Friday, 23 September 2011

Sales figures junkie needs help! - SImon Cheshire

The freedom we Kindle authors enjoy, simply in terms of content, packaging and so on, is something writers haven't had for many, many years. Not since the 17th and 18th century, when self-publication was common, have us scribblers had such control over our own work. The only reason Virginia Woolf became one of the giants of modernism in the 1920s was because she ran the printing presses and thus could write whatever she darn well liked! (For more on this, see my latest ebook "You've Got To Read This". There, I'm not too proud for a shamelessly self-serving plug..!)

So perhaps it's this feeling of control which makes me such a cat on the proverbial heated metal roof, when it comes to sales figures. Amazon makes it very easy for us to check how a title is selling. Or not selling. A couple of clicks into your account, and there it is: a table setting out every sale this month, so far.

They make it too easy. Too tempting. There I am, sitting at the keyboard, getting on with something else, when suddenly the craving strikes. I wonder how Such-And-Such is doing this week? No harm in taking a quick peek. Let's see now... total sales aaaaare.... two. Oh. Well, early days, still only 23rd of the month, plenty of time for things to pick up. Argghhh! Who am I fooling? It's all a disaster! Penury laughs in my face again! Curse you, Amazon, for your hourly updates and your accurate sales data!

No, no, I'm not being fair. It's not their fault. It's mine. I have to admit it. I have to stand up, chair scraping the lino of the meeting room, and say it, loud and clear, to my Kindle peers and colleagues. "Hi. My name is Simon. And I'm a sales figures junkie."

It's the one part of the whole equation writers can never, ever influence. Or at least, influence ENOUGH. We can tweet, email, blog(!), shout up and down the street until we're blue in the facebook, but our fate - our income, our self-respect! - lies in the hands of the public, and they always make up their own minds, thank you very much. Which is, of course, exactly as it should be. Nobody ever said being a writer was easy.

Is this how mainstream publishers have always felt? Did the sales staff tremble with nervous anxiety when my first book came out fifteen years ago? Hmmm... Better check those figures again.... still two. Damn. OK, I'll look again in an hour. Bound to be 50-odd by then. Bound to be.

One last thought. I read George Gissing's Victorian novel "New Grub Street" again the other week, for the first time in many years. It shocked me. Nothing has really changed in the world of books, except technology. The only thing that would have improved the lot of those poor characters was access to the Kindle, and its self-publishing paradigm. But, then again, I reckon they'd all have turned into sales figure junkies too.

9 comments:

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Hi Simon
thanks for an entertaining read. I had a chuckle at your description of your 'addiction' to checking those Amazon sales figures. Know that feeling well ;o) You may be interested in this link - not a plug, honest, just about increasing sales by going onto forums etc - about blogs being more influential than journalists when it comes to promoting your own book. Good luck with the new book!
http://futurebook.net/content/blogs-now-more-influential-journalists

madwippitt said...

:-))))

You have TWO!!
I only have one ...and that was the one I bought myself just to make sure it had come out OK. I think I may go back and reprice it ...

Dan Holloway said...

Ooh blimey, it's deadly isn't it? Come October 1st you'll be joining the conversations about the BBoS (just search twitter and you'll see what a big conversation it is!!) (er, that's beige - or brown, depending to whom you listen - bar of shame, referring to the way the report shows "no sales for this period". We now each start the month with a triple BBoS - one for each of US, UK, and Germany. Most exciting of all is when you get sales in Amazon Germany)

Nicola Morgan said...

Simon - if you find a cure, please tell me!

Linda Newbery said...

Oh dear, I fear I'm becoming hopelessly infected with this, too ...

Dan Holloway said...

The other thing you find yourself doing (apparently :P) is taking screenshots of your ranking as you find yourself going up through the charts, just so once the inevitable decline happens you can know it wasn't all a dream. This can get really quite obsessive. Helen Smith (Alison Wonderland) has a marvellous new performance piece in which she reads aloud all her one star Amazon reviews (misspellings and shouty caps and all) and describes her frantic refreshing and screenshotting as she rose through thr ranks to reach number 1 overall on the Amazon.com charts.

Debbie said...

@Dan. I sold 3 books on amazon.de last month. I nearly wet myself with excitement. Still BBOS for September...

Simon Cheshire said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone, I'm seeking help...

(Month to date: total sales across all thirteen of my ebooks are - drum roll, please - 4)

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Thank-you so much for making me laugh - I'm a junkie too. And not only looking at the sales figures(which I can sometimes resist, because I'm chicken) but looking at those constantly changing ratings, where even two sales in an hour can send your book upwards, give you the (usually mistaken) impression than you're doing quite well!