Why I Stopped Looking At The Numbers

Looking at the numbers

“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” ~ Anna Quindlen

I’m writing this post because I need a reminder about what’s important to me. When I started this independent-publishing journey, I was happy I’d sold a book . . . to anyone. I was happy at least one person, somewhere, was reading what I’d written. I was happy that lovely person wrote a review, even better if it was a fabulous review.

What’s important to the world, though, is numbers: sales figures, dollars earned, number-one rankings, the number of visitors/retweets/Facebook fans, and the list goes on and on forever. I used to check all that. I used to until I noticed my happiness took a nosedive. Why? Because inevitably I’d read about some author bemoaning the fact that he/she was only selling 100 books a day (only 100 a day!). They were upset. They were venting about it. Complaining to whoever would listen.

And it made me feel less than, both as a business person (Why aren’t my sales better?) and as a writer (Why isn’t my book good enough?). At that point, when I’d read that post, I’d sold 2 books ~ in a month.

The effect looking at the numbers had on me

For starters, reading other people’s numbers made me start not liking them. A lot. Sure, it was jealousy but it was also the fact that I’d give almost anything to be where they were at & they weren’t grateful. Heck, they didn’t even seem to be happy. Anne Lamott in her fabulous, amazing, you-should-really-go-buy-it-now book on writing, Bird By Bird, talks about this in detail (in case you think I’m the lone person who’s felt this way). She writes about jealousy & how, yes, it happens but you also don’t have to hang around/listen to/like people who shove their success (or in the case of the 100-a-day-sales failure) in your face.

The second thing it did was made me start doubting. All the advice I’ve heard over the years about growing a business ~ it takes time, be willing to grow slowly, don’t let your ego get in the way ~ started going out the window. Panic crept in. And along with it came lots of self-doubt. Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s working out for other people, why isn’t it working out for me? Maybe I should quit and go get a real job. And on and on the crazy-go-round went.

Finally, it also had the sad effect of making me look at writing with an endgame in mind~ well, is this gonna sell? Here are a few things I love about writing: when I get so caught up in the story that I lose track of time; my characters, who I actually look forward to sitting down with and seeing what they’re going to do next; and finally, getting surprised by the story, having it veer off in a direction I never anticipated, never planned for, & so I’m just as shocked as a reader would be about what happened. Looking at the numbers & anticipating the end result of my writing ~ forcing the story along or trying to make it into something it wasn’t ~ made all those things I love about writing unimportant, which, of course, also made it totally unenjoyable for me.

Looking at the numbers does not feel good in my heart

It feels good in my heart to not be enslaved to the numbers, to be happy when I sell even one book, to write the way I want to without worrying about selling it later. It feels good in my heart to keep plugging along and making sure the writing is what’s important. It feels good in my heart to craft stories that matter to me. So that’s why I stopped looking at the numbers.

What about you? If you’re a writer, are the numbers important to you? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.

89 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Looking At The Numbers”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Shelli! It was just what I needed to read this morning as I’ve been driving myself nuts checking sales numbers obsessively and doing nothing but busy work relating to promotion of my book for the past two weeks. I really need to wrap up what I’m doing and get back to writing. This intense focus on selling books is not only soul-destroying; it stifles creativity and that is death for a writer.

    1. Hi Tracie! You are welcome. Checking the numbers really will make you crazy, at least it does me. I love this ~ “This intense focus on selling books is not only soul-destroying; it stifles creativity and that is death for a writer” ~ because it’s absolutely true!

  2. I have felt the same way.
    Although I have not yet finished my book, the same feelings apply to freelancing–and, of course, the unfinished book. Watching my friends get published more often, seeing someone’s stats go through the roof, second guessing the markets I aim for… it takes the joy out of the actual experience of writing. After all, I started writing to get away from the corporate world–not to reinvent it!

    1. Hi Robyn! It was stealing my joy, too, which is why I made the choice to stop. Amen to this: “I started writing to get away from the corporate world–not to reinvent it!”

  3. I can’t remember where I read it, but somewhere I read that James Patterson said it was true he didn’t keep many friends once he became a successful best-selling author, but he said it was because THEY dumped HIM. Envy is a terrible thing. Great post, Shelli!

