Measuring Up

When I first started out in this business I was advised never to talk about my sales numbers. I thought this was really good advice and have tried to stick with this as much as I could.

The one problem with this is that it’s hard to know where you’re at on the scale of things. Is that imporant? Well, sometimes I think it is. Looking at your ranking, comparing your books against others it can be quite motivating…but it can also be really depressing.

Out of all the groups I belong to, I share my sales numbers with one of them. We are a very close-knit unit and talk daily. We discuss everything to do with writing and publishing. I trust them and they trust me. So, in my opinion, this is a very safe place to be open about how my sales are going. Like I said, it can be motivating, encouraing and also depressing.

Some of the authors in my group are selling WAY more than I could ever imagine selling. One of them has made the New York Times Best Seller list on two of her books. It’s awesome and I’m so happy for her, but it’s hard when my books seem to be puttering along at a snail’s pace. But compared to other authors I am probably doing really well.

So, is it a good idea to compare how you’re doing against those around you?

I say yes and no.

Yes – look at your ranking, compare yourself sometimes – it can be encouraging. It can also inspire you and help you reach for the stars. If they can do it, then so can I. Study what they’re doing. Figure out what marketing strategies are working for them. Follow their lead.

But be careful. Comparing yourself too often can have you questioning why you bother publishing in the first place. When it feels like everybody else in the indie world is doing better than you, it can make you want to quit. Don’t. Just keep following your dreams, writing your books and entertaining the world with your stories. It’s what you love to do and it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world is doing. Write because you want to. Publish because you want to share your work with the world.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think? Do you ever compare your sales to someone else’s? Do you ever share your numbers?

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

25 thoughts on “Measuring Up”

  1. I’m firmly in the “don’t want to know” camp. I put comparing sales numbers in the same category as comparing salaries on the day job: that way lies disgruntlement. Or else snobbery.

  2. Hi Melissa, I just visited with Mr. Doom and Ms. Gloom. I try not to compare sales on a regular basis as it could result in jumping from a very high cliff. I do pay attention to what readers enjoy and question. You are correct that we should write because we want to, but it is hard not to question why one author outsells another(if the work is good). I keep thinking about Melville, bless him, he was long gone before being accepted.

  3. I’m in the “don’t care” camp. How someone else is doing is none of my business and doesn’t affect me in the least. Though I have to say that I do hate the people who incessantly remark “Oh, I sold this many books here and so many here” simply because it is both annoying and discouraging to those who don’t have similar success.

    And I will spank the first person who says that it’s good because then we all have something to shoot for or “at least is shows that some of us can succeed” or that kind of drivel. We all KNOW that people can be successful at this. We don’t need it slapped in our faces constantly by those people that are.

  4. I don’t compare or share. I never did when I was nursing, so don’t see why I should now I am a writer. Just me and my quirky ways. πŸ™‚

  5. Melissa, I think this is something most of us wrestle with. I don’t generally share or compare with others, but I do compare my own sales to what I’ve done previously. If I’m selling more this week than I did last week, that’s a win in my book!

  6. Beware the nasty gremlins inside that tell you your writing sucks. Bash their evil little heads in and carry on. Don’t compare yourself to others–you don’t know their story. And yes, it’s easier said than done.

    Great post, Melissa!

  7. Being very new to this and only having my book “out there” for a little over a month doesn’t give me much to compare. However, I think I would fall into the “don’t want to know” camp.

  8. I would never ask someone else what the ear in their day job and selling titles is the same thing. I know some person who always asks other’s earnings. And what I really hate is the question ‘how much did that cost?’ Really?

  9. I admit, when I first published I was curious, and asked around in an oblique fashion. The answers depressed me so I didn’t ask again. Since then I’ve learned that sales are the result of a whole heap of factors, including the dread marketing bogey and my own personality, plus luck, so a sales comparison will never be comparing oranges with oranges. These days I work on the basis of blissful ignorance. πŸ˜€

  10. I think this says it all: “Write because you want to. Publish because you want to share your work with the world.”

    This said, I check sales daily, and the ranks, too, but rarely compare. I to am with a group of people with whom I can share the occasional results, to confront marketing solutions and that is beneficial to come to know what worked and what didn’t. But it can be done only with people who don’t look at your numbers with envy (a negative one).

    A writer needs to write, if the only drive is sales the majority would stop, and yet they don’t, but when what you write sells, too, the boost one receive is priceless.

  11. I don’t compare or share or care either way about another author’s numbers or earnings, any more than I have ever cared about anyone else’s pay or salary in any of my previous or alternate occupations. Probably one of the reasons I’ve never persisted with other writing groups or organisations, and the reason I love it at IU and am still here. For me it’s all about the writing; although, having said that, it’s always nice to make an earn, and I do look forward to a time when I am totally supported by the income from my literary works.

    1. Oh, and nice post, Melissa. I signed off before I meant to; I also wanted to add that everyone is different and whatever is best for you, you should do.

      1. Thanks for your thoughts πŸ™‚ I was talking to a group of students today about the pros and cons of traditionally published books vs. the indie way. As I was speaking I realized just how cool it was that I basically own a little writing business and even though I’m not earning a stack of cash, I’m still earning some for something I LOVE doing. We are the luckiest people alive πŸ™‚

  12. Great post and question Melissa,

    Here’s the interesting thing, among the writing world there’s a faction out there that loves to share numbers. I think that is okay from a “how did this marketing work” perspective, but that is just a snippet in time. I’ve seen too many “blogging” authors who tout great sales and I check out their books and I’m usually ranked higher than them (and I’m like you, a little cash but I’m not retiring.)

    The interesting thing is, especially lately, the first question I’ve been asked from non-writers/publishers is, “How many books have you sold?” I’ve been asked three times this week by complete strangers. I always answer … “Lots”

    1. Great response, Jim. I have been asked by non-writing people this week as well. Maybe some people judge success by how many books you sell…I judge it by if my books are received well. One happy reader and I know I’m doing my job right πŸ™‚

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