Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Numbers Game

What I'm reading: Indulgence in Death, by JD Robb.

Don't forget-still time to win a book from Rebecca York. Leave a comment on Tuesday's post.

And my 50% off Smashwords coupon for When Danger Calls is good through Dec. 31st. Code ET46A

After counting 8 nights of Hanukkah, I might have numbers on my brain. When you're a writer, everything seems to revolve around numbers—and I'm not talking about word
count, or the manuscript itself. It's easy to obsess about these numbers and not get any writing done at all. And then, of course, there's the ego thing.

For example, on this blog alone, I have the "like" button. How many people like me? Were there more yesterday? Did someone unlike me?

Or followers. Should it be a goal to accumulate followers? Should I bribe them with prizes for following me? What does it mean? How many of them actually stop by every day, anyway?

Same goes for Twitter and Facebook. How many of my almost 2000 Facebook "friends" even look at my page? How many of my almost 1000 Twitter followers actually see my Tweets? I know I don't keep track of every one of mine in either network. That would take more hours than there are in a day.

How many times does someone ReTweet something I posted? Or Tweet my blog?

But then there are the other numbers. How many Smashwords downloads do I have? What does it mean if the numbers for my free books jump dramatically, while the numbers for my 'pay to read' books barely move at all? Am I a bad writer, or are people simply looking for free reads?

Or Kindle. How many times a day should I check my sales over there? Smashwords tells me when I've made a sale, so I know if people are buying. Do I worry when I create a coupon and only half a dozen people use it?

Should I check my website hits? My blog stat counter? (I have one faithful follower, and I can tell immediately that she's tweeted my blog because my stats jump dramatically.) I have all those share buttons at the end of a post. Does anyone use them? How would I know? Should I take them away?

Then there's my Technorati ranking (whatever that means)? And then there's the Mystery Blog ranking (all the way at the bottom of the page). At least that one's only updated once a week. It's always great to see it go up, but what about the weeks it drops? Did I do something wrong. Did my blog posts suck that week?

Spending time with the numbers means there's that much less time to spend writing.

And does it really matter? None of this seems to make much difference in terms of sales, which generates those other numbers writers like to see—the ones on royalty checks. I'm here blogging because I enjoy it. I write because I enjoy it. And if people enjoy what I'm writing, that's the frosting, the whipped cream, the chocolate sprinkles and the cherry on my brownie.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm with you, Terry! It makes my head hurt to follow all the numbers, so I just blog because I enjoy it and it helps to get my name "out there." :)

Carolyn Schriber said...

I hope you don't mind, Terry --
I have just been awarded a "Versatile Blog award" and according to the rules I must pass it on to seven blogs of my choosing - I've chosen you as one of my seven. To claim your badge, go to

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - you definitely have your name out there!

Carolyn, Thanks so much.

Sam said...

On a writing forum I visit occasionally, there was a discussion between several unpublished writers about the importance of building a twitter following in advance of publication. I suggested that the energy might be better spent on creating a top-notch manuscript, but what do I know? I'm not published yet, either.

Terry Odell said...

Sam; I don't think there's a good way to track, unless perhaps people take the time to tell you they bought the book because they found you via your blog, FB, Twitter, or whatever. I haven't noticed any 'financial' benefits. Then again, my books aren't readily available, so building name recognition when nobody can browse a bookstore and see your books doesn't help much.

Joyce Yarrow said...

For me, the benefits of blogging and making friends on Facebook are 1)the feeling of community (most of my friends are writers or musicians) and 2)the opportunity to see what other folks out there are doing. I've met some folks "virtually" who I look forward to meeting in person at conferences (Terry, you are one of them!) and occasionally there’s that real spark of communication that seems to make it all worthwhile.

Also, using FB and discussion groups to benefit a good cause – such as authors donating their signed books to the Jefferson Library in Oregon to help them fix a leaky roof – can add a glow to the whole experience!