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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Twelve Step Program, Anyone?

by Janis Patterson

Help.

I really need help.

As most of you know, I spent half of last year republishing my backlist (and two new novels) through my own company Sefkhat-Awbi Books. It was a lot of work (and a lot of money!) but once they were out there I wouldn’t have to worry about them again. Or so I thought.

Of course, there is always the continuing publicity, which is the bane of all writers both self and traditionally pubbed, but there was one pitfall I didn’t foresee, one which is strictly on me.

Curiosity.

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that you can see your sales numbers almost instantaneously. One of the dangers of self-publishing is that you can see your sales numbers almost instantaneously.

Oh, I started out with plans to be good and businesslike. I checked my sales stats in all markets first thing in the morning, right after turning on the computer. I checked my sales stats in all markets last thing at night, right before turning off the computer. Fine. But a day is a very long time when you’re excited about a new career as a publisher and you work at the computer all day long. It’s a new world to me, as I sold my first novel in 1979, back when everything was done by snail mail and royalties came sometimes a year or more later. And you never saw your sales figures, which publishers guarded as closely as the secret of  the meaning of life.

Unfortunately, it seems little has changed since then for too many publishers, other than email replacing the snail. In self-publishing, however, you get figures instantly and money either monthly or quarterly. I never knew that information could be so addictive.

My descent started slow – first morning and evening, then a quick look at lunch. Then mid-morning, and mid-afternoon, and… well, you know. I started keeping my cell phone in the bathroom so that when I got up to use the toilet at night I could give my numbers a quick check without disturbing The Husband. While at lunch with friends or at a meeting I became adept at working the phone without looking until I could get a quick look at the numbers screen. Seeing the sales rise or – as happens depressingly often – stay the same is much more engrossing than a well-scripted drama.

So – I’m wondering if there is a twelve step program for self-publishers like me who have become addicted to checking their sales numbers. Or even if there should be. Where does good business research end and obsession begin?

I have no idea. Anyway, I have to get this blog posted and then before turning off the computer I think I’ll check my numbers one last time…


Help.

5 comments:

Rita said...

LOL! I have NO idea. Some days I have absolutely no interest in checking. Other days it's obsessive. If you find a program let me know.

Anne Marie Becker said...

It is fascinating to be able to actually see how you're doing, isn't it?! :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

You're preaching to the choir, here. If you figure out how to wean yourself from the addiction, do let me know...

Shalanna said...

I am a sinner because I envy you all so desperately. I sell about one book a YEAR. Maybe one or two every quarter. Muse Harbor Press (the publishers of APRIL, MAYBE JUNE, who had such hopes that it would be another Harry Potter, except instead of flying across the Pond, mine drowned) told me that I did not sell ONE book in the third quarter of 2014. I would be even more suicidal than I am if I followed the sales numbers. I can pretty much conjecture the sales numbers when I get those Amazon deposits of a couple of dollars every quarter or so. (sigh) I don't believe it's because my books are bad, either, but perhaps I am just another dumb unwashed idiot. Must be nice to be one of the popular kids.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Shalanna, I understand your dilemma and have been there. It's such a frustrating, difficult place to be - having a good book out there and nobody to read it. Being "discovered" by readers is a difficult process. I'm finding that the more books I put out, the more that discoverability grows. I hope you don't give up! (Especially since "another Harry Potter" sounds fabulous.) I've found that ignoring the sales stats AND the reviews is one of the best things I can do to restore my drive to create.

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