Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

The numbers racket: What The Hell going weekly


What’s it all about, Arfy?

I’m the anal-obsessive type. When I wear a watch, I’m constantly checking the time. When I got a car that tells me the outside air temperature, I became obsessed with checking the outside air temperature. (“Hey honey. It’s ninety-one. Ninety-two. Now it’s ninety. Eighty-nine. Whoa, as soon as we went over that ridge it shot up to ninety-five!”) Tiresome, for the wife — and for me, I must confess.

The anal-obsessive is never at peace, you see. He’s always checking the data. Always wondering what the current conditions are, quantitatively, rather than simply enjoying them. Maybe you can see where I’m going with this.

Since I started blogging a couple of years ago, I’ve been monitoring the numbers with the equivalent of an electron microscope. Same with my book sales over at Amazon. It can’t be helped. As an anal-obsessive, I have the misguided belief that if I witness the beginning of a trend, I might be able to extend it, build it, ride it like a twenty-foot wave at Mavericks. Where the blog is concerned, I feel like a lot of views might translate to some book sales, so I need to be on top of developments to be able to grease the skids. But guess what? As far as I can tell, nothing has any relation to anything else in all of this. Checking the numbers at the blog and on Amazon is just as pointless as checking the outside air temperature when I’m tootling down Highway 49.

The blog is particularly ambiguous, numbers-wise. It crested long ago at a daily level that offers no real marketing power, and the occasional spike has little or nothing to do with content. It’s all completely random, never translating to any change in book sales. In other words, blogging has to become something I want to do rather than something I need to do for the sake of my books.

Aside from book marketing, I’ve observed that when I put a little more time and effort into a particular blog post, it rarely draws more visits and views. In fact, much of the time the attention is less than when I phone something in, like this. Maybe that’s because potential readers see a word count of 985 and think, “I don’t have time now — maybe later.” But a word count of 241 invites them in for a quick look. And, ironically, my shortest posts, Haiku For The Hell Of It, usually don’t get many hits because folks can read them in the WordPress reader without going all the way to the post.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not bemoaning that not enough people read this blog. The only reason I’d crave more is to get them to pay a few bucks for Occasional Soulmates or Yesterday Road. The blog is not the be all and end all; it’s a vehicle.

What I AM bemoaning is that the effort I put into blogging doesn’t seem to be paying off on the cost/benefit side of things. It’s often fun. It’s occasionally rewarding in unexpected ways. It’s an outlet for expression now and then, of the sort that doesn’t fit into a novel, and it’s also a connection to fellow travelers out there who are going through the same things and wondering what it’s all about.

The upshot is, I think I’m going to tear a page from my friend Philip McCollum’s book and try a weekly catch-all post. It’ll be a way to stay connected and to broadcast news about upcoming projects like Town Father, but it’ll also allow me to step back from the anal-obsessive number checking and the constant hoping that what I do here will have beneficial results in the world of peddling funny little literary novels. It’ll also give me more time to actually write them.

I see it’s 53.6 degrees outside now. Almost warm enough to do a little yard work. Oh, it’s 53.9 now — 54.

See you next week…


18 comments on “The numbers racket: What The Hell going weekly

  1. francisguenette
    May 17, 2015

    I hopped over to the WordPress reader to ensure my Sunday morning post was up there and lo and behold, I saw yours. It’s ironic because my post is all about building connections and establishing relationships with readers as the only way to sell books. Part of me feels that checking out any of the stats is useless. Nothing in social media seems to have any direct connection to anything else. Nothing is quantifiable – it’s all just a huge shell game. When it comes to blogging or facebook or twitter – I only take seriously (in terms of gauging connection) comments that appear to equal real engagement and even then, I know I may be deceived. At the same time, I never would have discovered your books without this blog and I doubt you would have come across mine. And another irony that strikes me – in this day of easy access where, for a few dollars the reader can download one of the millions of books out there with the click of a button, we self-published authors are selling in a world similar to that of monks labouring to hand produce one copy of a book at a time. What to do? If you write it, they will come. I hope so.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      You make excellent points in your post, Fran, and here. I think you’re absolutely right about the monk analogy too, and it may well be that that’s a perfectly reasonable way to market indie work. Much more personal and intimate than the corporate publishing model. I’ve interacted with many more readers of my self-published books than with readers of Parts Unknown.

