What’s In A Number?

Numbers… so many numbers swirl around my head on a daily basis and oddly all are about my writing.  It may seem odd to think of writing in terms of numbers, but with my first book published and the second well into production, it is often what my mind diverts to when I don’t feel like writing.  The urge check and analyze this data is often overwhelming, and part of what I hope to do this year is to not obsess about the data related to publishing.

One of the things I check without fail at least a dozen or more times a day (probably a lot more) is my sales rank on Amazon.  If you scroll toward the bottom of any book or ebook on Amazon, you will see the sales rank above the review section.  This number jumps every time someone buys a copy or falls if no one has bought your book.  Why do I check this number? To see if anyone has bought it, especially using Kindle Unlimited or borrowing it through the Kindle Lending Library because those sales don’t show up on my KDP dashboard until the reader has gotten 10% into my story.  Of course, I want to know if they have actually read it, so then, I end up obsessively checking my dashboard until I see a little blip on the graph.  At the end of the month, I tally up my KU/KOLL, my ebook, and my paperback sales on a spreadsheet and see how they measure up to previous months.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have been a stock analyst or something like that with the way I check these facts and figures.  This is my favorite thing to do when I’m having a bit of writer’s block.  I tell myself, “Well, it’s related to your writing, so it’s okay to spare a minute and check your rank for the hundredth time even though you checked ten minutes ago and it only updates every hour.”  I was this way with my grades in high school too. My anatomy class had an online data tracker with our class rank. As number one, I obsessively checked it after each grade to make sure I maintained the top spot.  Luckily, these delusions of grandeur have dissipated now that I’m on Amazon.  One day I may reach #1 in my category but top over all book, probably not.

With my second book, which I’m about 85% done with, I am finding myself obsessing about page numbers and word count. I keep comparing it to the first book and wondering if it’s going to be longer or shorter than it.  I know it’s probably going to be slightly longer, but I keep catching myself staring at the word count at the bottom of the screen as if it was mocking me.  There’s an upside to this.  By checking my word count, I know how much (or how little) I have written, and it pushes me to write more.  On the downside, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how much writing I should be doing and not actually doing it. My book is already in the mid 80,000s in terms of word count, so I have nothing to worry about and my editing usually includes expanding scenes (I have several in mind already that need tweaking or enlarging), which will raise it another few thousand words.

I have heard other writers say that after the first book or two, you stop obsessing about the numbers behind their writing.  That is probably much easier when you are able to publish several books or earn enough money with your job to not obsess about how much you earn from writing.  At this point, I am trying to make a conscious effort to not obsessively check all of my data a hundred times a day.  I’m probably down to about fifty, except on days when my anxiety is running high, then it skyrockets again.  The value of our work cannot be measured in sales or even words, but to the outside world, unfortunately, that is how we measure up: by rank, by word count, and by sales.

PS- If you purchase The Earl of Brass in paperback on Amazon, you will get the Kindle version for free (new purchases only). I decided to do this permanently and wanted to ensure everyone knew.

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