put shirts on my back and food in my stomach.

    I’d say that you’d go to the top of bestsellers if you sold 1000 copies of a new hardback over three months. 4,000 a year would be a big success. Some time ago I heard it said that what I thought was a small number would get you into the UK bestseller list.

    As for paperbacks in Ireland, I’d say 7,000 would be a success in first year of publication.

    Because of this thinking, I’m incredibly interested in getting my book on Depresion into UK & US bookshops – otherwise I won’t make any money from it.

    Please give me a ring if you still have my number.

  6. As an ex-pat who comes home to Ireland once or twice a year, success in the Irish book market is measured by how easily I can find a title in my brief window of opportunity. If it’s in the little book store in my parent’s hometown (Navan, Co. Meath) it must be a) brand new or b) a success. If I have to search all over Dublin to find a copy, it must not have been a success.

    May not be the numbers you’re looking for, Eoin. But, that’s the terms of success as defined by my annual book-buying expeditions.

  7. The answer varies greatly depending on the type (fiction/nonfiction) and the market segment. Non-fiction titles sell in tiny numbers and 2000-3000 is good in my experience. Nonfiction sales in excess of 10,000 are exceptionally rare.

    I guess the format and quality of materials in the book also are significant. A glossy, large format photo book is going to need to sell a lot of units to be considered successful by its publisher.

    I guess it highlights the difficulty in achieving financial success or even financial independence as an author in the Irish market. I’m sure its a shock to many authors when they have their sales expectations set by publishers.

  8. Eoin,

    As an Irish consumer I have no idea about the numbers and would happily adopt Paul’s (he seems trustworthy!) measure of success as my benchmark.

    However, if a book was published on ‘how to quit smoking’ and only 300 people purchased the book but as a result 30 people kicked the habit then I would also consider this book a success. Although as a publisher you probably would not be to happy.

    This obviously applies to any idea and while I know you were looking at it from the perspective of number of books sold I kept coming back to the question of impact as well as quantity. This is probably symptomatic of the general populous and helps explain why most of us will have no clear idea of success in terms of book sales. Also as an author I would prefer it if my books were only bought by the same 500 people every time rather than have a on hit wonder of 5,000.

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