Stop Worrying About Book Sales Stats


Book sales. For those of us trying to make a living as authors, that’s sort of an important thing, isn’t it? If our books sell, we make money we can use to buy peanut butter for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If they don’t, we’d actually have to go back to working for a living. It’s hard for me to imagine anything worse, except maybe getting a courtesy water-boarding treatment.

The technology available today lets us know in near-real time (in some cases) how many books we’ve sold in a day, or an hour. Or in the last thirty seconds since we checked.

And therein lies the danger. Stats addiction. The irresistible impulse to constantly see how many books you’re selling. RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT!

This leads to three things: 1) euphoric highs when your sales are climbing; 2) depressing lows when your sales are moving down, with a proportional increase in your stress levels; and 3) the effective loss of a boatload of time that you could have been writing new stuff.

It really can be an addiction, and the tragedy of it is that knowing those numbers is, by and large, absolutely useless to you on anything more than a daily basis. And even that’s probably unnecessary.

Yes, you read that right: absolutely useless. Poof.

Why would I say such an outrageous thing? Simply put, the sales, good or bad, are gonna be what they’re gonna be. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to directly control those numbers.

Now, there are things you have control over that may help influence your sales, and that’s where you should be focusing your attention. For example, you could reach out to more folks on Twitter and engage them, or talk to X-number of new folks on Facebook, or run an ad, or whatever else that you have direct control over.

Sales, alas, isn’t one of them.

“But I’m running a targeted ad campaign on Facebook and need to know if my sales are going up!”

Well, maybe. But the real metric of the success of an ad campaign is the click through rate to your target page, right? And chances are your target page isn’t a direct sales page, it’s information to get the reader in the mood to buy. Information. A juicy sample of your novel. Whatever.

From there, they might buy right away. Or they might wait a while. Again, though, I have yet to see a direct impact on sales right away. Over the course of a few days maybe. Or not.

Another one is promotions and giveaways. While I personally have found them useful for helping to build fan loyalty, none of the ones I’ve tried thus far have had any immediate impact on sales. My checking sales stats every five minutes while those promotions were running was nothing but wasted time.

I’ve resolved to not check my sales stats and book ranks more often than once a day, and I only do that because I put together a spreadsheet calculator that gives me a pretty accurate projection of my royalties and sales figures for the month. So I plug in those numbers once a day and forget about it. I can use the time I gain to work on my next book.

If you’ve got a different experience, I’d love to hear it!


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13 thoughts on “Stop Worrying About Book Sales Stats

  • B.C. Young

    I also have gone to a once a day view of my sales. I tried doing it once a month on the first day of the month, but I couldn’t resist checking. So once a day is fine.
    I agree though, we can’t get so wrapped up in sales numbers that we stop writing. Only by writing and publishing more will the sales climb. Sitting and watch them is like watching a pot on the stove. It isn’t going to cook something up by itself, you need to get in there and make it!

  • Jonas

    Excellent point, Michael. It’s very addictive to go to kdp.amazon.com all the time and check if you sold a few more books. Let’s use our time better!

  • Alain Gomez

    I have reached a level of Zen calm about my sales stats. Whatever will be, will be. It’s quite refreshing, actually. It really frees up my mind to focus on other things like blog stats.

  • Jeff Bennington

    My name is Jeff Bennington and I’ve been addicted to checking my numbers for five months. Yes, I have a statistics problem. I’ll admit it.

    Thanks for the post. Point taken.

  • Robert Evans

    I will promise to not look today, I think I would be better off on crack though! I guess the secret is if you are selling at all its got to be a bonus! I think I may have to keep reading your comments….

    Rob

  • Bernard J. Schaffer

    My name is Bernard J. Schaffer and I too suffer from Stats Addiction. I know we’re all being funny here…but I’ve secretly known I have an issue with this for a few months now. Nice to know I’m not alone.

  • Charlotte Abel

    My husband is more concerned about my stats than I am. He’s driving me crazy! He also likes to brag about my sales numbers when we’re out with friends. I’m glad he’s proud of my (limited) success, but it’s embarrassing. I tried to compare it to me announcing how much money he makes but he just doesn’t get it. I quit checking my stats so I can honestly answer “I don’t know,” whenever he asks.

  • Suzie Carr

    I am a reformed stats addict. When my writing suffered, I decided to quit reading daily stats cold turkey. I now only allow myself to go on the site the first of each month and look at the previous month’s stats. That’s it. On December 1st, I forgot to look! I’m making progress. I even managed to finish my 4th novel in record time because I had all of this extra time on my hands from not obsessing on kdp all day.

    • Michael Hicks Post author

      LOL! Yes, I’ve forced myself to stop looking more than once every couple weeks, and planning to stretch that out to a month, or just not do it at all. You can’t control sales, so there’s no use in getting depressed about lower numbers, and if you sell a bunch then it’s a pleasant surprise!

  • Viv

    I too am an addict. My husband is actually quite concerned about it.
    You are quite right that there is nothing but a dopamine high to benefit us (and a slump if no sales) from checking stats too often.
    I think for me it’s about self esteem; if a book has sold copies, it must mean I’m a real writer.
    Silly, because it doesn’t take into account the thousands already sold.

  • Leanne Dyck

    Yes, it can drive you crazy. I think it’s key to determine what you can control and what you can’t. And hounding people to buy your book will, no doubt, have the opposite effect of what you intend. And so relax…
    I once gathered a useful piece of advice from an established author, “Your books are like your business cards.”
    Would you keep throwing your business card at someone?
    Nope.