Weighed in the Scales

The first week of the month I spend a fair amount of time toting up the previous month’s sales, especially for new releases. I want to know how Miss Dauntless‘s first month compares with Miss Delectable‘s (not as well, but a first in series title generally will lead the pack) and Miss Desirable‘s (a little better, oddly enough), particularly from retail platform to retail platform.

As rabbit holes go, sales tracking can become a whole job, especially when you have a lot of books published. Is any particular month best for new releases? Should books in a series be released three months apart? Four? Two? All at once? How do library sales affect retail sales? What is going on with my revenue?

And all of this glorious information has to be sifted against what genre I’m publishing, who else is releasing what else in various months, and what price points are in play. And let’s not forget about the alchemy of cover art!

As Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.”

A lot of writers take it a step further, charting their word count totals day by day and even using little apps and extension to help them do that. We like to know how many books we’ve sold in total, in all languages (I have no idea), and where we rank on various bestsellers lists from book to book, if we’re lucky enough to hit those lists (and what month is the best for trying to hit a list, anyway?).

I find this emphasis on puts and takes a little ironic for a profession that knows, intimately, the futility of defining success exclusively through linear, measurable processes. Was Miss Delectable “more creative?” than Miss Desirable? You can’t measure that. Did Miss Devoted have more satisfying prose than the Last True Gentleman? You can’t measure that either. Was that two- thousand word scene I just whipped out in an hour any better storytelling than the six hundred words that took me all of yesterday afternoon?

I can’t measure that, and what I think is brilliant in draft tends look much less impressive come revision time.

Which book did I enjoy writing more? Why? What makes some books so hard to write? Others so easy? I will never forget the sheer ebullience with which I wrote The Duke’s Disaster. I drafted that story in 40 days flat and it was one of the easiest writing tasks I’ve ever completed… and I’m not sure why. What a Lady Needs for Christmas was another “book that wrote itself” though it’s not really even a Christmas story.

As we approach the end of the year, with tax season right around the corner, I want to resist the temptation to get lost in the numbers, and instead focus more on what cannot be measured. Am I happy with the books I’m writing? What does my creativity crave in the way of challenges and inspiration? What does my perfect writing “rest and recharge” day look like? What does that tell me about how to manage my imaginative resources?

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesThe numbers are important–up to a point–but things I cannot measure are important too. If I’m to keep writing joyously and consistently, the un-measurables–what piques my curiosity, what frosts my cookie, what makes me want to write scene after scene– are the critical aspects of what I do.

What do you measure? What non-measurable qualities are as important to you as the numbers? I will send out my Lady Violet Says I Do ARCs this week (if you want one, just email me and let me know what device you read on), and the print version is already on sale. Wheeee!


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14 comments on “Weighed in the Scales

  1. This one resonates within me. I’m a manager in a highly complianced industry. We have metrics for everything. I spend much of my time making sure everyone hits their numbers, planning in advance, analyzing efficiency, etc. Within all these numbers is an intangible that is quality of life. Are my people killing themselves to hit their numbers? Is the pace sustainable or will they burn out and look for employment elsewhere? Are they telling me the truth about how they are feeling about their job or just saying what they think I want to hear? To me, the intangibles are just as important or even more important than the actual numbers. Aside from the loss of efficiency in training new hires, the stress it puts on other team members to pick up what another leaves behind, and the cost involved in acquiring new people, I truly want my team members to succeed at life. I want them to enjoy their work. I want them to enjoy their lives. Balancing the numbers and the people is a constant challenge for me.

  2. I try to measure my contentment and my mental health, like you, Grace. I have worked hard to get myself to focus less on the quantifiable tasks and build in some self care and relaxation, but it is hard!!!

  3. I also think the intangibles are as important as the trackable data.
    i.e. was someone feeling unwell when they made widget A. That will affect widget A. But, if all that is tracked is that widget A didn’t make it through quality control, then the person who made widget A might get a ding to their record.

    I am in a position to have to track personal medical data but then have to be able to explain every tiny little change. But, I haven’t found an acceptable way to track all the intangibles as it would take all of my day.
    What qualities are as important? The list is so long! 40+ factors and counting.

    Dealing with people, I like to deal with them and their thoughts and concerns and not so much their trackable data.

    Wow. This is a tough question to answer! So many thoughts rumbling through my head.

  4. I’m counting the months until I retire (13 months), counting my blessings, and thinking of putting up a Christmas tree this year.

    Christmas has been difficult for us for several years because of an unexpected death in the family – my father-in-law, who was the funniest, most precious man with a puckish sense of humor. We all miss him very much, but are so grateful that we still have my mother-in-law, who has a spine of pure steel and is just precious. She may be 5 feet tall, is very thin, has perfect posture, and I’ve only seen her once with a hair out of place and no makeup, in 35 years. Her house is immaculate. Mine looks like a hoarder’s nest. She is in her 80’s.

    As for numbers, all of my oldest cats have passed on this year. They were aged 16 to 21. I had the last one euthanized Friday – Tigger, aged 17. I am grateful that I had them for so long. My only regret is for the ones who suffered longer than they should have because of misdiagnosis, no appointments available, etc. For some reason, mine usually have a crisis during holidays, when the vets are closed.

