Lets talk about stats, baby (part one)
Updated: Jan 10
I quite enjoy a good spreadsheet.
I suspect this peculiarity has something to do with spending thirty years in the British Civil Service, where everything absolutely must be recorded, catalogued, compared, projected and justified. No one comes through an experience like that completely unscathed…
So, when I started publishing my writing, I inevitably set up a spreadsheet to keep track of my (hoped for) burgeoning sales. Such things were second nature by then. That was in September 2012, so, as we stride joyously (sort of) into 2022, it seemed an opportune time to get a bit retrospective.
Amazon started allowing authors to publish their work directly via Kindle around, I think, 2010-11. Indie authors now see those first few years as something of a golden age. Kindles were the latest new-fangled must have and readers were google-eyed at all the cheap as chips and freebie books suddenly available on their snazzy new devices, tablets and phones.
Later it got much harder, advertising and marketing would become increasingly expensive, competition grew exponentially as more and more authors got on board with indie publishing, indie books had to be a lot more professional as readers became less tolerant of amateur-looking work. But, back then, if you were lucky enough to be in at the start it was a veritable gold rush, with wannabe authors who’d previously toiled under a carpet of rejection letters from agents and publishers, suddenly able to sell stacks of their books directly to eager readers. You just couldn’t fail!
I sold seventeen books in 2012.
It was, I have to admit, a quietly chastening experience, as slowly deflating dreams often are. But disappointment is character-forming (apparently) and I kept on keeping on regardless.
I’d been writing In the Absence of Light for twelve years off and on when I found out you could publish directly on Amazon. I’d long harboured ambitions of writing for a living, both because I enjoyed the creative outlet and the daydream of escaping the nine to five job I hated (and I do mean hated), and this seemed the perfect way of trying without having to go through the heartache of your work (not to mention hopes and dreams) being rejected over and over again by traditional publishers.
Some people do find overnight success (the technical term in literary circles is jammy bastards), but there aren’t many of them. Success more usually comes through perseverance, hard-work and a refusal to accept you’re not good enough – which didn’t bode well for me as they are all qualities I’ve consistently failed to demonstrate throughout my life.
Despite that, nearly ten years later I’m still writing, still publishing and am now able to do it full time (though that’s down to good fortune rather than any writing talent). I’m still waiting for that overnight success to propel me to the top of the best seller charts and onto a sun-kissed tropical island, where a bevvy of scantily clad beauties will undoubtedly be queuing up to help keep my creative juices flowing.
However, my trusty spreadsheet shows me the direction of travel has all been one way and I’m selling a lot more than seventeen books a year now.
Luckily, I don’t have to make a living from my writing, if I did. I’d be sleeping on a park bench and pushing all my worldlies around in a supermarket trolley, but progress is progress. Sometimes the world magically whizzes you to the end of the road, mostly though, you have to do it the hard way, one step at a time. Often with a hole in your shoe and an umbrella that blows inside out as soon as it starts raining.
Once I was able to quit the Civil Service, I passed up on the dreams of being a professional author and settled for being a full-time hobby writer, which is probably for the best as it allows me to write whatever I like without much consideration for what might actually sell. Art for art’s sake or pig-headedness? Dunno. It'd be nice to add a few more zeroes to my numbers, but size isn’t everything – at least, that’s what I’ve been consistently reassured for many years anyway…
I seem to have rambled and digressed, but if you’ve read any of my books, you’re probably well used to that. I’ll have more about what my favourite spreadsheet tells me in my next post.
Back in a bit!
Oh, and Happy 2022! Things gotta get better soon… right?