Sunday, 25 October 2015

The girl can't help it by Jennifer Young

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!


  1. A very interesting blog with many points to it. As to the rankings on Amazon, I was agonizing over one of my books which seemed to be doing terribly, if doing anything at all. Six figures and all that, truly dire.When my royalties came through, that was the book which earned me most money - really odd.So I'm like you now, and don't look!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I just know if I looked I would become both obsessed and depressed!

  2. A blog after my own heart Jennifer. I think very few of us will make lots of money from our writing or sell thousands of books (we can hope!). But that's not what I'm writing for. I write first and foremost because I always have and probably always will. Being published is a bonus. Having people buy/like/review the books even more so.

    I'll keep on trying to promote the books because I feel they (and my publisher) have a right to expect that but I have no intention of letting it take over my life - or taking so much of my time I can't actually write the next book. I have to admit I do check my rankings, but only if I have a promotion on. It's a lovely feeling to see a book sail up the charts, even if it does sink back down again pretty quickly!

    1. Yes; the promotion is the uninspiring part of the job (though I suppose some people like it). If only we all had a queue of people waiting for the next book and telling everyone all about it when we do!