    1. Hi Susan! I’ve heard that a lot from people who hit it big, that they quickly found out who their real friends were. As long as people are gracious and grateful, I wish them all the success in the world. 🙂

  4. Absolutely agree. I remember the days when six books a month was cause for celebration. I’m selling more than that now, and I always remind myself when I have a slow day (100 – 150 sales in 24 hours) that, not so long ago, I’d have shat kittens to have sold my “slow day” numbers in a month.

    The writing is what matters. It’s what always matters. Screw the numbers. Yes, lots of sales are nice. Keeps the bill collectors happy, and keeps your lights on. It even keeps you from having to get a “real” job. But the words are what matter, not the end result. Writing is just like reading here: it’s the journey, not the destination.

    However, I know that’s easy for me to say now. I’m fortunate enough to live off my writing. Telling someone who’s hungry, or who’s working two jobs AND writing, to quit worrying about the numbers is like telling the ocean not to be wet. The key, I think, is to remember that once your numbers go up (and with enough persistence, they will), don’t forget where you came from. Be grateful for every sale, every penny you earn, and never, EVER, let it go to your head.

    Good article. I enjoyed it quite a lot. 🙂

    1. Congrats on all your success & for pointing out, too, that “the writing is what matters. It’s what always matters.” I agree that it’s hard to avoid the numbers when you’re swamped and just want writing to be your only career, but making yourself crazy over them isn’t going to help you write at all, IMO. Thanks, too, for mentioning the persistence aspect because the sales will come as long as you keep at it. 🙂

  5. Great post, Shelli. Helps to keep us all on the path of writing, rather than being obsessed by other distractions. I’ve read several articles recently which indicate that luck plays a huge part in sales, so I’m aiming to keep writing and let Lady Luck do what she will!
    Meanwhile, it’s just good fun to keep in touch with other authors and readers.

    1. Hi Stuart! Being obsessed with the numbers is a total distraction. I agree, too, that luck does play a huge part. I just had this discussion with someone about how when Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman (as an experiment), he hardly sold any copies at all. When people found out Bachman was really King, the sales went through the roof. Same writer, style, & genre but vastly different sales. King’s whole point was about how luck plays a part in it, too. 🙂

  6. Wow, I’m glad that 100-books-a-day “failure” of an author didn’t make you quit, Shelli! I would never have found your wonderful, moving book if you had. Your writing touched my heart, as it touched the heart of so many others. Can’t imagine a world where it didn’t exist, just as I can’t imagine a world where some of my other favorite books didn’t exist. What a sad, dreary place that would be!

    My first book-length work isn’t out yet, but I know I’ll go through all the doubts and fears when it is. There are always people bombarding us with their “failures” or negativity. It’s going to be a challenge to go do something else. Anne Lamott (LOVE that book) and now, your post, will definitely keep me motivated. 🙂

    1. Hi Adriana! Thanks for the lovely compliments. I can only imagine that there are writers out there who have compared their numbers to other people’s and given up. That’s a sad, sad day to be sure. I made a choice a while ago, too, to stop listening to other people’s negativity because nothing good was coming out of that either. 🙂 Write on!

  7. Shelli, I think this is an excellent and important post. I think writers should heed this advice during every step of the publishing process — whether it’s trying to land an agent/publisher, trying to work through a writer’s block or trying to market a book. We need to remember why we became writers and also to remember that this business is so subjective and that numbers don’t always reflect on a person’s talent. Be who you are, and you can’t go wrong. 🙂

    1. Hi Dina! *waves wildly* Thanks for the compliment. It’s easy to forget why you love writing when you start looking at numbers, comparing, and defining yourself & your talent by the number of your sales. It reminds me of stepping on a bathroom scale every morning, seeing the number & having that set the tone for my entire day (which is why I no longer have the scale :D).

  8. This was a great post, Shelli!

    This is something that I myself, needed to read at this exact moment in my career as a beginner writer. I totally understand that you were referring to book sales, but it can also be applied to blogging and other areas in our life as well, don’t you think?

    What we focus on determines our success. And if we focus on the numbers, we’ll only attract that… numbers. But when we focus on productivity, producing results, and what’s important to us as writers (which is getting our work read and compensated for); we then begin to attract those things to us instead.

    I was beginning to get really caught up in the numbers, and what I found was happening for me, was that I was beginning to put more focus on getting the numbers I wanted to see, and less focus on what I should have been doing to get numbers that matter.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. Good stuff!

