Amazon Sales and the World of Publishing

Sunday, September 23, 2012



Over the years, I’ve read many articles to do with the craft of writing, marketing, promotion and everything else that goes along with being a writer. Now and then, I come across information that is so profound that I get stuck thinking about the awesomeness of what I’ve read. 

Confession time: I check my numbers on Amazon almost every day. It’s become another thing I do along with Facebook and Twitter. My numbers are more a steady trickle than a flood, but still I have a peek anyway. If you’re published traditionally, you can relate to not having a clue how many copies of books you’re selling at any given time. 


I saw a tweet on Friday, which led me to a post by Dean Wesley Smith. If you write, you should check him out. He has lots to interesting things to say about the world of publishing and has been in that industry since the seventies. 

So, I read his article, The New World of Publishing: The Seasons of Publishing. It’s the best thing I could have done for myself. It helped bring back my focus. His advice is not to check sales numbers on any venues more than once per month. Now, for an addict like me, that’s not as easy as is sounds. Not when I’ve made checking my numbers one of my daily rituals. Anyway, he believes writers should focus on—you guessed it—writing the next book. That’s the way to make a name and money, if that’s why you write. 

My first search of his name on Amazon netted me over 100 results for Kindle books. I checked again, this time a general search, and found nearly 500 results. Not sure all of those are his 'cause I didn't check through everything. Now, that’s a huge body of work for one author, so he does make an undeniable point when he says a writer can make money writing. Incidentally, he believes that spending time/money on huge promos is a waste of time. Just write the next book and keep your fans reading. 

For me, this revelation is also a slap on the wrist. From time to time, I mention just how many unedited novels I have sitting around.  All I’ll say this time is that I’ve been writing a plan, so I’m moving on those. 

That said, you might have seen mention of my YA novel last week. I have some doubts about one aspect of the novel, but I’m pressing forward at Jamaican Kid Lit. Come visit me there if you have a minute and tell me what you think about violence in YA novels.

Have a productive week and get moving on that other book, if you’re a writer. If you aren’t a writer, get started on that next useful project.

50 comments:

  1. Great point, and I'm a big fan of Dean's.
    Aloha
    Toby

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    1. His advice struck a chord with me. You can't get more sensible advice than that.

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  2. This is good advice. It's easy to get stuck in the mire of promotion and marketing and let the fresh ideas slide.

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    1. True that. Got a cool idea 2-3 weeks ago. Wrote it up some on index cards, but haven't been much further than that and this is something I need to outline properly.

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  3. I check every day like you. I also have a bunch of books ready to edit like you. Hopefully, time will allow me to get to them all.

    And Dean is very prolific.

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    1. Anne, like you, I'm hoping to make some time to get through everything I have pending.

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  4. that is excellent advice! like not checking the scale every day when you are trying to lose weight!
    and writing takes your mind off both!

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    1. Tara, I didn't think of it like that, but yes, obsessive activity takes away more time than we realize. :)

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  5. It took me 12 years to write my first book, and three months for book 2. Two weeks ago, I did a 7-day non-fiction ebook writing and publishing challenge with a group of 20. The 'course' was only $7, the 'leader' had done well on Kindle, and I thought it'd be a great way to see if I could write a book within that time. I'd already published 2 other books to Kindle. The book I wrote during that time had already been researched, and I had a good outline done. From the first to the last word, I wrote it in 5 days then was sidelined with major computer problems. I'm polishing and will promote it on KDP on Wed. For me this was the proof I needed of what you can write when you 'have to.'

    Suggestion to J.L.: Set a timeline of 45 minutes to organize your index cards. Once in order, grind down to an outline at the paragraph level outline for each of the index cards. Don't take you more than 1:15 minutes for the para outline. In two hours, you'll have a roadmap to 'write into.' Cook up 5 days of food, then start writing. Hold the phone, change your habits and sit thee down and write. I have many manuscripts too. But break the creative logjam was good on so many levels. It was wonderful to let my words flow and to have time to edit but not to over edit myself. I may need to write other books this way rather than in my plodding, trying to be too-sure-footed way.

    Kudos to Dean. I'm looking forward to checking out his work. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Julia,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I've taken on something of a challenge in the non-fiction area, which is what the index cards are all about.

    Will definitely take your suggestion on getting them in order, being more productive and actually getting some writing done.

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  7. I love his advice. Only way to stay sane!!! lol

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  8. I think this is wise advice. I'd get too preoccupied with the numbers game, and I'm sure it would affect my writing!

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    1. It does. I was so much time checking this and that, I'm sure I'd get a lot more done if I'd focus more energy on editing/writing.

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  9. That's great advice. Sandra Almazon also says that your next book is the greatest marketing tool. I finished a fantasy novel that I'm going to try and get published. It has nothing to do with my sci-fi selection so I'll be looking at different publishers. If it ever does find a home, it'll be my third book. Slowly but surely, I'm getting things out there. At least, that's the plan.

    Also, I post free fiction online under my same name so this is kinda like publishing too.

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    1. That's pretty cool, Mike. Now you have the right idea.

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  10. I admit I do check my books' rankings on Amazon, but only because it blows my mind every time. I am writing though! Just as fast as I can...

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    1. I'm going to wean myself off checking every day, especially since my numbers aren't mind-blowing stuff. :)

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  11. I agree. I hardly check my stats. Sometimes my husband checks it more than I do and notices reviews faster than me. For me, I just don't want to know because it really effects my writing.

