The Funny Thing About Numbers


Emerson freshly groomed and needing to cuddle in bed


Numbers don’t lie, but the conclusions we draw from them can be faulty. I used to think the majority of my readers of The Six Train to Wisconsin were paperback lovers. After all 70% of my sales were in paperback.

But that wasn’t the whole story behind that number. Because I wasn’t pursuing Kindle readers with the same focus and gusto as I pursued paperback readers. I have dozens of in-person events each year. Online, I did the blog tour, the giveaways, and the online ads, but had I really done the equivalent of all these in-person events?

I thought about it and realized I needed to play with price. It was the one thing I hadn’t done yet. Because I’d been advised to hold off until I had the second book in the series out. But I figured at this point what was there to lose.

First I did the 99 cent sales days. They created a nice bump in sales.

Then I tried the limited freebie days and after that ended, I saw a big jump in Kindle sales and in Kindle Unlimited reads.

Sometimes we form faulty conclusions and they become the premise for future decisions. Whenever you look at the numbers, remember to think about why you are seeing these numbers. What did you do to create these numbers? The causes of the numbers should influence what you do about them.



Reagan in her floatie to keep from licking her hot spot.

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35 Responses to The Funny Thing About Numbers

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with numbers. I’m also opposite you, in that regard. I’ve sold very few paperbacks. The vast majority of my sales have been e-books. Then again, I haven’t done any in-person marketing. None. So when I look at the numbers and think I shouldn’t bother with the physical copy, this is a good thing to remind myself of.

    • It’s a good initial conclusion until you think about the marketing you’ve done. I remember learning in business school, the numbers don’t lie, but people do. You can spin a story around the numbers to make them seem to reflect a conclusion that might not actually be true. 🙂

  2. After years of working with numbers…I avoid them now. 🙂 Oh my, Emerson is just way too adorable, Kourtney! That face!

  3. I only can hope that in all of your Mathematical equations that the numbers keep on rising .. Happy Book sales on all fonts ( Fronts ) lol 🙂

  4. PS… forgot to say Kourtney So loved cuddly Emerson 🙂

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    That’s one of the things I miss out on by not having self-published: controlling my book’s price. Luckily, my current publisher is wonderfully open to price changing, and we’re hoping we can score a BookBub promotion. We did an ENT one a while ago with decent results. People like to pay 99 cents. That’s nice when authors have a promotion, trickier when our prices go back up.

    • It’s funny because it was the one thing I didn’t really play with. I had talked to a few people and they all suggested waiting until I had the next book out. But then I thought what’s the downside in trying the 99 cent thing. It gave me a little spike in sales but nothing lasting. So after 3 years of having the book on the market, I figured it was about time to try a limited freebie thing. Bookbub–that’s a mega win if you can get one! I’m lucky because my book is in Kindle Unlimited so even though people might not want to pay full price they have the option of free if they subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. I get paid a per page read royalty in that situation. It’s less than a copy purchased royalty but it’s still readers and sales. 🙂

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        To take part in that means you only sell on Amazon though, right? Of course, that’s really where most sales are anyway.

        • It’s a 90 day commitment to only sell the ebook on Kindle. It’s not just self pubbed books I see in the program though. Books published by Amazon and some small presses do it too. I think it’s good to release a book on all platforms if possible, but my sales across the other ebook platforms never came close to my sales on Kindle. I’m seeing daily royalties with the Kindle Unlimited. It’s pretty cool. And I’m reaching new readers 🙂

  6. Yes, a good reminder there. It’s important to remember that with any stats isn’t it – where did the figures come from? What might have generated the seemingly interesting discrepancies? I’m always suspicious of headline stats with survey results, like “80% of people agreed that….” – were these people a completely random sample? How was the question phrased? etc. It’s so easy to get swayed and make decisions based on figures seen at face value rather than what’s behind them.

