How many books do you need to sell to become a bestseller?

I’m on a quest to become a full-time author by 2016 – that means, I need my books to earn enough to meet my needs, so I can do what I want with my time. If you live in the US, that figure might be $5,000. I’d like to get up to $10,000 a month eventually, that’s when I’ll feel I “made it” as an author. But I’ll be happy when I have my first $1K month, so that’s my first goal. After looking at sales figures for awhile, I basically planned to have 10 different 99 cent books, and keep each of them about the 10,000 rank. That would earn me a good start.

But how many sales does it take to stay in the 10,000 range?

I found this helpful chart at



I’m putting it here because I know I’ll have to keep checking it.

I only need to sell about 20 books a day to stay in that range. That’s good to know. It’s a clear number. There are a few ways to approach this problem.

How do I drive 20 new sales a day from my websites?

If you can get 200 people on your website a day and get 10% of them to buy your book, you’d be made. Of you could advertise – if you spend .50 getting them to click, but sell the book for $2.99, you’ll still make money. You want long term, consistent sales though.

How do I get up to the top pages of Amazon?

If you get enough reviews first (25+), have a great cover, lots of editorial reviews, and a great description, if you get high enough on Kindle, you might just stay there because of the increase in visibility. If you’re in the first page of your target category, you’ll get 20+ new sales a day because Amazon is promoting you. So you just want to get up really high, and if you’ve woven your net well, you’ll catch fish on the way back down (which will lead to a bump in sales rank).

You want to stay as high as you can.

You can do these easier if you set your book to free or 99cents, but even so, there’s too much competition until you can drive some sales. I don’t think you should launch a book, ever, if you can’t guarantee 25 sales.

Ways to do it: have a big party, or dinner for all your friends, but they have to buy your book on Kindle (for 99cents – don’t try to make money of your friends.)

It doesn’t matter what price the book is, and your 99cents book will probably get double the sales, than it would have if you set it higher. You don’t want more money, in the beginning, you want more visibility.

I might run a contest with a huge prize, and people have to buy the book and review to enter. Or I might trade people something else valuable in exchange for buying a book, like a keychain. But it’s not about money, you’re trying to drive as many sales as you can on one specific day. Ideally you’d want to be able to guarantee 100 sales before you launch (which means an email list of about 1000 people).

“Amazon Bestseller” or bestseller in your category?

The chart above is for all of Amazon, so you’ll 3000+ sales a DAY to be an Amazon bestseller. But, most people are actually using the term loosely, when they’re bestsellers in their category. If you pick categories where the #1 book isn’t actually selling that well, it will be easy to be #1 in your category. And you SHOULD be – first you have to figure out your category, and who’s #1 and how many books they’re selling. (I use KindleSpy for that).

Can you drive that many sales? If not, maybe look for a similar category where the first slot isn’t selling so much (around 10K = 20 books. You should be able to sell 20 books on your launch day).

How much does hitting #1 like that matter? Not much… but you can use it as social proof.


It looks good, it’s impressive, and also – when you DO get results, everything else will be easier. For example, if you say “please buy my book, on sale today!” it’s not going to work very well. But if you spend $20 on advertising, sell 20 books and hit #1, then you can share a screenshot and say “WOW, I’m #1 already on my new book! Thanks everyone for supporting me.” Success begets success. It’s more likely those kind of posts will get a reaction and drive more sales.

I’ve just decided my new lifetime goal is to hit #1 on all of Amazon. To be safe, I should drive 10,000 sales of my books on one day. I can do that. Maybe not with my first book, but in the next several years, once my email list hits 50,000 YA readers, it should be pretty easy.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • Swedishskier

    My book gets good professional reviews but sales are crummy. I’m watching your advice and wondering what the best first step is: redesign the cover, or boost my ranking and redesign later. I really only have about $250 left so I can’t just do a bunch of stuff at this point. I’ve probably overspent on professional reviews but at this stage, I’m stuck with that (and I’ll say it’s improved my confidence in my book.) I like the giveaways and want to do one and have some good ideas there but am thinking it’s either redesign the cover (and I’m not even sure how to go about that since someone donated the cover design,) or boost rankings with the bots. I’m confident readers will respond if I can get to them…

    • Link to your book and I’ll check out the cover. It’s important to get right…

  • N.C Harley

    Excellent Article Derek! I think also the key to being a successful Indie is to keep publishing and sales funnel down to other books. Also love that infographic but i’ve also heard if Amazon see’s people hitting your page, that is your directing traffic to them they help push your books. Good luck with everything! I’m also planning on having an amazing 2016 writing my book in the french castle of course.

  • Love the article mate!

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