There is a lot of talk about numbers these days, as the indie revolution spreads. Authors who have been riding the wave for a year or more write posts about their numbers being in the thousands each day, in the tens of thousands at the end of each month. They talk a lot about strategy, and campaigns and how to improve sales, how to boost numbers, and you can almost see the eyes of the newbies spinning round and round, ka-chinging with thoughts of dollar signs and taking the easy path to riches.
Unfortunately, that’s not the reality.
First of all, no two authors will have the same numbers. Even if they wrote the identical book, with the identical title and posted it in all the same places…they would not have the same number of sales.
I have author friends who are doing far better in sales than I am, and some others who aren’t. Every day, sales figures change. There are dips and rises, like riding on a roller coaster, and there are those who study those numbers and track them trying to find a pattern. Do books sell better on Wednesdays? OnHolidayweekends? This past July long weekend, some authors said their sales completely stalled. They sold one or two copies and they blamed this on the fact it was a holiday and people were away, they were at the beach, at a baseball game, at a cottage… Yet I had one of the best sales weekends yet…almost 900 copies in three days…great for me, phenomenal to others, a disaster to some who sell that many in an hour.
Name recognition? Yes, that could surely account for the differences between one author’s sales and another’s. But if you apply that to me, my name hasn’t been before the reading public in over seven years, whereas others have been putting books out in print every six months.
The type of books I write? Absolutely, that is a factor. I write swashbucklers. Action-packed, sexy, sensual swashbucklers that publishers pushed out of style in favor of shorter, character-driven books featuring vampires and girlfriends sharing angst and uncomplicated plot lines that took the place of pirates and knights and highwaymen. There is a very good blog here that explains why a lot of authors got turned off the big Publishing Houses. And an even better one here about why watching numbers can drive a writer crazy.
The bottom line is, if you listen to the numbers people post, and assume that you’re books will have the same results, you’ll go nuts. If you assume your numbers will remain consistent or even continue to grow each month, you can go a different kind of crazy because good numbers one month can dip down to crappy numbers the next. It’s just the nature of the beast, and you take the good months in with the bad, but your sales are never ever going to be as good or as bad as someone else’s. The number will be unique to you.
One thing everyone has to remember is that those books stay up from now until forever. Your grandkids’ grandkids will be collecting royalties on them long after you’re dust. So just take each week, each month as a gift you weren’t expecting, weren’t counting on. Sure, it’s a numbers game, but don’t worry about anyone else’s numbers. Don’t even worry about your own. I stopped writing seven years ago because it wasn’t fun anymore, the publishers had taken away my creative freedom and based all of my print runs, distribution, marketing and contract negotiations on…you guessed it…numbers.
I’m writing again because self publishing has given me back my creative freedom…something every author should treasure like the hope freaking diamond. Most new indie authors won’t know the true worth of that freedom because it has never been taken away. Yet they run the greater risk of throwing it away themselves because they let the numbers consume them and they forget why they’re writing in the first place.
I write because I live in a small town inSouthern Ontario. I’m afraid of sailing. I’ve never held a sword, never drawn a bow, never galloped down a moonlit road in the middle of the night with a patrol of soldiers chasing after me. I’ve never stood on a battlefield on a chilly morning and seen the steam rise off open wounds. I’ve never climbed a ship’s rigging or fired a cannon. I’ve never slept with Russell Crowe, or Paul Newman or Errol Flynn, but I’ve I pictured them all in my mind and in my arms as I write love scenes.
That…is creative freedom. That is fun. And that is far more important to me than numbers.