    • And the easy surface conclusions are the ones that stick in your head. At least for me, I was like well here’s proof I sell better in person than online. It was an easy conclusion to make. A harder conclusion was hmm guess I’m not selling well online and I need to rethink my online strategy. I took a couple statistics classes in college. Polls can be rigged to get the results you want–pick the right sample, phrase things the right way and you can get people to agree with you and now you’ve got stats to prove your point. 🙂 We all want to prove ourselves right, so there’s an inherent bias we have to struggle with when approaching numbers.

  7. Aquileana says:

    `Numbers don’t lie, but the conclusions we draw from them can be faulty´….
    So true… I guess we are not determined by numbers… Our behaviours might be random most times, regardless of habits and such stuff.
    And yet … there is usually at least a mostly logical connection between action and reaction, or cause and effect so to speak… So, we watch and learn as we as we walk by the path….
    Thanks for sharing this post about your books and their sales..
    Sending love and best wishes, dear Kourt. Very good luck to you. Aquileana ⭐

    • Thanks. I think we want to make sense of our world and draw conclusions from facts but sometimes we weave the wrong narrative. I think what appears random in behavior is actually a complex set of factors driving our reactions. There’s past experience, including personal land mines that others may not be aware of, and there is our perception which makes us interpret the same set of words as a compliment or a dig. Thanks for reading!


  8. Ally Bean says:

    I like this post. Very wise. I’ve come to be suspicious of numbers. Too often they’re used to manipulate behavior instead of providing facts. Learned that the hard way. I always look at the context now. Always. The decide.

  9. I hope your numbers keep growing Kourtney – gorgeous photos!

  10. carlamcgill says:

    Emerson (is he named after the 19th C writer?) is so adorable. Love that photo!

  11. Seyi sandra says:

    Very informative post, glad I found your blog!

  12. Mayumi-H says:

    Your point about numbers and results is a good one to keep in mind, Kourtney. We’re told to pay attention to numbers, but not necessarily how to interpret what those numbers mean…and how to change them. Glad to hear you’re seeing success with Kindle Unlimited! It’s well deserved!

    • Exactly. Sometimes we have a hypothesis that we think the numbers prove to be true and it’s really hard to see how they could actually prove it wrong. Aw thank you. It’s nice to see daily sales continually happening. Kindle Unlimited has been awesome for that. 🙂

  13. Pete Denton says:

    Good point about the events you’re attending and boosting your paperback sales. As others have said, stats are often a dangerous tool to us in anything, but at least you’re thinking about the numbers and why they are saying what they are saying.

    Sounds like a focus on the Amazon had a positive result. Hope the trend continues.

    Emerson looks great. Makes me miss having a cat around the house. Not enough to go and get another one, but close!

    • The funny thing is I’ve taken several statistics classes at the undergrad and grad level. But when they are your stats it’s easy to go with your original hypothesis and just accept it as fact rather than question your strategic choices and how they influenced the outcome.

      Amazon has definitely spurred sales with Kindle Unlimited. Me too!

      Aw thanks. He’s a doll. I can barely remember life before him. 🙂

  14. This is the part of authorship that intimidates me. But your experience and advice is helpful and breaks down the process. Thank you!

  15. RMW says:

    On behalf of all Kindle readers I say thank you. I had to give up buying hardcopy books as I have too many. From my perspective I think Kindle readers are a huge market. Sometimes I wince when the paperback prices are cheaper than the Kindle editions but I know the publishers… and the writers… have to make their profit and I enjoy the convenience. Best wishes!

    • You’re welcome. 🙂 Hardcovers and paperbacks do take up a lot of space. I love my Kindle. But I too cringe when a paperback is cheaper than a Kindle. It just seems wrong. Cost wise, it’s way more expensive to create a physical copy than an electronic one. I am all for supporting authors, but personally, I rarely buy a Kindle book that’s more than $6. I will ask my library to get the book and then read and write a review instead. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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