    1. Hi Deeone! I absolutely agree that it can go for blogging or anything else you’re doing where there are stats involved. You are SO right about the detriment of focusing on the numbers to the exclusion of doing the thing ~ blogging, writing, whatever ~ that actually matters. Thanks so much for the reminder about focus, too: “What we focus on determines our success.” That, sir, is the absolute truth.

  9. Exhaaaaaale! Thank you for the wonderful reminder.
    It can be such a distraction in addition to a place of worry.
    First time at you blog. Very nice post 🙂

  10. This post came at a perfect time for me! Yesterday I was looking at the numbers on my blog and thinking the same thing. Then, after reading this I was reminded when I started the blog, I would always write “From my heart.”

    I am reminded of a post I wrote some time ago that was not only difficult to write, but I put my heart and soul into it. I was very disappointed because it received little response. Then I received an email from a sweet person who said:

    “I am still crying. How did you know I was going through that very same thing, and I felt so alone? Now I know I am not alone, and I can tell that since you write ‘from your heart’ I will always be grateful to you.”

    This one email did more for me than one hundred “views.”

    Thank you, and keep writing!

    1. I love it when I read a post right when I need it; I’m so glad this post could do that for you. I loved your comment because, in the end, writing, for me, is about connecting with other people. That’s what happened for you, and it really is a lovely gift to be able to move people that way. I love this: “This one email did more for me than one hundred “views.” ~ Amen to that!

  11. Since I’m basically new to all of this, the numbers don’t bother me yet. I’m happy for everyone when their books start selling and I love to share and help promote them. It’s the ones that brag so much that really bother me, especially when they snub others that have helped them along the way.

    1. Hi Karen! I’m glad to hear the numbers don’t bother you . . . yet <==please don't let them . . . ever. 🙂 I agree that it's wonderful to be happy for & supportive of other people's success when they're being grateful & humble about it.

  12. Your posts always speak to me. You’re like the sane, sensible half of my mind while I dwell in the “angsty” part of dark insecurity. I said something like this to my husband the other day. Traditionally published writers don’t know their sales numbers for months or even years, so they naively go along thinking the best of themselves, their ability to write, and their books because they don’t know their sales numbers. “I’m published!” they say. They’re all happy and twittering away in their lives. Yet, it might be months or a year or two later before their publisher/agent tells them “we’re not going to pick up your third book because your first two didn’t sell enough.” Yet, they managed to be happy for all that time because they didn’t know the numbers. There’s something to be said for the not knowing. I think that’s what you’re getting at. Living with the writing is the best strategy I think. Love that idea! Thanks for sharing.

    You’re a wonderful writer and so courageous to give up the habit of checking your sales numbers “all the time”. I will follow your lead.

    You’re a very talented writer. I believe success still comes the old-fashioned way–word of mouth. And, that just takes time.

    1. Hi Katherine! *waves wildly* You always make me smile. It’s nice to be the sane, sensible one for once; I’ll tell my husband you said so ~ lol. I absolutely loved your comment because it’s so true, writers can be happy & working in their bliss & writing stories that matter to them when they aren’t obsessed with the stats. Amen to this: “There’s something to be said for the not knowing.” Thank you for the compliments, btw. I believe that success takes time, like you said, and if all you do is focus on the numbers, and your numbers aren’t good, you’ll lose heart really quickly.

  13. I’ll be honest, I look at the numbers far more often than what would be considered mentally healthy. But by the same token, I’ve given myself five years (from two years ago) to get traction, so I won’t hit the obsessive, WTF stage for another couple of years.

    1. Hi Tony! Your comment made me laugh ~ “WTF stage.” Now I know what to call it 😀 I think it’s a great thing that you’ve given yourself a long time span so you won’t make yourself crazy.

  14. Thank you, Shelli. I have been feeling so burned out lately that it’s affecting my whole life. Hard to be motivated to do anything. And it’s all been about the numbers. But it’s not about the book sales, which aren’t great…but are a whole lot better than they were a couple of months ago (and I’m thrilled about that).

    I took a workshop last year that stressed the importance of supporting other 99 authors in the class, finding new blogs to read (in addition to the 99), and how to use social media (mainly Twitter) for marketing. I love reading blogs, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re trying to get to 8 or 10 a day/7 days a week, Twitter, blogging, writing, housework, family, errands…you can just feel yourself deflating like a balloon with a slow leak. After weeks and months of this, it just sucks the joy right out of your life and everything you’re trying to do feels like some sort of punishment.

