|Bought by accident!|
A friend asked me the other day how my book sales were going. The terrible truth, which I admitted with some embarrassment, is that I actually don’t know, because I never look.
The even more terrible truth is that I don’t look for two reasons, one of which is that I could all too easily become a slave to the numbers, checking my Amazon ranking every day, obsessing about its ups and downs, checking back every time I post a tweet or a blog post to see if anyone has actually bought a copy. The second is that it would be a waste of time because very few authors make significant sales and therefore significant amounts of money.
So why am I wasting my time writing?
I’ve always written. I always will write. I have no choice over it; my brain is full of stories which cry out to be told and I have to tell them. Like every other writer I know, I inhabit a world full of imaginary friends, people who live in my head and tap me on the shoulder. Listen, they say. I want to tell you what happens next. Or sometimes they say: but I want you to tell MY story. For the time I write they are more real than some of the people round me.
People do buy my books, though not by the thousand or anything like it. And the thing that I appreciate most is when someone takes the time to come back with a view, even if it’s a negative one. I had a charming email from someone apologising for not having been able to get into one of my books and promising that they’d give it another go some time. And just as I was mulling over what to make of that, some else sent me a message which raved about how wonderful that very same book was.
I don’t check my sales. I don’t check my rankings and I don’t check my reviews either. None of those things would stop me writing or spur me to write more. Cacoethes scribendi habeo, as the Romans would have it (translation: I have an insatiable urge for writing).
But I can’t deny that knowing that someone enjoyed what I’ve written makes me feel good about doing what I’d be doing anyway. Recently I came across this gem of a review. “I downloaded this book by accident. But what an amazing stroke of luck.” (You can see the reviews - and buy the book - here)
That’s what I get out of it. Not money, not fame, just the knowledge that somewhere out there is a satisfied customer — even if they didn’t mean to buy my books!