Let’s Talk Numbers

So, as usual when I know I should be writing but for some reason am stuck, I spent some time today playing with my Access database where I track sales across eight different platforms, eight different pen names, and, as of today, over 100 different titles.

(Don’t get impressed.  Lots of that 100 are short stories. As Pronoun is slowly learning to their chagrin.)

I know I need to focus my writing.  I know this.  But as I’ve mentioned before, it isn’t all that easy to figure out what direction to focus in when your top three titles by revenue are under three names and in three different genre/types.

Today’s exercise was breaking down my total revenues, pay per hour, and pay per word by type and genre.

So, first I looked at novels vs. short stories vs. non-fiction titles.

I clearly make the most in terms of actual money from novels.  They’re certainly easier to promote because they pass the length requirements of most retailers, so that kind of makes sense.

But in terms of pay per hour, they’re actually last for me.  Turns out I make about 3x as much per writing/editing hour on my non-fiction and close to that, on average, with my short stories.

I also make pretty much the same per word rate across the board.  (And, man, do I wish it were a nice pro-rate of 6 cents per word, but it’s not. Yet.)

Which is all to say that I can write non-fiction faster than short stories and short stories faster than novels.  Makes sense.

Is there a trend on the non-fiction? A specific type I could focus on?  Nope. My top four titles are related to three completely different topics.

What about genre?  Any standouts there regardless of length?

Actually, maybe.  (And this is where this type of analysis falls apart…)  My erom titles make me twice as much per writing/editing hour as anything else with non-fiction coming in second.

That’s mostly off the strength of a well-targeted short story collection that I sort of kind of wrote to market that still occasionally sells.

But…can I write more like that? Uh, well, um…


I think I could, but I’m not sure I want to. And it’s an incredibly competitive space to be in. Very much release or die. I think trying to make a living there would stress me out no end. So I can poke around at the edge of it every once and while but trying to make a living there?  Nah.

(BTW just noticed WordPress has changed their layout again.  Grrr.  Just leave things alone, would you?)

Which all makes me circle back to that whole “how bad do you want this?” discussion.  I feel like a dilettante who just wants something useful to do around taking the puppy to the dog park and watching crappy t.v.  Problem is, I don’t have some rich uncle who’s going to kick off and leave me millions and every time I buy a lottery ticket I don’t even match one number.


Where does that leave me?

I guess I don’t have to feel too guilty when I slip in a few non-fiction titles here or there?

And, of course, the danger in an analysis like this is it doesn’t take into account intangibles like the fact that I still haven’t released an actual series yet.  So those novel numbers could be way underestimating potential right now.

(Which is what my gut tells me and why I’m hoping to write 500K in novels this year.  Hahaha. Yikes.)

I think the takeaway I’m going to go with is this: Based on the numbers, whatever I choose to write, I manage to do okay with, so what I really need to do is frickin’ pick a direction and go.  I’m like the college student who can’t decide on a major right now.

And  I will say I’m pretty impressed I’ve sold (for cash money, not free) over 2,100 short stories so far (counting sales of collections as one sale).  It was spread across a lot of titles so I didn’t realize the number was that high.

Huh.  Who knew?  (And until it pays my mortgage, who cares?)


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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