Looking for Logic? Not in Book Sales

Watching your digital book sales climb is exhilarating. Seeing them decline  is heartbreaking and confusing. “What changed?” you ask yourself, feeling panicked. Did I slack off too much on blogging? Or forget to post in the forums? Did I take this success for granted for 24 hours? Frantically, you try to recreate the right combination of effort and luck that made it happen. Then you realize you don’t really know why the run-up occurred.

Sometimes, changes in books sales are obvious and logical. During weeks when I have three guest blogs posted and I’m active in the forums, the numbers go up a little and it makes sense. Other times, the sales shoot up for no reason. This month, they dropped for no reason.

I tried not to panic, telling myself it was temporary. But still, I kicked into high gear, posting in the forums, writing blogs, and sending out press releases. None of it seemed to make a difference. I even bought some ads, something I rarely do because it’s so hard to measure their effectiveness. But self-publishing is a small business, so reinvesting a little profit into advertising seems logical.

I crave logic, and these inexplicable fluctuations can make an author crazy. Particularly people like me: control freaks who want things to make sense. I want to know the cause and effect of everything. I want to depend on my efforts to produce predictable results. (Are you laughing?) So for months, I checked my Amazon sales daily. Because if I did something that worked, I wanted to know. How else do you learn and improve?

Yet sales often fluctuate for no rhyme or reason, so watching the daily numbers is a good way to give yourself an anxiety disorder—and not get much written on a new novel. But you have to keep writing new stories, because releasing a new book is the best thing you can do for sales of all your books. Proven!

So what’s an author to do? I’ve given up looking at daily sales. I still check my rankings on Amazon’s police procedural list every once in a while to see where my books are. If my titles are slipping off the first page, I ramp up my efforts for a while or maybe buy a small online ad.

But I’m trying not to obsess and to accept that I have little control over sales. I remind myself that making a living as a novelist was and is my dream, and that so as long as the bills get paid, I’m happy.

P.S. They’re climbing again, but who knows why?

Authors: What are your experiences with digital sales? Can you shed some light on the ups and downs?

L.J. Sellers is the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mysteries and standalone thrillers.