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…