In Writing

There’s a thing on Amazon called “Author Central” where you can check the sales of your book. It is an evil and soul-sucking place, but, like most evil and soul-sucking places, it holds a strange allure. So although I tell myself I’m not going to check it, I do. And I am usually unhappy afterwards.

So this week I checked, and I saw a massive spike in sales. This is nice, and I’m not complaining. And it’s not a humble brag either when I tell you that seeing an unexplained spike in sales is almost as depressing as seeing no lift when you’ve been working your heart out promoting it. Because it just reminds you that book sales are inscrutable and almost completely out of your control.

So what caused the spike? I will literally never know. I’ve done some of the biggest book festivals in the country and watched people walk around buying my book, then have seen almost no appreciable spike in sales in the numbers. And, this week, my biggest effort has been in painting my toe nails and yet I had my second biggest week since my book released in paperback.

I am not isolated in my frustration. Literally every time writers get together someone mentions Author Central and everyone else groans. There is talk about how it doesn’t reflect all sales (and it doesn’t. Sales to the library market, where my book has done well, aren’t reported in Author Central, for example). There is talk about how it’s a steady build, how the second book sells the first book, how you can’t write for the crowds. You know. The sensible stuff. And then I check Author Central and I notice an unexplained spike in sales in Wichita, Kansas, and I walk around all day wondering what in the world caused it and how I can do more of that. (And I’m not kidding about Wichita. My book does awesome there. And in Georgia. And in Portland and Seattle. Why? It’s a black box. No one will ever know).

No, my publisher doesn’t know. No, best-selling writers can’t seem to explain it. No, there are no classes or insiders you can pay for special info. You just have to trust the Universe to let your book meander its way into the right hands. (After you, you know, work day and night going to every bookstore and library and school and random building that will let you set up a table of your books).

Am I whining? A little. It feels like a safe moment to do it, because, after all, a spike is a happy thing. You won’t hear me complain on the weeks where the little black dot is perilously close to zero. I’ll be too busy wondering what the people of Wichita are reading now.


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