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The Danger of Numbers: A Note to Authors and Future Authors

Many of you don’t know that I was a math major in undergrad and subsequently taught math. I was not a very good teacher, or I was a 22-year-old kid without the skill or understanding to teach middle schoolers, but that is beside the point.


I love numbers.


I can obsess over numbers and data. Our culture obsesses over numbers in general. And because I have access to the number of pages read on kindle unlimited, readers adding my book on Goodreads, and books purchased through Amazon and Ingramspark, I obsess over my sales numbers. Many authors do. I refresh the pages almost every time I open my phone—at least twenty times a day.


Ready for an understatement? This is unhealthy.

Whether or not I am reaching my daily goals can affect my mood. It’s great when the KU page count for the day shoots up, and I get to think about the fact that at least a few people are out there reading my book at that very moment. It is extremely gratifying. However, when those pages read and books sold counts don’t rise, it can dampen my mood. I worry about what I’m doing wrong. It only gets worse when I compare myself to other people with better sales.


When I see an author find an opportunity to get their book out there, I immediately chastise myself for not doing enough. The truth is, my sales aren’t directly correlated with the number of TikToks I do, interviews I take part in, or Discord chats I join. But it feels like it, especially on days when sales aren’t meeting my expectations.


I have spoken to several authors obsess like I do. I don’t know if they do it to the same extent, but it can mess with your mental health. So I am going to step back.


For the next few months, I will not check my sales. I am going to try to stop obsessing about how to sell my books and focus on writing stories. It’s hard to remember I write because I love to write when I open up my numbers and that shot of endorphins kicks in—or doesn’t.


I am also going to step back from the demands of social media, posting and participating only when I am excited to do so.


My sales may be negatively affected. However, this is not a short game for me. I plan on sharing stories for years to come, and that won’t be possible if I burnout now.


Interviewers often ask authors what piece of advice would you give to a new author, and the answer is usually something about how to market, improve your craft, or plan your debut release. My answers have been along the same lines in the past. I am changing my answer now.


My advice to writers is to prioritize your mental health. Remember why you love to write and protect that love. I know if I let myself fall out of love with my stories and this process, I won’t be an author for long.


Another fact that many might not know is I did slam poetry for many years. There is a saying in poetry communities: The points are not the point, the point is the poetry. It’s hard to remember that in a competition.

In publishing, for me, the numbers cannot be the point. The point has to be the stories.


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