    So I decided yesterday…in the comments section of one of my blog posts no less…that I wasn’t doing it anymore. I’d continue supporting the 15 or 20 authors/blogs I TRY to follow regularly…that I’ve been missing because I was trying to ‘do it all.’ I’d even jump on Twitter a couple of times a day…for 10-15 minutes each time…but that’s going to be it. I NEED to work on my stories and my blog…but most importantly, I NEED to reconnect with my kids and family like I’m a living, breathing human being instead of a crazed, stressed out zombie.

    All that to say…your post today just confirmed that I’ve made the right decision. And, like it or not, I should be around a little more often because yours is one of the blogs I actually enjoy visiting. Thanks again, Shelli! 🙂

    1. Hi Kristy! *raising my coffee cup to you ~ always* You know, I just went away for the past 3 days for that exact same reason, because, like you, I felt like I was “deflating like a balloon with a slow leak.” What matters most to me is working on my novel, which I wasn’t doing to the best of my ability because I was always distracted by something. I made the same decision: to reconnect with my own novel, my kids and family, my friends, and feel like a normal person again. Kudos to you for taking care of yourself. *hugs*

  15. Moaning about only selling 100 books a day? 100 sales a day would be like winning the lottery to me! I’m a strong believer that when it comes to writing, if your sole motivation is to make a buck, then you are writing for the wrong reason.

    Great post as always, Shelli!


    1. Hi Rob! I feel the same way: 100 = winning the lottery! 🙂 Amen to this: “if your sole motivation is to make a buck, then you are writing for the wrong reason.” I know you wrote a great post about it a while back, too.

  16. Excellent post, Shelli. I agree somewhat, and it’s easy to remember (my book came out December 26th) when the first day of sales numbers appeared. I was jumping up and down, telling anyone who’d listen. Somebody actually bought my book!

    I can only handle numbers by compartmentalizing. For a little bit each day, I take off my writer’s hat (the nice bright red one) and put on my publisher’s hat (which is much more subdued) My numbers are building, slowly, and I keep close track of them to see how useful different promotional efforts seem to be. I don’t think of it as obsessing, but as a necessary part of my job. Now if I were looking four or five times a day, THAT would be obsessing, for me anyway.

    Maybe it’s easier for me, since my day job is running my own company. Anyway, good luck on your book, and if you feel good in your heart, I think that’s the most important thing.

    1. Hi Erika! Your comment made me laugh “my writer’s hat (the nice bright red one)”. I think that looking at the numbers to see what works and what doesn’t in the way of promotion is a smart thing to do; that way, you’re not throwing money at something that’s ineffective. I think you’ve got a great idea, compartmentalizing & changing hats, so you can look at the numbers more objectively. I do think that if the numbers are starting to make you crazy, like they were me, that something has to change ~ in my case, not looking at them at all. 🙂

  17. Thanks for posting this, Shelli. You are going to help a lot of people with this subject, including me. My problem is that I wasted 20 years (a bit of an oversimplification, really) and now struggle trying not to rush everything because I’m in my early 40’s and am realizing my dream. I will definitely keep this post in mind as I move forward from book one to book two.
    Have a great week.


    1. Hi Jimmy! It’s always lovely to see you. Well, I happen to believe that early 40’s is still plenty of time to fully realize your dream. A while back, there was a woman (sorry, can’t remember her name) who published her first novel in her early 90’s. So, you see, plenty of time . . . no rush. 🙂 You have a great week, too.

  18. Thank you SO much for this post! It comes at the perfect time for me because I declared this a Stats-Free month and not looking was HARD. But I was getting a handle on it and feeling better and then today, oh horrors, I backslid. I looked! And immediately regretted the decision.

    For me it’s the self doubt, which I never used to give in to.And a clicky-clicky internet addiction. These two combined have torpedoed my word count. And like you said, my joy in the work!

    So thanks for booting me back to my Happy Place.

    1. Hi Jane! *waves* You are welcome. I love it ~ a stats-free month. I think all writers should declare at least one to give themselves a break. Yes, I’ve seen my own work suffer from hanging out on the Internet too much; that’s my next declaration, although I won’t make it a month. I just did an internet-free day & struggled, so I’m going to start small. Maybe an internet-free weekend. Thanks to you for the suggestion. Anyway, I’m glad you’re back in your Happy Place. 🙂

  19. Hi Shelli. Good points.

    I’m not published, so numbers don’t mean anything to me 🙂 But I think numbers follow from doing your job as a writer well, not from doing things to convince people to buy something. Sure, you can sell anything with enough marketing, but if you start with good content you don’t have to convince people, you just have to get them to see it.

