Special Guest Blogger: Therese Fowler

I’m so excited to introduce Therese Fowler to you all. Her debut novel, SOUVENIR, is available now (by coincidence from Ballantine), and is garnering lots of well-deserved praise. I became acquainted with Therese on Patry Francis Blog Day, and was immediately charmed by her enthusiasm and fresh point of view on publishing a novel for the very first time. I think you’ll like her, too!

“The Numbers” by Therese Fowler

I had sixteen months of anticipation before my debut novel, Souvenir, would be released here in North America. In the early months I began reading other new authors’ blogs and got curious about something called Amazon sales rankings. Each time an author’s book debuted, there would be chatter about the numbers, the lists, and obsessive watching of same.

While I was of course familiar with Amazon, I went in search of info about their rankings. How relevant are the numbers? How reliable? Answers abound, with terms like relaxation rank and decay rate and algorithm. There are graphs and charts purporting to have figured out what can’t be figured out for sure; Amazon’s system is proprietary. That sales ranking—which anyway represents at best 5% of traditional books’ sales from retail outlets—tells most of us almost nothing.

Being sensible, I concluded there was no reason to ever check my own. I would resist the temptation and save myself a lot of purposeless angst.

Yeah, right. My novel went on sale first in the UK last July. In the UK. Where I was not. I couldn’t pop in to WH Smith or Waterstone’s or Tesco to see whether the book really was there, whether anyone would find it, buy it (let alone read it and love it). The only way I would know anything about its fate was to check its sales ranking. There was no other choice.

To say I grew addicted to watching the number drop lower and lower would be a misstatement. Those first few days were a fun-park adventure and I enjoyed them as just that. The addiction came later, in the way I continued to check it long after its initial surge. Twice-daily peeks for months. When the number was high, I got a bit low. If it was low, I was high. And the compulsion to look grew worse when Souvenir’s German edition was listed. I knew my publisher there was promoting it well ahead of publication, and was fascinated to see the numbers improving—then not—then yes—then no… Finally I got tired of worrying about something that was not only useless to me, it was completely out of my control. I weaned myself to once a day, then to a sporadic few times a week, then to oh, whenever, and the mood effects (they were never quite swings) stopped.

I wish I could stand before you and say that when Souvenir went on sale here a week ago, I never checked its sales ranking. Heck, as long as I’m wishing, I might as well wish that when I did look, it was outselling even Eckhart Tolle. What I can say, though, is that I learned something in the first round. What I can say is, a week has passed and I’m over it.

And now I have to go; I’m off to the book store to see how many copies they have left in stock.

9 thoughts on “Special Guest Blogger: Therese Fowler”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Looking forward to reading it, and nice to read your guest blog, Therese!

    kyle minor

  2. Have to say…I’m still a tad addicted to checking my rankings! It’s making me understand people who get strung out on online gambling!

  3. Larramie says:

    Imagine outselling Eckhart Tolle (gasp), Oprah would call and you’d never look at those rankings again!

    OTOH, Therese, your business sensibilities always impress. Here’s to book sales that produce happy readers — the true measure of success.

  4. Therese says:

    Thank you, Kyle!

    Carleen, if the numbers were in any real way useful, I’d still be watching. Only books that go into “bestseller territory,” i.e. low hundreds consistently over, say, a week’s time, are worth number-watching.

    Maybe next week for us. 🙂

    Yes indeed, Larramie–you don’t have to look, at least not until the next book! I had the opportunity to ask Elizabeth Berg about the benefits of having been an Oprah pick, and she said they were not as extensive as we’re all inclined to think.

    Yep, I’m aiming for the slow-but-steady build-up of satisfied readers. So glad to count you among the earliest of them!

  5. Lisa says:

    Count me in too Therese! The Amazon number watching reminds me of those of us who were wannabe day traders pre dot- bomb.

  6. I believe you can call Ingram’s to get sales figures for a book . . . . I don’t know what the phone number is, but that would provide more accurate figures. Also, having to type in your ISBN over and over would discourage you from checking frequently.

  7. Laura says:

    It’s so fun to have visitors. Thanks for coming by, everyone!

    BTW-The phone number to get automated sales figures from Ingraham is: (615) 213-6803

  8. Therese says:

    Seriously, you can call Ingram’s? I never knew…

    I wonder what proportion of sales their figures represent. Anyone know?

  9. Laura says:

    I read that the multiplier for total industry sales from the Ingram number is six. Your agent might have a more solid number. Most agencies subscribe to bookscan.

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