My Take On . . . Book Sales Numbers

English: An anxious person

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every September and March I develop an unusual twitch. It’s called stress. Anxiety. It’s called royalty statement time.

Every six months I get a royalty statement and on that statement are the sales numbers for each of my books. Both for the period and total.

Mostly, I hate those statements.

Two of the most-asked questions I get as a writer are: Where do you get your ideas? and What are your sales like?

Mostly, I hate those questions.

Writers get into writing because we love to write (duh!), because we love the creativity of it and we love sharing our stories with others. But there’s this other side to writing that whether we want to acknowledge it or not, doesn’t go away. Numbers.

Writing is an art but it’s also a business and while craft and style and creativity rule in our minds, sales numbers rule in the minds of a lot of other people. That’s a reality. Publishers look at sales numbers and more times than not those numbers drive how much money goes into marketing the book, how many resources get alloted to it, and whether or not they offer another contract. It’s a tough business, but it is just that . . . a business.

Every author wants to see his or her book putting up big numbers. In some weird way it seems like confirmation that yes, he is talented, people do enjoy his books, and the publisher did indeed make a good decision to publish his work. In a lot of ways big sales numbers = success.

The questions then arise about what qualifies as “big” numbers, how many books sold do publishers look for, what’s the measure of success? And the answers will vary from publisher to publisher. There’s really no standard.

As an author I care about the numbers. I do because I want to keep writing. But I try my hardest to fight the tendency to put the worth of my writing and even myself on the amount of books sold. There are just too man factors involved in why a book sells well or not.

As an author I want to focus on crafting the best story I can with the most worthwhile message. I want to impact lives, get people thinking, entertain, and yes, sometimes, scare the poo out of a reader.

Most of the time I think I’m somewhat successful at that. But I must admit, when the royalty statement comes I usually get all tense, go somewhere private, and open the letter. Then I walk around the rest of the evening muttering to myself about how I’m wasting my time, how it isn’t worth all the effort involved, how I’d be better off using my time getting a real part-time job. It takes me at least a few days to talk myself off that cliff and get back to writing.

And then six months later we do it all again.

But it’s worth it. Not because of the meager financial reward, but because of the readers I know are being impacted. It’s worth it for everything that isn’t financial, that doesn’t depend on numbers. It’s worth it because of the people. And really, isn’t that the way everything in life should be?

Okay, couple things I have to point out that you’ll want to check out:

FRANTIC  is still just $1.99. If you haven’t gotten it, get it today.

Ian Acheson, friend and author of Angelguard, has posted an interview we did today and he’s giving away books too. Check it out and enter to win!


About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on May 15, 2013, in Giveaways, Writing Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It is all numbers. I use them as well to get where I have.


  2. Thanks for the reminder. I work in a Christian Bookstore and it gets depressing after a while, seeing the well written books languish on the shelf (though I hand sell them like crazy) and the trite “big name” books fly. I stand behind the counter and time and again watch people settle for fast-food fiction when they could be having stake. It’s enough to make me dent my forehead hitting it against the counter.


    • Thanks for the comment. You better than anyone know that there’s no rhyme or reason behind what makes a best seller and why some high-quality books languish. Who knows. But it is a shame.


  3. Justin Goodrich

    What makes a bestseller? Usually it is HYPE. If you create enough hype for the release of anything, people will buy it. Look at movies. Ironman 3 wasn’t that great. However, the hype for it was huge. It has done more business than the first two. “MUD” was a much better film, but it isn’t getting much hype. Good books are the same way. I have read some big blockbusters that really stunk. The hype brought me to them. The other thing. You have to realize that you are writing a Christ centered book in a NON Christ centered world. The world will despise you, just as they do Christ. Take comfort in the fact that you are despised. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be a Christian. Write for YOU and Christ. Don’t write for any of us. If you self publish your books, I will buy them. It doesn’t matter to me man.


  4. Just got Frantic! (the book, I mean. 😉 I appreciate this post, as I’ll be receiving my first royalty statement this fall. I don’t want to be ruled by the tyranny of numbers. Maybe one thing we could do, perhaps, is go to the reviews and read how lives were changed when we’re faced with less-than-stellar numbers.


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