Thursday, May 20, 2010

(My) Last Word on Numbers

I don't know anyone who's published a book during the last few years who's happy with his sales numbers. I'm often surprised to hear this, as it includes writers who have sleek, professional websites and big-brand publishers and have done the kind of media that has other authors thinking, "If only I could be on that show..." It's tough out there and we know the reasons for it and yet we each take lower-than-hoped-for sales as a personal shortcoming. We've gotten the message that, once we've written a good book, if we just get out there, becoming marketing machines and creating this nifty new entity called "Brand Moi", we will be successful authors. But not everyone is suited to the on-all-the-time salesperson mindset, particularly once you reach a point of diminishing returns (and these days diminishment seems to come before the returns even begin.)

I'm lucky in that I have a gregarious streak that does lend itself to marketing, at least for a while. But it's liberating to acknowledge that it can get tiresome. The Web has given authors many new vehicles for marketing their work; however it has also created a situation where you're potentially marketing all the time. You've always got to be ripe for that adrenalin surge; at any moment of the day, you can see how well you're doing -- or, more typically, not.

Since my small, personal artistic/publishing experiment does not lend itself to by-the-numbers success, I'm going to come up with my own metric -- one that allows me to succeed. And that would be...the "Raves to Readers Ratio". My book isn't out there in major commodity-level quantities, but I get a lot of phone calls and "wow" emails and even the occasional person stopping me on the street to say, "I have to tell you what your book meant to me..." This amounts to a high Raves to Readers Ratio. I can feel pretty good about that, right? And the world is so full of figures and statistics and ways to measure this or that, what's wrong with adding one more?

Here I am on top of a sand dune in Israel, about to dash down.


  1. I'm pretty happy with my numbers. I know I can always "do better" and obviously I want to. But I think for where I am so far I'm doing pretty good, better than I expected to be doing by this point. So I feel very fortunate!

  2. Great, Zoe! This is one case where I've very happy to be proven wrong!

  3. I agree with you, Judy. Success can be defined by metrics other than numbers. My book on women & self-sacrifice, "Slaying the Mermaid," disappointed the publisher, which hoped for a best-seller. But I got the same type of comments you describe--people telling me how important it was to them. One woman actually said my book changed her life. Isn't that success?