Self-published authors often ask: What is a good sales rank? Ranking at #1 is obviously great and ranking at #1,000,000 is no doubt bad. But what about all the ranks in-between, what is good enough to make a living as an author?
The answer? … It depends. A book priced at $9.99 can sell half as many books as a book priced at $0.99 and still make 5 times as much money (and that is before accounting for differences in royalty payouts that will tilt the balance even more in favor of the $9.99 book). A low-priced book with a good sales rank may in this way actually be preforming worse than a high-priced book with a medium sales rank.
Likewise, a book that earns $10,000 in a year may be a boon to some authors and a dud to others. It all depends on the circumstances of the author and the work he or she has put into the book.
So for good measure let’s imagine an author that wants to earn $50,000 in a year on a single book priced at $4.99. What is a good sales rank for our author?
If our author is self-publishing, she will be earning about $3.40 per copy sold (assuming a standard 70% royalty rate with the delivery costs of a standard non-picture book subtracted). This means she is looking to sell roughly 14,705 books in a year. What sales rank does this correspond to?
At #1: she will have sold her 14,705 copies in a little more than 2 days.
At #10: she will have managed the same in 4 days.
At #100: she will have to wait a full fortnight
At #1000: her yearly sales quota will take a little more than 100 days to fill.
At #3000: she has to wait more than 200 days to earn her $50,000
And finally at #4500: she has to wait the full year.
A good sales rank for our fictitious author in other words is anything lower than #4500.
Now imagine that our author has written three books and not just one but is still happy with a yearly income of $50,000. What then is a good sales rank for each of her books?
Surprisingly it is not #13,500 (3 X #4500). The curve flattens at the end of the tail and the drop-off of copies sold decreases markedly as we move into the high sales rank numbers.
With three books priced at $4.99, each book needs to sell about 14 copies each day to pass the magic number of 14,705 books sold in a year. That means that the three books each have to keep a rank better than #16,100 for the year. If our author ups the price of her books to $9.99, she can live with ranks as ‘bad’ as #42,400 for each of her books.
A good sales rank, in other words, depends on many things but can be surprisingly high. This is why our professional lists stretches far into the very high sales ranks. If you earn royalty on a number of books, sales ranks as high as #100,000 can be interesting commercially.