  5. I measure my personal happiness and/or level of stress. I think because of the example of my late father, who consistently refused to go to Officers’ Candidate School for the 20 years he was in the Air Force, I am not as ambitious as some people think I should be. My partner always told me I was “too smart” not to be in charge, but the time I was in charge, I ended up with a stress-induced medical condition. I have high standards for everyone, including myself, but many people think that “good enough is good enough.” So when I gave what I thought was a good review to someone who was doing a good, but not great, job, he found another job because he felt he deserved top marks (his raise was not based on the level of the marks). I also found that a supervisor gets grief from the people above and the people below and it’s just not worth it. Yes, I wish I had made more money but not at the expense of working 80 hours a week.
    I just like to have enough to pay my bills with a little left over for emergencies and fun (and time to enjoy the fun). I have enough right now of both and I am content.
    (You always have such thought-provoking posts. I usually take out at least half of what I originally write and I’m still pretty long-winded.)

  6. I’m kind of a numbers person, one of those weird people who calculates at the end of each year how much money came in vs. how much went out, just so I can gauge our financial well being, and make adjustments to discretionary spending if it looks like things are going in the wrong direction. Since the Holiday season is upon us, I am naturally consumed with gift shopping. To keep myself sane (since I shop for 6 family members plus Secret Santa gifts for friends and acquaintances), I keep a spread sheet of all the people I buy gifts for, what I’ve ordered and when, when it’s been delivered and what I spent. That last column is, honestly, the least important. I’m more concerned with getting the gifts right, hoping that my choices will make the recipients happy. The unmeasurable (but all important) metric is the way the faces of my loved ones light up! Happy Holidays everyone, whichever holiday you celebrate!

  7. The company for which our daughter works was disappointed last year for not hitting sales targets. They made only billions instead of mega billions. They were asked to work harder for less to make more for the guys at the top. Didn’t fly very well.

    I try to stay away from the numbers knowing they really don’t lie, but don’t tell the entire truth either. I would rather not have my happiness quantified by the amount I made, what I spent, what I ate, how many steps I put in… and the algorithms that tell me what news I see, what products to buy, what books even I’m likely to read make me a little crazy.

  8. What a frustrating part of your job. Just one of the jillion reasons I’m not a writer. When I was younger I enjoyed the detail work but a medical condition that just got worse as I aged made that increasingly difficult. If I was top form I’d gladly volunteer myself to your service. Sadly that ship sailed a long time ago.

    My opinion only: I appreciate it when you have released new series books after the first of the year, usuually around Feb. There’s so much competing for every part of our lives this time of the year. There’s a lot to be said for having that new book to look forward to after the holidays are really over and we’re stuck with Winter for another couple of months.

    When I read Miss Dauntless a month or so ago, it took me most of the book to realize I missed reading a book, even though I had it in my library. Good grief, slap forehead. Yes, I know they are largely stand-alone, but I like to read series in series order. So I couldn’t begin to think about which book was better. They have all been so different from each other even though connected, which is great!

    By the way, What a Lady Needs For Christmas is one of my most favorite of your books. Can’t say just what it was about it except everything. And usually when I reread a book from a series, I have to start from the beginning and reread them all (which I’ve done with that series) but in WaLNFC’s case I’ve read that by its lonesome numerous times. I wish there was an audio book of it. The Duke’s Disaster is also a favorite.

    What I measure changes year to year. One of your commentors mentioned Christmas and I’m finding it more difficult to achieve what I’d like to do this year due to the fact that prices have gone up so much. I am measuring another facet of my life right now. Numbers are important but it’s how I feel that has been the most difficult part of this project. I can’t talk about what I’m doing right now but I’m sure similar things happen to other people. It’s psychological. I don’t feel like I’ve really achieved that much on this project when everyone else is claiming I have.

  9. I have reread The Duke’s Disaster at least 5 times. It is just good! Where did you come up with some of your phrasing (a husband’s greeting to his wife) ? How did you come up with Noah?

  10. PS What a Lady Wants for Christmas is also a favorite I have reread at least 5 times. Not as good as The Duke’s Disaster, but close.Sometimes I just reread the bunny scene so I can laugh . Assuming the Duke of Moreland is Westover, I can assume that his brother in laws are mostly dead if he has dowager sisters?

  11. Love all your books. Lost count. Your characters become real and provide moments of escape. Just starting book 3 in Violet Series. Thank you
    I would love to Read Violet Says I Do. I read on Kindle

  12. This topic interested me because I am someone who counts. I count often, often without even realizing it. I will get to the top of a flight of stairs and know how steps there were and I wasn’t even aware that I had counted them. The same for other random counts, like counting the silverware when emptying the dishwasher. (This makes me sound marginally nutty)

    I realized about 6 months or so that I had not hugged any other human except for my immediate family for more than 2 years. That was a very depressing realization. (this time frame included my daughter’s pregnancy and birth of a grandchild in the early months of the pandemic, and two “seniors” with many underlying conditions)

    We have had our first dinner guests in the last few weeks, and I hugged them all.

    It felt good.

    I don’t count money coming in and going out any more. There is very little I can do to change the money coming in, and we watch the money going out carefully.

    But I was very glad to add to my hug count.

  13. I don’t measure that much, luckily it is not part of my job because I can get a little lost keeping track of everything. Also luckily my husband is brilliant at measuring (but too easily caught up in it) and so that is largely off my plate at home as well. I take care of the overview, which my husband is not brilliant at, and make sure breaks are taken, hugs are given, change of scenery happens etc. to stave off burn out and exhaustion / frustration / stress extremes. I am the moderation enforcer.

  14. I would love to spend more time with Lady Violet, and would love an ARC of her newest adventure. Thanks for the prose that allows me to forget the words and see the story; it is a rare and great gift.