    And how difficult can that be? Well, ok, but it can’t be AS difficult, can it? 🙂


    1. Hi Nigel! I completely agree that if you have good content, you won’t have to convince people (well, maybe not as much :D). You’re right, though, that getting them to see it is the hard part. This made me laugh: “And how difficult can that be? Well, ok, but it can’t be AS difficult, can it?” Wish I had an answer to that one.

  20. What sane counsel. The numbers are driving me crazy. Great one moment and falling off the end of the world the next. Thanks for the blog. I needed it.

  21. Thanks for this article. Watching the numbers is definitely something we can all identify with.. I’m still unpublished, but right now I find that I have to keep from letting my low blog numbers get me down. As you said, it’s a slow process that you just have to stick with. Your article is also a great reminder to people who have “made it” to watch their whining. Though we unpublished writers really do celebrate the success of others (or at least we should!)
    We really don’t appreciate a lot of moaning and groaning from someone who is farther up the ladder than we are.

    1. Hi Linda! I believe perseverance matters & that if I stick with it long enough, success will come. Looking at the numbers, though, made me want to quit, which is why I stopped looking. I absolutely celebrate people’s success when they are gracious about it because it’s a reminder that if they can get there then I can get there, too. 🙂

  22. Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed to read this morning. We all need to take a deep breath and re-focus on the writing. 🙂

  23. This is a great post, Shelli, and came at just the right time for me, as I’ve been stressing about numbers, and finding it difficult to stop checking multiple times a day. What is important is writing. Being true to yourself as a writer, and having joy. Checking numbers is a sure way to kill joy, that’s for sure!

    1. Hi Sally! Thanks! Back when I was checking all the numbers, I often wondered how much writing I could’ve gotten done in that time instead. 🙂 Having joy, IMO, is the most important thing.

  24. I linked over from Twitter… Great article! But I have to be an outlier and say that numbers have to matter to me to some extent, and particularly to my family, because we have a tight budget and everyone already sacrifices a lot of Mommytime and other things Mommy is good at handling in order for me to pursue this career. If the numbers aren’t at least a little in my favor, I can’t AFFORD to do it. Literally!

    1. Hi Jody! Thanks! Other people have commented on the importance of looking at the numbers for them, too. I absolutely think that it’s important to look at them if you need to make a budget; otherwise, how are you going to know how much you have to spend? They were just making me nuts & stealing my joy, which is why I stopped altogether. 🙂

  25. As a writer with more than 30 years experience in traditional publishing, I found that I had to look at the numbers daily for about six months. Not to see what was selling so much, but to see that things *were* selling in this new way of publishing. I guess I needed to convince myself that things had changed. Once I was convinced, I stopped looking at the numbers.

    The odd thing was, the numbers never really registered as *numbers*. I couldn’t tell you how many copies x novel sold. I could simply tell you that things were selling, every day, on all the platforms.

    Once I had that confirmation firmly in my head, I stopped paying attention at all. Weird, I know, but I thought I’d share that because it’s a different reason to watch the numbers than the traditional ones.

    1. Hi Kristine! Thanks for sharing your perspective. I understand what you’re saying, how they never registered as numbers but more like a gauge. If I could look at them like that, I might still be watching them. 🙂

  26. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing. I especially relate to the “endgame” stealing my joy. I’m like you, my story evolves as my fingers type. I’m as surprised as anyone by what ends up on the page. I love that sense of “what happens next?” and writing with the endgame in mind destroyed that joy.

    Forget the numbers! Enjoy the journey 😀

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  28. When I watched my numbers, I was miserable for all the reasons you mentioned. It took about a month before I broke free from the habit, and I’ve been a lot happier ever since. When it’s the story and nothing else, life is a lot better. 😀

    Thanks for writing this post!

    1. Hi Ruth Ann! Funny how it took me a little while, too, like weaning myself off. But I, too, am a lot happier. 🙂 Amen to this: “When it’s the story and nothing else, life is a lot better.”

  29. Thank your for your honesty, Shelli. I have been feeling the same way as you for a while, now — since I published my first short story.

    And thanks to all the commenters, too. It’s great to hear that things do pick up. But what would be great to read is exactly HOW. What steps did these authors take? What sites or services did they join?

