There are no Write-By-Numbers kits …

When I was a kid, we spent our summers at the family cottage, north of Toronto. Two entire months to amuse ourselves – preferably, according to my mother, out-of-doors. But there were often rainy days we’d be forced to spend inside, and one of the “hobbies” I got into was Paint-By-Numbers. My parents would buy a kit and I’d create a work of art (in my mother’s eyes only, of course) that would then be framed to hang on a nail. But eventually, over the years, that painting would either fall behind the furniture, or be replaced by a genuine work of art. I prided myself on those “paintings” because I managed to keep inside the lines and always used the recommended colours of paint.

So much for encouraging any creativity or originality.

Now that I’m writing and publishing, I’m very glad that no one has ever come up with a similar kit for budding authors. It’s my own ideas I develop and write, my own characters and situations I create, and I’m happy to not be constrained by lines or colours imposed on me by a kit or its factory.

Unfortunately, though, there are still numbers involved in writing and publishing that too many other authors seem to have taken to heart – and I wish they wouldn’t!

These are the rankings, the ratings, the number of reviews, the number of followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook, fans on Goodreads, connections on LinkedIn, subscribers to their blogs, and sales figures.

Jamaica-me-crazy! (to coin a phrase from Jimmy Buffett)

I am taking a stand right now and asking that you all stop being so fixated by, and stop hyperventilating over, the numbers! Right now!!

If you got into this writing and publishing business to make a lot of money through selling your books then you’re just plain delusional. (If you have managed to sell a lot of books and made a lot of money then congratulations! You don’t need to worry about the numbers any longer.) But, let’s face it, the vast majority of you will never be that successful – and agonizing over the numbers ain’t going to make you any more successful, so just stop it!!

As with just about everything in life, it’s quality that counts, not quantity. So it’s your ultimate job to make sure you provide your readers with a quality book, first and foremost. Produce the best, most professional piece of work that you can. And then look for people to read and review it – Readers whose opinions you value. I would rather have one critically acclaimed 3-star review on Amazon than twenty 5-star reviews that say little or nothing about the quality of my writing. Maybe that’s just me, though. I have not received all that many reviews yet, as compared to other colleagues, but I’m proud to say that I appreciate every one of them for their honesty.

And I prefer to have fewer friends, followers, and subscribers than many other authors boast of having, because I believe that these people who are on my lists are generally more interested in me, my books, and what I have to say on my blogs. What I do hope, though, is that those friends, followers, and subscribers are sharing information about me with their friends, followers, and subscribers. And that the vast majority of those who have signed up to support me on this long weird trip of writing and publishing will become MY Readers, and will want to read more of my writing – or read writing by authors whom I recommend to them.

When it comes down to it, the number of people reading your writing is the only number you should be concerned with. And you should be concerned with keeping that number happy by writing more books.

Without those Readers, all the other numbers become meaningless. So stop preoccupying yourself with the numbers that don’t matter and write for the READERS who should be of utmost importance.

I’m going to go count my blessings now . . .


21 responses

    1. Thanks for reblogging!

    1. Thanks for reblogging!

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Susan, I’ve reblogged this, I hope you don’t mind.

    1. Not at all! Thank you so much for reblogging, Jean!

  2. Reblogged this on The Writers' Workshop Blog and commented:
    I love this post. It gives us all a reality check about why we write. Keeping up with the ‘numbers’ can consume so much of your time that you forget why you started writing in the first place – because you love it. I like what Susan M. Toy says about this.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, commenting and reblogging my blog post, Jean! THIS is why we write!!

  3. This Blog post has lifted my spirits. My publisher knows the numbers, and maybe it’s better not to know, but in my writer’s heart I really believe that I just need that one reader that has an emotional response to my writing. If I can make someone laugh, or cry with my mere words, then to me I’ve done my job well, and the numbers be damned (darned for those delicate ears).

  4. Well said, Susan. Thank you.
    I get giddy with excitement that people actually buy my book or borrow it from the library (or a friend). And when they go the extra mile of writing me a letter or email – I’m thrilled beyond measure.

    Always, always, I write back to say a heartfelt thanks. People have lots of books to choose from, so when they choose mine, that’s a big deal. When they love it and write to me, that’s an even bigger deal. A double dollop of grace.
    Seems to me that a reader who loves your book (or your blog) is worth more than the numbers.

    1. Absolutely true, Cynthia! And you’ve made the extra point that we should try to acknowledge when a reader takes the time to tell us what they think of our books. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my blog post!

      1. You’re most welcome.

  5. All you can do is offer up the words and say here they are and see who wants them. Just a handful of people who hear your voice and appreciate it are worth a thousand sales to the indifferent

    1. Thanks for rading and commenting, Bill. The revolution begins with just one voice saying, “But what if we were to do it, or think about it, this way …?”

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Chris!

  6. Reblogged this on Reading Recommendations and commented:

    I think it’s time for a reblogging of this post from a couple of weeks ago over on my main blogsite. Authors need to be reminded that they should not sweat about the sales of their books – there’s a more important number that should be the only concern …

  7. Brilliant, brilliant post. I am hoping to achieve the 1,000 true fans thing. If I end up with 1,000 people who love my work buy everything I write – and the merchandise – then that’s all I need. And to be honest, even ten real fans, banging on about how much they love my work, are priceless.



    1. Absolutely true, MT! Thanks for your comment and, of course, for reading!

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