Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Authors and book sales

It would be an unusual author who did not wonder from time to time about their book sales. Some say it's not what they write for, since the satisfaction of putting work 'out there' is all they need. Others produce a few copies for friends and family, and the joy of being read by their small circle is quite enough. A few dread the publicity, or what could happen if fame or notoriety knocked at their door, so they hang back.

English: Book Sales in the UK, 2008: Total Con...Image via WikipediaBut realistically speaking, most authors have some sort of level of interest in how their titles do on the market. Curiosity, eagerness, wishful thinking or a purely commercial mind-set will eventually push an author to harbour the desire to know how a title is doing, as far as sales are concerned. Not reviews. Not favourable comments on blogs. Not letters or emails from distant relatives or friends. No ... sales. Simple numbers of sales as they appear in a column of figures. Or on a pie-chart. Or a graph. They are not interested in global book sales of all the authors in a genre, or all the authors in a given region. They want to know how many books they have sold.

Most independent publishers send out half-yearly royalties statements to their authors. It used to be quarterly, but time and staff restrictions have seen the periods lengthen somewhat. So every six months, authors' eyes travel up and down those columns of figures and seek ... you've guessed it. Numbers of sales. How many copies of any title sold in that six-month period. How many people clicked that button. How many copies Amazon posted off. How many paperbacks in paperbags?
With so many turning to self-publishing (it's also possible these days to write that down without the need for euphemistic synonyms!) the ability to read sales figures almost as soon as the sale takes place has come about. Hold an account with Createspace or Kindle, and you hold the facility to view your figures in real time minus one hour! Oh goody gumdrops. Not.

This convenience, this facility, has the in-built ability to drive you mad. Make an addict of you. Take you from your writing. Sales could become the bane of your life. Arrggh! It used to be submission fever. Agent allergy. Rejection phobia. Now it's figure fatigue. I know some authors who keep a daily eye on what's happening on Amazon, Sony Ebook Store, Smashwords, and a couple of other online retailers. Daily. I know more than just a couple who have a peep many times a day. This can do a number of things to one's self-esteen, one's general morale, and one's schedule. It can completely stifle the will to carry on writing, or it can fill one with such euphoria it's impossible to write another word.

Every second day is a scenario that seems more sane. Let's face it - a sale is a sale. Its record will not fade away if one waits until the morrow. Weekly, too. A weekly peep will still give you a great idea. If an author were to look once a month, even, the figure is sure to gladden.

The temptation to look, however, is enormous. It's more than just an itch or idea. It's a compulsion.

Isn't it?

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  1. Like the song says, Rosanne, 'Don't count your money while you're sittin' at the table; time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.'

    What I like about taking in sales figures (with the song's advice in mind) only in spring and fall is that each statement covers lucky streaks and bad runs: a peak season when sales rise (Christmas and Easter) and a silly season when they're often in the doldrums (post-New Year and high summer).

    The great beauty of ebooks, of course, is that they don't have that nail-biting six-weeks-to-two months make-or-break sales window allowed to print books in brick and mortar before being returned unsold. Dead. A clever publisher and author can pique interest and peak ebook sales any time by taking advantage of a topical promotional opportuniry ... or by imaginativelty creating one.

    But a six monthly survey of figures is a much healthier and more meaningful way of weighing up *real* overall performance of a title.

    Bestests. Neil

  2. Ah, how true that is, Neil. It makes mathematical and logical sense to compare one discrete period with another. And yes, it's true that imagination and creativity need to accompany literary talent. Just writing the books is never enough!

  3. Guilty as charged (Smashwords twice a day - hey, they've been there a month, it's still a novelty :)).

  4. Hope your sales are running off the charts, Rosanne!

  5. Thanks for your good wishes, Desert Rocks. If you make your charts very small, sales ALWAYS run off the edges 8-]

  6. Maybe I'm lucky in that I have not yet figured out how to check my stats. Or maybe that my expectations are low - being a rwlative newcomer.

  7. Hi Rosanne, as I am waiting for approval on Smashwords, I'm looking forward to the day when I become addicted because I will have something to look at!!

  8. Hi Rosanne, great article. Yes, I'm guilty of checking my sales too often, usually on Novel Rank, though. I behave myself on KDP and Smashwords. :)