    On KD Rush’s excellent blog, Lori Oster pointed out that most of these blogs and twitter feeds are by other writers. In other words, we indie authors are publicizing ourselves to other writers, rather than to readers. I think she has an important point.

    So the question is, how do we publicize ourselves more to readers?

    1. Hi Scott! From all the feedback I’ve gotten about this article, LOTS of people are feeling this way so just know that you’re in good company. 🙂 I completely agree that writers need to be targeting readers with their blogs, etc. and not, necessarily, other writers. There’s a group over on Facebook, Novel Publicity Network, that you can ask to join and it’s a great group of authors who may be able to answer some of the questions you asked.

  30. “when I get so caught up in the story that I lose track of time; my characters, who I actually look forward to sitting down with and seeing what they’re going to do next; and finally, getting surprised by the story, having it veer off in a direction I never anticipated, never planned for, & so I’m just as shocked as a reader would be about what happened.”

    I love that! It’s one of the things I like best about writing, especially when my characters take me in a new direction.

    My low (VERY low) blog numbers were starting to depress me until I made the decision to ignore them. I haven’t checked my stats in over a week and I’m no longer stressing about it. Do I wonder what they are? Oh, yeah. But I’m not going to look. I’m just going to keep blogging and hoping something resonates with someone out there, but more importantly, I’m going to finish my WIP. That’s the writing I love most.

    1. Hi Juli! *waves* I’m so glad to hear you’re not stressing and that you’re finishing your WIP. I just had this discussion with my husband, about how my WIP is where my heart lies and so that needs to be my focus. Here’s what I believe: if you write a blog post from the heart, it will resonate with someone. Cheers!

  31. Thank you for sharing this – it was a brilliant post! We are all with you – I think all writers go through this and Bird by Bird is always a book I reread. Numbers are always going to change so I can’t get attached. I have now been at the very bottom, the top, and the middle. And the work always needs to come first – the quality of the word -for us and our peace of mind. GREAT post!

    1. Hi Jennifer! *waves* Thanks for the fabulous compliment. You’re right, the numbers always change. I just read this great quote by Oprah: “Everything passes in its time. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much power you have, how high you sit on the Forbes list, how many times you make the Most Influential list—all of that changes. All of that changes. But what is real, what is lasting, is who you are and what you were meant to bring. What is the gift you were meant to give? And nobody can take that away from you.” You are so right, the quality of the work and peace of mind, IMO, are the most important things. 🙂

  32. Fantastic advice, particularly for unpublished authors like myself. The craft is hard enough without placing all that pressure on ourselves. We can’t all be Stephen King to start out, but we can all be Stephen King when *he* started out, LOL. What’s important is the writing, and keeping our foot on the gas and our eyes on the road is the way to go. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi David! Thanks so much for the compliment. I personally think one of the worst things you can do to yourself as an artist is to compare your work to someone else’s, and that’s particularly true of comparing numbers. I love this: “what’s important is the writing, and keeping our foot on the gas and our eyes on the road.” Hear, hear!

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  34. Shelli, fabulous post! As a writer, with no numbers to her name, working diligently to become an author it is easy to get discouraged. But you’re absolutely right! The numbers should never be more important than the passion and dedication for your writing.

    I strive to ignore the numbers. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Hi Megan! *waves wildly* Thanks for the compliment. You’re right that it’s easy to get discouraged & that’s what looking at all the numbers was doing to me. Plus, the numbers always change ~ up one day, down the next. As long as I focus on the constant ~ that I love writing ~ then I’m happy. 🙂

  35. Oh, I LOVED this article, Shelli. I resent every minute I have to spend promoting and marketing, to see such dismal numbers, when the voices in my head are dying to be heard. I had a very big agent tell me don’t expect to make any money until you have at least five books out there. I’m close, but in all honesty, it’s not for the money. I just like knowing people actually like what I write, and are moved by my books. That’s the reward (okay, so some money would be nice, too, lol).

    1. Hi Callie! *waves* I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it does take the wind out of your sails to LOVE writing & then look at dismal numbers, which is why I stopped, too. I’ve heard the same thing about making money until you’re a few books in. I agree that if your goal is making readers happy, you’ll be a lot more fulfilled (although some money, I also agree, would be nice, too :D).

  36. Excellent post, Shelli. I’m competitive by nature and I laughed about that part you wrote about growing to hate more successful authors, ha ha. It’s always more fun and productive to focus on the process, not the outcome.

