Playing with Numbers


I’ve worked in various companies since the 70s, and it always amazes me how numbers can be manipulated. The old saying goes, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The publishing house I was a part of used to boast that they ended each year in the black, but those who worked there knew that they didn’t hesitate to lay someone off if it kept them in the black. For years here at my university, the business office said we were doing well, until the day that the office of VP for finance changed hands, and then suddenly we learned weren’t doing well after all.

You wouldn’t think that writers would have to worry about numbers, but they do, especially if you’re chief cook and bottle washer, as you are when you publish independently. I read many bloggers giving advice on how indie authors should plan to spend around $5,000 for each title they publish, most of it going either to a great cover or professional editing. But the reality is that most indie publishers don’t have that kind of scratch. I will be coming out with my 15th published book this summer–eight of them independently published–and that kind of money adds up. I get a few hundred dollars a month from my titles, which I hope to increase someday soon. But I am not at the point of investing thousands in a project where I see hundreds in return.

I have become addicted to numbers. I watch the number of people who sign up for my giveaways on Goodreads. I had more than 1,000 sign up for my 10 autographed copies of Infinity’s Reach, so that thrilled my heart. I watch the ranking chart at author central at Amazon daily to see whether my books are going up or down. So far they are staying pretty steady. I continue to watch my number of followers on Twitter. As I do a giveaway on Amazon for The Champion, I watch my ranking closely. And of course, the bottom line is how big that month check is from Amazon. The jury’s still out on that one.

But when I live through tornado season as we have had here in the past few weeks and see how lives can be destroyed in seconds, I realize that it is all just a numbers game. Eleven years ago, my son Matt was in an auto accident and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He’s recovering, but will never be the same again. And the whole experience changed our family’s lives forever. I now know that I could lose every material object in my life and be fine, as long as I knew that my family was OK.

So when you are stressing about numbers as an author, try to keep things in perspective. It’s not life and death; it’s just a numbers game we play with ourselves.

More than anything, have fun with your writing. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so you may as well have fun while you’re doing it.

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One thought on “Playing with Numbers

  1. Glen, I started reading your article by simple curiosity and I ended up crying…Thanks for the feelings you evoked in me and the food for thought.

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