The Numbers Behind a CreateSpace Bestseller

The_Walk_createspace Createspace publishes hundreds of thousands of books in print-on-demand paperback format…but the chances of any of those authors experiencing real success are very slim. And here's how I know. The paperback edition of my book THE WALK is a CreateSpace bestseller…in July, it was #4 on their fiction bestseller list, ahead of Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath. 

And you know how many copies I had to sell to become their #4 bestselling novel?

204 copies.

Yep, that's it, just 204 copies.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased with the sales, because that's found money, another $764 in my pocket on a book that went out-of-print years ago. But my "success" proves just how pitiful the sales are on all those hundreds of thousands of other CreateSpace books. This should be a wake-up call to everyone who thinks self-publishing is a goldmine.

THE WALK is an abberation for me. I typically sell 150-200 copies a month of THE WALK in paperback…while my other titles are lucky to move 8-12 copies each.

THE WALK is also my bestselling Kindle ebook, typically selling over 1000 copies a month (though the sales dipped a bit in June and July), far above my other titles. My next best-selling Kindle titles do less than half as well.   THREE WAYS TO DIE  typically sells 475-500 copies a month and WATCH ME DIE moves about 350-400 a month. 


12 thoughts on “The Numbers Behind a CreateSpace Bestseller”

  1. This may be a stupid question, but Createspace isn’t selling it as a paperback? What / where are you publishing it through as a paperback (you mentioned it was selling well as a paperback)?

  2. I don’t think so. What Lee does, as seems to be his MO, is include a dose of reality. You can still get rich from this, but it will take time and a damn lot of effort. Lee works hard, but he has a LOT of irons in the fire and his efforts are obviously split.
    There are people out there who are using CS as PART of their scheme (for lack of a better word, and no disrespect intended). But there is no quick answer. You have to work hard and twice as smart, but it can be done.

  3. It’s always good to get a balanced perspective–I particularly appreciate hearing the ‘grays’ as Lee shares here. To me there doesn’t seem to be one right publishing path. Indie pubbing will probably not render the current model as obsolete as buggies or dinosaurs, however if you don’t want to spend years trying to find the magic fit with an agent/publisher or secede much control and much of the profits to a house, it can be quite a good alternative.
    Indie publishing is right for some and not for others. Traditional forms of publishing–from small presses to large–are right for some and not for others. Opportunity, luck, and timing have a lot to do with where we end up, as do which kinds of books we write.
    How great to have such a wide range of options now to try out!

  4. Great information, Lee. Thanks for posting! I’m selling 10-12 copies per month of my two golden retriever mysteries, and like you, I consider the CS sales to be “found money.” It’s also a service to fans who still want paper books.

  5. I’d love to sell 204 copies. I think I’ve sold maybe 40 of the paperback. Ebooks are the much better way to go if you want to self-publish because you can charge far less so people are willing to take a flier on it.

  6. CreateSpace doesn’t sell your book. That’s up to you. They help you produce it. If the book is exceptional, you will realize great profits from it. If not, well, what do you expect.
    Unfortunately, while self-publishing has opened doors for many, this also means that anybody who thinks they can write or thinks they have a story to tell, can get it published. And frankly, 90 percent of the titles aren’t worth even a glance. That’s reality.

  7. It was interesting what Lee said, but it is a known fact that first time writers of fiction sell on an average 2000 books, and that is considered good. Most writers won’t get published by The Big Five Publishers. Venues like CreateSpace is a wonderful way to get a writer/artist’s book out there. Some of the greatest books of literature have been personally printed. Every success takes hard work. You can’t sit on your butt and expect someone to come knocking on your door. The World of publishing has changed with Social Networks, and of corse the internet. I am getting ready to publish with CS and I expect to use my marketing skills to have some success with it. I am also a professional sculptor, and just because I don’t have a big New York City art gallery, doesn’t mean that my work is not known in the art world, and doesn’t sell. Be glad and remember: Where there is a Will there is a way.
    Jerry Harris
    San Francisco, Ca.

    • Jerry wrote: “it is a known fact that first time writers of fiction sell on an average 2000 books, and that is considered good.”

      I don’t know where you came up with that “average sales” number. Are you referring to books published by “traditional publishers” or self-published titles? Can you quote any reputable sources for that figure? I suspect, if you are talking about self-published authors, the actual number of sales for first time fiction authors is far, far lower. Like in the low 3 figures.


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