Thursday, January 27, 2011

My First Million-Seller!

By Dave Armstrong (1-27-11)

Well, kinda-sorta . . . Unfortunately, the big seller is not a book. It's my pamphlet, Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked, published by Our Sunday Visitor in July 2002. I've made more in royalties for this two-page pamphlet than I have for any of my books, since it has consistently sold well, and because Our Sunday Visitor is the largest Catholic publisher (more advertising and distribution: the name of the game in publishing).

It has sold 22,695 copies, as of 12-31-10. The pamphlets come in packs of 50, so if you do the math, individual pamphlets sold a total of 1,134,750. Thus, over a million people have read this, just as over 1.5 million people have visited my blog since February 2004. I don't make one cent of profit from the latter activity (2650 posts and counting) but that's fine. It's my choice, and I'm happy to serve the Catholic community, as long as I am able to, and have enough income from other avenues.

My other bestselling books are as follows (in terms of copies sold):

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (self-published in October 2001 and by Sophia Institute Press from May 2003): 19,144 (as of 7-25-10).

The Catholic Verses (published in August 2004 by Sophia Institute Press): 16,174 (as of 7-25-10).

The One-Minute Apologist (published in May 2007 by Sophia Institute Press): 8,981 (as of 7-25-10).

The New Catholic Answer Bible (April 2005) is also consistently selling very well, as evidenced by continually high placements (often top 20, or at least top 50) in amazon lists for sales rank in the category of Catholic books. I don't have exact numbers for that because I don't get paid royalties for it (hence no statements with figures twice a year). But to be that high in those rankings, it must be doing quite well.

Essentially, then, I have five bestselling works in the Catholic market, which is (obviously, with these kinds of numbers) a small, niche market. Catholic apologist Karl Keating, in his November 2006 e-letter written in support of Sophia Institute Press (publisher of four of my books), wrote about Catholic publishing:

I remember, years ago, meeting with Fr. Joseph Fessio at Ignatius Press in San Francisco. I asked him how many copies of a book he would need to sell to turn a profit. He said he would need to sell as few as 3,000 copies, but not a few of the titles Ignatius published never reached even that level. . . .

The plain truth is that very few Catholic books sell into six figures. For that matter, few sell into five figures. In orthodox Catholic publishing, you have a hit if you sell 10,000 copies of a title. It certainly is a niche market.

The Writers Guidelines web page for Servant Books / St. Anthony Messenger Press makes a similar observation:

Our books are written for the adult Catholic market. Our readers are parents, young adults, priests, members of religious orders, directors of religious education, catechists, teachers, people actively involved in parish life and ministry, small–group leaders, readers searching for inspiration for their spiritual life or help with special problems. We look for books that will sell in trade and religious bookstores. We expect to sell at least 5,000 to 7,000 copies of a book.

Another way to "rank" my books is to figure out what they have sold as an average per month. By those calculations, the bestselling titles are as follows:

The One-Minute Apologist 236 / month average over 38 months.

The Catholic Verses 225 / month average over 72 months.

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked 225 / month average over 101 months.

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism 201 / month average over 87 months (Sophia Institute Press: since May 2003) or 181 / month average, including the self-published period starting in October 2001 (106 months).

Again, I don't have figures for The New Catholic Answer Bible, but it would certainly be comparable to these, if not the bestselling of all.

Thanks so much for reading! It's both rewarding and quite humbling to me that people are actually interested in my writing. I love my life, and wouldn't trade it for anything. It's a financial struggle at times, but all in all it is a wonderful life and it is my privilege and honor and joy to be a full-time apologist (as I have been since December 2001). All glory to God for His gifts and provisions and mercies and guidance.


Stan Williams said...

I'll accept a little applause for applauding David. Just recently I took delivery of 8 cases of Dave's books to sell at Nineveh's Crossing, as well as the OSV pamphlets. Just shipped a bunch to Australia and the UK. Thank you Dave for our good writing and apologetics. We now sell your stuff wholesale to bookstores.

Dave Armstrong said...

And thank you for your extraordinary interest and encouragement, my good friend and fellow Michigander!

Hey, I'm gonna try to see "The Rite" tomorrow. I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

lozeerose said...

Congratulations Dave. If I haven't already done so, I would like to take the time to thank you for your work. You first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, was the first apologetics book I ever read when I finally decided to return home to the Church.

You words really helped me understand what I was missing when I decided to fall away.

Dave Armstrong said...

Well, that is nice of you to say. Praise God that He used this poor sinner in some fashion to help you along. He is good!