Writing Career: Running the Numbers

I’ve had A Thought, and tweeted about it some, and now I’m going to discuss it with you!

My Thought was about how much transparency readers want. And…see, on one hand, writers feel like they’re talking about this stuff ALL THE TIME, and it’s information we all know, so it’s sort of hard to tell where the line between “I have told you this one thousand times and you are bored with it” and “this is completely new information to me!” lies. :)

And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! :)

So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))

Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.

Now, mostly I count my metrics by Amazon, because like it or lump it, they represent the vast majority of my sales (80 out of those 100 sales mentioned above are Amazon, so it’s literally 4 in 5, except when it’s more than 4 in 5. :)). So 5% of subscribers buy the Project Of The Month on Amazon in any given month.

Right now I’m gonna run the numbers for the release earlier this month, TIMBER WOLF, which is an Amazon-only thing. It’s done really really well.

I’d love to know how many direct sales you think “really really well” means. In fact, I’d like you to tell me in comments, but since I can’t pause this conversation and get that information from you right now, so I’m gonna tell you outright. :) In the 2 weeks since its release, I’ve had 1123 direct sales on TIMBER WOLF.

That’s 4 times the usual number of sales I have in a month. If it’s been a SPECTACULARLY good month, it’s only 3x my number of usual sales; if it’s a particularly BAD month, it’s 6x my usual number of sales, but on average, it’s 4x.

TIMBER WOLF hit #88 in Amazon’s “Bestseller paid sale” ranks at its peak, when it had sold about, mmm, 600 copies? So where I’m going with this is that it takes shockingly few sales, really, to make a ridiculous amount of difference in visibility for a book’s rankings, and those rankings are what show a book to readers I don’t have immediate reliable access to (ie, people who are not on my newsletter mailing list!).

Like, if 10% of my newsletter subscribers buy TIMBER WOLF, it’d impact my Amazon ratings significantly. If 30% did, even now, 2 weeks after release, I might hit the top 50 rankings. 60% might push it to #1, and 75% almost certainly would. 75% sell-through from my mailing list (which, let’s be honest, would be unheard-of levels of engagement for almost ANY mailing list) would double the # of sales since it went live.

So what I was asking on Twitter was, like: here are the numbers. Is knowing that helpful or interesting to you at all? Is that something you’d like me to talk about?