When I first came to self-publish, I continually came across how-to guides, pretty much unanimously cautioning against developing a habit of checking sales metrics.
“Don’t let sales bother you, just promote, promote, promote while you’re writing your next book!” was the basic message. I thought to myself for morale purposes that was probably sensible, as poor sales (or no sales) can impact momentum or even incentives to continue working. After all, why bother writing a book for the purpose of publishing if no-one is going to read it?
So … I didn’t let metrics worry me. Ever so occasionally someone would pipe up and ask how the book was doing, and I would go to Smashwords dashboard or Amazon Author to see rankings, but despite my author ranking and book ranking being line graphs with a few serious ups and downs and ups again, Nielsen Bookscan data was insisting I hadn’t sold anything, which given a couple of folks have told me they’ve bought my book, alongside the author and sales rankings roller coasters, isn’t actually true. Talk about confused.
Smashwords tells me how many visits I’ve had to the page, how many sales and how many previews there have been downloaded. Not many. I didn’t think there would be – for promotion I’m relying solely on what I can muster for free, except a single paid book promotion that started in mid-November flooding Twitter for a month with links to the book’s page on Amazon, not Smashwords. It was an interesting experiment, especially considering Amazon don’t provide page-view metrics. My author ranking went up, my book ranking went up, but Nielsen Bookscan continued to insist not one book had sold. To this day I have absolutely no idea whether my paid promotions yielded any results. Until that far-flung day arrives when someone breaks down to tell me, I won’t be paying anyone anywhere for more paid promotions. I have far better things to spend money on.
Someone muttered something about Ingram, which I understand is an alternative to Nielsen, but I’m stumped how to find out data from that source. It doesn’t matter anyway, I hark back to that original advice – don’t sweat the metrics. Just write.
I used Smashwords to start with, as they distribute to pretty much every ebook retailer except Amazon Kindle. Ebook sites I’d never heard of before were reportedly stocking my novel and became potential sales sites. Woo! I used Createspace for the hardcopy of my book, as they’re a part of the Amazon empire, and thus handled the hardcopy for Amazon and the ebook version for Kindle. Createspace also have the infrastructure to supply libraries, bookstores and all the rest, though I have no way of telling which bookstores and where. Their reckoning on up to six weeks has passed, and there’s no sign of my book in any bookstore in Australia. Maybe it’s just America, but I have no way of knowing. So there’s the frustration, and the wisdom in that original advice of ignoring the metrics, and just keep writing.
I don’t have the resources to advertise my book the way some people do. If only I could sell something, I’d have the money to promote my book. Hmmm … I wonder what I could be selling? How about some books?
There’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me I’m wasting my time worrying about earning anything from all this – if they’re not going to admit how many they’ve sold then there’s no way to tell how much of potentially my money they’re pocketing for themselves, after all, they’ve got hungry shareholders to feed or some other excuse. It’s tricky to not become cynical, because ultimately it’s about placing one’s trust in a large company, and if anything, large companies are even less trustworthy than gangsters, drug dealers, politicians and others involved in organised crime.
Still … ignore the metrics and just keep on writing. Just keep producing properties. Content is king.
Bollocks – selling is king. Just look at the “music” industry.
It has been a very educational journey, and while agent after agent completely fail to recognise my writing ability, boldly confessing so with every rejection slip they send me, some day someone will “get” my work well enough to want to represent me so I don’t have to worry so much about all this silly “self-selling” nonsense. No folks, my responsibility isn’t to sell, it’s to create. If you’re not up to the selling part and want me to do it, then I don’t want you in my circle, and you can do without the percentages. I want someone who will take my work and make it sing, and they can take a percentage of the resulting sales as their payment. It’s a system that has worked for centuries. It’s not a system that’s broken, so anyone trying to “fix” it is in effect attempting to game it for their own predatory proclivities, by my reckoning.
I check my metrics again. Still nothing. Stop checking metrics! Just keep writing.
Why do I feel I’m like a hamster on a wheel? All effort but going nowhere?
Just keep writing. Just keep running.
Oh well, at least it’s keeping those spectators outside my cage amused.