What Numbers You Need To Know

A couple nights ago I did a blog about results addiction, the career-killing problem of watching numbers too much and other aspects of that addiction.

I got a number of questions about what numbers are needed in an indie career, so below I’ll give you my opinion on a way to be a good business person without being addicted to numbers and taking those numbers into your writing.


The New Workshops

I was not clear on one thing last night about the workshops. The new workshop Plotting with Depth is now on the schedule through March.

The older workshop we are bringing back, Interior Book Design will only be available for two months.



Got up late, spent time working on Smith’s Monthly, ran errands, did some steps, made dinner, worked on Smith’s Monthly, started to work on the new store by starting the first of the major moves, did more steps, did e-mail, and then got some writing done.

Again only two sessions with a break for a total of 2,250 words. Chugging right along, enjoying the book, just not giving it much time at the moment.

And I got over 10,000 steps three days in a row now. The streak has started. (grin)


December Workshop Schedule

All workshops have openings.

Class #51… Dec 7th … Advanced Depth
Class #52… Dec 7th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #53… Dec 7th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #54… Dec 7th … Ideas into Stories
Class #55… Dec 8th … Character Development
Class #56… Dec 8th … Depth in Writing
Class #57… Dec 8th … Plotting With Depth
Class #58… Dec 9th … Designing Covers
Class #59… Dec 9th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #60… Dec 9th … Designing Book Interiors

Classic Workshops and Lectures are also available at any time.


TOPIC OF THE NIGHT: What Numbers to Watch

A number of people asked about what numbers they should watch and still stay out of results-addiction problems.

If you did not read the blog a few days back about results addiction, scan down and do so now before going forward.

Also realize I am the CFO of a mid-sized publishing company, and I must stay informed as to the money and sales. And we have going on 550 titles selling on as many platforms as we can get them to and in paper. A lot of cash streams for me to track.

And I also sell some of my work to that same company. Not all, but a lot. So it would be tempting for me to follow numbers. And deadly for me to my writing.

So an easy answer is this question of what to follow is this: Watch the money every month. 

When the totals come in, put them in a spreadsheet. Make no corrections in your publishing program, just put down the total income per channel and the total income overall.

Then every three months, do a quarterly report of the totals for the three months. Start understanding the ups and downs of publishing sales. (It really is seasonal, folks.)

Then at the end of the year, look at it all in a yearly summary.

Wow, I know, sounds like a real business, huh? Yup, that’s what I am suggesting.

Act like a real business.

The WMG store (Called Pop Culture Collectables) has over 200,000 bits of inventory. We track all that by category by money and do a yearly inventory. For example, say in October, we sold $2,700 in books, $1,800 in comics, $2,800 in non-sports cards, $800 in watches and jewelry, $1,900 in toys and games, $1,400 in cars and trains, and the rest misc. (All numbers made up for the example.)

If I was silly enough to want to track that by numbers of comics, numbers of cars, numbers of books, it would take a full-time bookkeeper. And would get us no more information that would help us. The general categories by money does it just fine for decision-making.

Standard for this level of business since we have no reordering needs in the inventory. (All our inventory comes through the door and we buy it then or it is scouted and picked.)

So record your money every month, make no judgements or changes. But do record if you have a new book out that month, or did a promotion, or lowered a price, or if a world event happened. At the store we record weather as well, since weather changes how a day can go in a brick-and-mortar store.

Do a quarterly report of everything added up for the three months. Again note how many new books you had out in those three months, promotions, price change, world events.

Do an annual report.  Do graphs and charts and all kinds of nifty stuff.


Why of the money???

Okay, let me try to explain why copy sales mean nothing in this new world. Only the money really matters, just like how many small 25 cent toy cars we sold doesn’t matter at the store, only the money.

This last few weeks WMG did a bunch of lower-level promotions on one of my books and even though I had no desire to know, took great pleasure in telling me I had hit #1 on some bestseller list or another. I took that for how it was intended, that the book was selling. Great to hear.

But the book had been $5.99 and we had lowered the price to 99 cents for the promotion for a short time. The idea was to give it traction and other books similar to it traction in the long run. Great, a valid reason for a promotion and I agreed to it in the planning stages. Still do.

But in the short term, it illustrates the point about book sales vs money tracking. Say we sold 300 or so on Amazon over the two weeks, (numbers made up for this example since I don’t honestly know or care to check.)

What I do care about is that in a few months the money for that will come in.

300 copies x 35 cents = $105.00.

But the book before the promotion was selling a few copies a day at the higher price. (Made up, don’t actually know.) So say the book was earning about $5.99 x 65% = $3.90 per sale. It would have sold over the two weeks about 50 or so copies. It wouldn’t even have laughed at a bestseller list at that rate. But we would have gotten in about $195.00.

Sold six times the number of books, made half the money.  See why sales numbers are just silly to follow?? They mean nothing to a business. And they can mislead you and give you wrong data. Wow, sold 300 copies. That’s great.

Well, not so much.

So act like a regular business.

— Track the money every month. Only when it comes in. Not ahead of time.

— Then do quarterly and annual reports of the money.

If you do not know how to do this, go get some basic accounting books.

And of course, when you do your bookkeeping each month, you also record your expenses. And for each quarter, and for the year. How much did you spend, how much did you bring in gross?

So instead of always checking your numbers and worrying about making changes all the time, check the money every month, record it as it comes into your account, and then go write the next book.

At the end of a year, maybe make some changes. Or maybe not.

That is just good business. Much beyond that and you might have addiction problems that might, if left unchecked, slow down and hurt your writing.

We writers work between our ears. Anything that can hurt that is a bad thing. And the best solution is just act like a regular business.

Track the money once a month in your checking account. That’s where it matters in business.


The Writing of GRAPEVINE SPRINGS: A Thunder Mountain Novel

Day 1…. 2,450 words.  Total words so far… 2,450 words.
Day 2….5,300 words.  Total words so far… 7,750 words.
Day 3….7,100 words.  Total words so far… 14,850 words.
Day 4….2,250 words.  Total words so far… 17,100 words.
Day 5….6,300 words.  Total words so far… 23,400 words.
Day 6….2,450 words.  Total words so far… 25,850 words.
Day 7….2,700 words.  Total words so far… 28,550 words.
Day 8….2,100 words.  Total words so far… 30,650 words.
Day 9….1,450 words.  Total words so far… 32,100 words.
Day 10…2,750 words.  Total words so far… 34,850 words.
Day 11…2,250 words.  Total words so far… 37,100 words.


Totals For Year 3, Month 4, Day 13

Writing in Public blog streak… Day 824

— Daily Fiction: 2,750 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 42,000 words  

— Nonfiction: 00 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 00 words 

— Blog Posts: 1,200 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 9,900 words

— E-mail: 21 e-mails. Approx. 700 original words.  E-mails month-to date: 284 e-mails. Approx. 16,300 words

— Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 1 Covers


You can support this ongoing blog at Patreon on a monthly basis. Not per post. Just click on the Patreon image. Extra stuff for different levels of support and I will be adding in more as time goes on. Thanks for your support.

Or you can just toss a tip into the tip jar with a single donation at PayPal. Either way, your support keeps me going at these crazy posts.

And thanks.

If you would like to leave a tip just hit Paypal.me/deanwesleysmith (Goes to WMG Publishing account, but I’ll get it just fine.)