Last week, you mentioned BookScan numbers when publishers are looking at self-published titles. So I naturally went to look up mine and was dismayed to find that it only reflected a little over two dozen copies sold
online.(retail) I understand why, of course. But in reality, I've sold a couple hundred copies (directly)through my own website and at conferences, which is also more lucrative for me because I make more money that way.
Does this hurt me in the eyes of the industry? I'm thinking of querying my next novel because while I really do love indie publishing, my ambition is calling again and I'd like that greater reach. And I think, now, that maybe I'm capable of it. But if an agent looks at my sales record through BookScan, it'll look petty dismal in comparison to the reality of my offline sales (which I know aren't great comparatively, but I'm mostly happy with the snowball effect that's happening).
Everyone understands that self-pubbed books rarely sell well, even good ones.
And everyone REALLY understands that Bookscan is not an accurate snapshot of sales. The normal proviso one hears is "Bookscan captures about 70% of the market." That's sort of true. I've seen titles that showed only 30% of the total sales. And not just isolated examples either.
Your case is one clear example of why: the sales Bookscan sees are from reporting stores. Not all stores report. And it misses all DIRECT sales like yours: at speeches and conferences (these are called back of the room sales.)
The real question you're asking though is how to address this (or not) when you query for that new novel. You don't have to mention it if you don't want, and for someone without the good reviews you've gotten that's probably the best choice.
But, if you've got good reviews, and if you've sold a couple hundred copies, you might say "I self published Novel X to good reviews (with a link to said review) and sold better than what Bookscan would have you believe."
The reason previous sales numbers are such a big deal is because bookstores look at them to determine how much to order of the next book. Knowing you sold 1000 copies of your debut, they will expect to sell somewhat fewer of Book #2. If you sold 10 copies of your debut, don't be surprised if not a lot of stores are interested in stocking your book.
BUT, bookstore buyers do not audit publisher catalogs for previous sales numbers. If they don't know your work they're liable to treat you as a new commodity, even if the catalog copy doesn't say debut.
Your agent will work with you on this kind of positioning. How to finesse your misspent youth is a whole seminar, complete with final exam, at Agent School.
For proof that I will overlook a misspent youth in publishing for the right project I offer up Jeff Somers, who queried me with the cheerful news that he was a publisher killer. And yet, here we are, eight novels and three replacement bars later,