This is the wrap-up post to the series I started on Sunday about important questions authors should ask their editors/publishers. Here are links to the earlier posts on distribution, marketing and P.R. as well as sell-through data.
This final post is about sales expectations. I'm talking about the publisher's expectations, not the author's. The publisher uses a P&L to gauge a book project's viability. Either the editor creates this book P&L on their own or they work with a business manager to construct it. The P&L starts with a top-line sales number which represents the editor's expectations for how the book will perform. That number was probably arrived at with input from sales, marketing and possibly even account feedback.
The question you, the author, should ask your editor is: What are your internal sales projections for this book? This will also help you determine how they may have arrived at a royalty and advance offer since most publishers want to limit advances to something that will earn out in the first year of sales. This question also loops back to my earlier post on distribution. The logic provided in the answer to the distribution question should map well to the answer for this overall sales expectations question.