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    1. In his response to comments on his post, Smith did make reference to the way reviews can affect writers.

      This reminds me of a quote I came across about worrying, but I can substitute 'checking stats' for worrying and come up with the same result.

      Worrying is like a rocking chair, it keeps you occupied, but doesn't take you anywhere.

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  12. I almost never check Amazon. And I'm working on my 7th book right now.

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  13. i can see the point in limiting yourself on shocking out your stats, but I can also see the side of just taking a daily peak.

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    1. Gonna try to cut back on the peeks. The numbers will look much better if I let some time pass. Just need to keep real busy.

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  14. This is a great post--such good advice to JUST KEEP WRITING, because it's so easy to become disheartened if the sales aren't great on any given week (or day, or minute, depending on how OCD you are about checking numbers.) Thanks for reminding us.

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    1. So true, Holly. It's easy to get bogged down watching the numbers. Reading Smith's thoughts has given me the jump start I needed to get right back where I should be.

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  15. I needed a push to get back to writing my WIP and this was just the thing. Thanks for sharing! And, good luck with your writing plan. :)

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    1. Glad this helped you. I like sharing the gems I find online.

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  16. Joy, I hope I don't check numbers when I release my book because I have two half-finished books and several others in the making.

    I'm surprised about your stats because your post has dominated all my other posts on my blog. What do you say about that?

    Thanks again for being a teacher to someone who is new to this club.

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    1. What's come home to me again, is how much time I spend doing everything else but writing. I refocus my energy for a little while and then I get busy wasting time again. I have ambitions of eventually making enough money at writing/editing/workshops so that I can pay some of my bills, but I'm not going to get there wasting time. :)

      I'd say get going on those other books because once you have one out, people will be looking for more stuff from you.

      I'm happy to help. I've had soooo much help along the way from other writers.

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  17. Excellent post! I'm not yet published so I'm not checking sales figures, but I definitely relate to how shiny the Internet is. Immediate access to things can be a great tool, but it can also be a time suck.

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    1. So true. I didn't mention those other things, but oh, how I've had to exercise discipline to stop checking all the social networking spots every so often.

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  18. I love it. The internet alone can be a distraction. LOL. I hope you take every one of those unedited novels, polish them up right away. :)

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    1. Yeah, I do need to get a move on. Thing is though, I never quite manage to do the sensible thing. Instead of focusing on the logical next-in-line project, I'm also working on two other books at the same time. :(

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    2. Joy, you are not alone. I have three different books going right now. The sensible thing would be to ditch two of them and focus on one. But, for some reason, I don't.

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    3. I think maybe it's the way we're wired. I get bored working on one thing all the time and this may be the way I stave off boredom. Takes me longer to get to the finish line.

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  19. Joy, I really needed this post today. I have read this advice repeatedly over the past month. I have been one to check my numbers daily, too. I've backed off to every other day now. I want to make it far less than that. I'm just like you. I have so many books in need of something: editing, revisions, rewrites. I have loads of ideas needing to be developed and written. My husband told me I should install FB blocker on my computer or disable my internet. I think I might give it a try for certain hours of the day.

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    1. Susan,

      I'm trying to remind myself that I need to keep WRITING. There will be nothing to put out there if I'm not making progress with the product.

      I've gotten to the point where I don't check Fb as often, but I do waste time doing a lot of nothing. I've made up my mind though that I will keep focused, so everyday I am editing and writing. Good so far. I need to say focused though. We'll see.

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  20. A wonderful post Joy. I'm checking out Dean's post now.

    And all great advice in the comments.

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    1. Thanks for stopping in Nas. Yes, some good advice has been shared in the comments section.

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  21. Smart! I think I'm finally closing in on being ready to send my writing out into the world - just have to decide which route to take and finish some revising and polishing ... and more learning.

    I've read & enjoyed a few of Dean's books before - I'll have to check out his site!

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    1. Jemi, progress is wonderful, isn't it? And we never stop learning. I downloaded one of Dean's book on the day I read the article. Now to get around to it.

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  22. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. You're way ahead of me in publishing, but I'm obsessive about other things, like e-mail and comments. It can drag me away from the whole focus of everything, which should be writing.

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    1. I've been easily distracted for a long time, but when I'm determined to finish something I stay with it. Just need a bit more focus. Keep on moving!

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  23. Thanks for this! I think it applies to so many things-- keep moving forward! Gotta keep that in mind when I spend too much time on Facebook. ;)

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  24. Juggling the publishing business of promotion with the creative end of writing can be tricky. I love the advice of "Just write the next book and keep your fans reading" because this helps to keep me away from being obsessed with the numbers. I am sort of resolved to promote as much as I can, but otherwise focus on the writing and the next book. Otherwise, I might drive myself insane. ; )

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    1. It does help to stay focused. I keep finding info. on all sorts of interesting stuff, but I'm still trying to remember to stick to writing and editing.

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  25. Well you JUST confirmed in my mind that, although I can write a sequel to the project I'm querying, a better idea is to write one of the other ideas I have.

    :-D

    Loving that we're back to this comment form, btw.

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    1. You do what you gotta do, Misha.
      I've been thinking about going back to the other comment thingie, but it's an inconvenience for some people and the minute I change it over, Blogger will come up with comments that can actually send an email response.

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