So perhaps it's this feeling of control which makes me such a cat on the proverbial heated metal roof, when it comes to sales figures. Amazon makes it very easy for us to check how a title is selling. Or not selling. A couple of clicks into your account, and there it is: a table setting out every sale this month, so far.
They make it too easy. Too tempting. There I am, sitting at the keyboard, getting on with something else, when suddenly the craving strikes. I wonder how Such-And-Such is doing this week? No harm in taking a quick peek. Let's see now... total sales aaaaare.... two. Oh. Well, early days, still only 23rd of the month, plenty of time for things to pick up. Argghhh! Who am I fooling? It's all a disaster! Penury laughs in my face again! Curse you, Amazon, for your hourly updates and your accurate sales data!
No, no, I'm not being fair. It's not their fault. It's mine. I have to admit it. I have to stand up, chair scraping the lino of the meeting room, and say it, loud and clear, to my Kindle peers and colleagues. "Hi. My name is Simon. And I'm a sales figures junkie."
It's the one part of the whole equation writers can never, ever influence. Or at least, influence ENOUGH. We can tweet, email, blog(!), shout up and down the street until we're blue in the facebook, but our fate - our income, our self-respect! - lies in the hands of the public, and they always make up their own minds, thank you very much. Which is, of course, exactly as it should be. Nobody ever said being a writer was easy.
Is this how mainstream publishers have always felt? Did the sales staff tremble with nervous anxiety when my first book came out fifteen years ago? Hmmm... Better check those figures again.... still two. Damn. OK, I'll look again in an hour. Bound to be 50-odd by then. Bound to be.
One last thought. I read George Gissing's Victorian novel "New Grub Street" again the other week, for the first time in many years. It shocked me. Nothing has really changed in the world of books, except technology. The only thing that would have improved the lot of those poor characters was access to the Kindle, and its self-publishing paradigm. But, then again, I reckon they'd all have turned into sales figure junkies too.