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?
The 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!