      It’s important to realize, for someone like me, that the blog is only part of an overall approach to attracting readers. And most important of all is patience.

  2. John W. Howell
    May 17, 2015

    Well, Kevin my friend I think if once a week works for you then go for it. I blog because I enjoy it. There has never been a reason for me to believe the book and blog are connected. I need to write daily and when I need a break from the current WIP I use the blog to rest. See you next week.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      Well, I’ve been a bad boy on the fiction-writing front, so I hope that I can redirect myself with this approach. And I enjoy blogging as well, but I also enjoy making music. I guess it’s a matter of re-juggling priorities.

  3. 1WriteWay
    May 17, 2015

    Damn stats. They definitely have little to no meaning in this blogging world, it seems. I dropped down to posting once a week (original posts, that is, not the reblogs I sometimes do) mainly because I just can’t handle more than that, with the job and other obligations/expectations. The upside is I rarely look at my stats now, and thus I feel less anxious about whether my blog is “successful.” I haven’t yet experienced a downside to cutting back.

    I do think you’re right that most readers/viewers balk at reading anything over 500 words. Some people have flat out said that they won’t read anything longer than that, and to them I ask: Have you heard of Twitter? How about Tumblr? Google+?? Why blog if you’re not going to write something of substance.

    Francis has a good point, though. If it weren’t for your blog, we might never have met, and I might never had had the pleasure of reading your books. So keep the blog, but give posting once a week a try. Some bloggers I follow swear that posting once a week will gain you, on average, the same number of views as posting daily.

    By the way, I tend to see spikes in my stats when I include gratuitous cat photos in my posts. Can you imagine, viewers clicking through just to see a picture of a cat? Although I’ve never bested the views I got with the post about the giant penis.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      Thanks for the support, Marie! I’m just at the old “why am I spinning my wheels?” point, where you do a reality check and realize that current habits aren’t cutting it. I do love the community that I’ve discovered through blogging, and I’m so glad to have met a few very special individuals like you. I don’t want to lose sight of the fact, though, that I did this mainly as a large part of my so-called platform building. So far, my platform is pretty short.

      Now. Remind me of that giant penis post! I must have missed that one!! 🍆

  4. sknicholls
    May 17, 2015

    I have found that roaming around and commenting on other’s posts brings interested and interesting people to my blog who often buy my book. I don’t really push sales there, just get to know people and engage with them to get to know me. After hanging around and talking about our shared interests, they are frequently intrigued enough to check out the book and write my best reviews, because most of them are readers, writers, and deep thinkers. The kind criticisms are even nice. They help me focus on areas that need improve and I enjoy hearing from them, and help me learn about different people’s varied perspectives.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      I used to do that a lot more than I do now, and I tapered it off because it wasn’t really resulting in strong connections. That said, I have met lots of interesting folks (such as yourself!) this way. That’s the rewarding part.

  5. pinklightsabre
    May 17, 2015

    Good for you Kevin. It does have a bedeviling randomness to it, eerily like life itself. If it starts feeling like work (which it sounds like, for you), give it a rest. PEGGGGG it will come back to you.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      Yes. Suddenly I see it all in 3D. 😉

      • pinklightsabre
        May 18, 2015

        I like that. Happy writing Kevin, and music making.

  6. Phillip McCollum
    May 17, 2015

    Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong folks, but it’s not often I’m used as a good example. So thanks for the vote of confidence. 😉

    Really though, I find the weekly recap a way to keep myself posting without the pressure. Hope it works for you as well!

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      Thanks, Phillip! I might have to steal some pics of Angus to keep people interested, though. OK with you? 😉

  7. Phillip McCollum
    May 17, 2015

    Fine by me, but he has strict royalty rates. I can’t even take him to the grocery store without signing a pile of construction-paper contracts with crayon.

  8. kingmidget
    May 17, 2015

    Right there with you … while I have a few core readers of my blog who will buy what I publish, for the most part my blog hasn’t really done much for my publishing efforts. Of course, it might help if I tried publishing something again. Good luck with your change in focus.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 17, 2015

      Thanks, my man. It’s definitely an uphill battle, but there are plenty of satisfactions as we climb, eh?

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This entry was posted on May 17, 2015 by in Social media and tagged , .
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