Cover Photo: A screencap from the 1989 film 'Say Anything,' in which the actor John Cusack, wearing a trench coat, lifts a boom box over his head.
Production still via Gracie Films/Twentieth Century Fox

“It’s downright wild out there”: A Q&A on Book Sales with Alyson Forbes

As part of our Money Week series, Alyson Forbes shares the ins and outs of book sales and explains how indie presses “care about your book the way John Cusack cares about Ione Skye in ‘Say Anything’.”

Don’t Write Alone

Tajja Isen: What factors determine the size of an author’s advance?

TI: Book sales—the literal numbers of them—can seem like a bit of a black box. How are copies counted, and how often do writers “earn out”?

Say Anything

TI: How much does an author make per book (in hardcover, paperback, and ebook), and which format tends to sell the most copies?

TI: We know selling, say, a hundred copies isn’t great and selling a million copies is amazing, but in terms of the in-between: What’s considered a good sales range for a debut book?

TI: What about how the sales of a debut affect the fate of the author’s next book?

TI: Do most backlist titles eventually stop selling? How can an author continue to support their backlist titles?

Tajja Isen (@tajjaisen) is the editor-in-chief of Catapult. Her first book, Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service, was published in April 2022.