    1. Hi Jennifer! *waves* Thanks for the fab compliment. Well, hate’s too strong a word. I didn’t like them or, more specifically, their behavior/attitude toward their “failures.” I agree it’s better to focus on the process since that’s the only thing you can control. 🙂

  37. What a wonderful article Shelli :)I am looking to launch my debut novel, What We Saw, later this year, and was initially flattered at the thought of selling just a few copies.

    However, as time progresses, ambitions begin to grow. I’m sure we’ve all posted what we thought was a brilliant blog post, only for it to go out to an disappointing reception. Then, the doubts begin to seep in… do people really care? Am I good enough? etc. It’s important to stay grounded, and persevere.

    Excuse the self-plug, but I recently wrote a post on confidence, and how important it is to writers. It isn’t exactly the same sort of thing that you are referring to, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it.


    All the best, and thanks again for a great piece,

    1. Hi Ryan! *waves* Thanks for the fab compliment. Congrats on the upcoming launch of your novel. You know, some people are okay with looking at their numbers all the time. It was just making me crazy. Sometimes books/posts hit with people and other times not, who really knows why? I think perseverance is so important. Maybe this one won’t be a success but maybe the next one will, or the one after that. But you have to keep going. I just read this great quote from a runner about perseverance: it’s never crowded on the extra mile. That’s so true. Cheers!

  38. I am too new at this to have sales numbers yet. I post on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and a fan site for a TV show. I do look at whatever numbers are available for that because I want to see if people are reading my work. I like humor. It makes my day when I think I’ve made someone laugh.

  39. An excellent post. I’ve felt that panic you mention a couple of different times in my life, most recently with my writing. It felt good to let the anxiety go. Still…I find myself obsessing over numbers, and that has a discouraging affect on my writing. It’s a constant struggle.

    1. Hi Caleb!

      Thanks for the fab compliment; I’m so glad this post resonated with you. I completely agree that it feels great to let all the anxiety go. I’m sorry that you’re still obsessing over the numbers. Maybe start small, like not looking at the numbers for a day then a weekend then a week, building up to the point where you just stop or at least have it at a manageable level so it doesn’t affect your writing. Sending good thoughts your way. 🙂

  40. Nice post, Shelli!

    This is exactly where I’m now, selling 1-2 books per month, but it doesn’t discourage me at all. I have similar writing approach as you do and freedom feels better than any numbers or opinions.

    All good, I’ll get there, slowly. 😀

  41. Michelle Flatley

    Hi Shelli, I haven’t got any numbers to watch yet, but this is something I think will strike a chord with every writer. Writers are bound to measure success by the number of books they sell, but it’s important to remember why we all write. For me the creative process is the most important thing -please remind me of this when I’m crying because my sales are zero! Just checked your book out and bought it. Hope that’s the first of many sales for you this month. I really like your style of writing and look forward to reading. Michelle x

    1. Hi Michelle! *waves*

      You’re right that it’s so important to keep the focus on why we write to begin with; once you lose the focus, it’s so much easier to fall into the checking-the-numbers trap, IMO. Thanks so much for buying my book, for the good wishes, & the fab compliment; all of which made me smile this evening. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the story. Cheers, darlin.

  42. Pingback: Comparison Will Suck Your Soul Dry - SHELLI JOHNSON

  43. Great post and reminder to worry about what’s really important. I, too, love writing for the same reasons you listed, and number watching wreaks havoc on enjoyment. Thanks again.

  44. I have enjoyed your writing for some time now. This post I believe is one of my must keeps. I am striving to write the book to get to the one sale. And it will happen. But I am grateful I happened upon this post early on in my pursuit. I heard a speaker tell his audience, “do not get caught up in your own press.” I love that. Your statement of not looking at writing with an end game in mind gives me that same a-ha experience. I was approaching my blog like this and it was stealing my joy for writing. Thank you Shelli. I will be checking back often.

    1. Hi Indrea!

      Thanks so much for the fab compliment. Made me smile. 🙂 I’m so glad you happened upon this post early on & that you won’t let the numbers and the end-game steal your joy anymore. You will get to the one sale, I have no doubt, & you’ll be happier getting there by focusing on the writing. I love the advice not to get “caught up in your own press” too because all that ego-feeding stuff doesn’t really help you do the work, at least IMO. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers, darlin.

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