Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Keeping Track

So Much Stuff To Keep Track Of…

I have been talking this last  half year with the challenge about how not being able to keep track of a lot of stories has flat stopped me a number of times. And two days ago I was looking for a Poker Boy story I remember writing, but it was not in my Smith’s Monthly spread sheet and I ended up finding two other Poker Boy stories that I had written and lost in files that had never seen the light of day, but still did not find the story I have a memory of writing. Sigh…

And then there is keeping track of business stuff. I am stunningly good at money and cash flow. But when it comes to numbers of book sales and that sort of thing, I suck beyond caring. But most writers need to keep track of that number, at least once a year.

And back when I was sending out stories to magazines and had seventy-plus different stories in the mail at one time, I was amazingly good with my system then. Not now.  Now I don’t even have a system.

So this last week, Allyson at WMG needed to get information to another company about our book sales, not money, but numbers of sales over a year. To me, having to do that, would have killed me. But after a decade now, she and Gwyneth have ways of pulling such information together and making it accurate.

I did not know until she sent me the information that we now have 1,010 books in our inventory published in electronic format.  Holy shit that’s a lot of cash streams. And a lot of books to keep track of. I thought we were getting close to a thousand, but I did not know we had gone past.

I am not going to mention how many of all the different forms we sold over the last year, but put it this way, the number was so large, it shocked me, and I see the money each month.

So keeping track of all that is a massive task, and the more you write, the more difficult the task becomes. But it is a problem we indie writers take on. (Traditional writers have to trust faked royalty statements when their agent decides to pass it through, so indie writers might have to work harder, but we got it a ton better.)

So again, as I approach July 1st and a reset on my challenge of the year (I will talk about it later), I am once again working on how to keep track of all the stories. I have four to write just in the next few days that are under deadline to markets. Got to somehow keep track of where they vanished to, so a year from now I don’t go looking for a story I remember and not be able to find it.

Hmmm, maybe to one of these markets was where that story went. Hmmmm…




  • Matthew Davies

    If the number is indeed so large that it shocked you, care to explain why the number is so small on Publisher Rocket that it shocks anyone that investigates your baseless claims?

    • dwsmith

      Because Publisher Rocket has no way to track even a tiny part of our sales. A nice place for beginning writers to go, though. Mostly a scam. Look up Stephen King just for a laugh.

    • Philip

      I looked up my own books on Publisher Rocket and the numbers weren’t even close to accurate, which is why I requested a refund for the program.

    • dwsmith

      Matthew, one more thing. I have said over and over in a lot of places and times that if we had to depend on the money coming from just Amazon (which is what Publisher Rocket measures), we would not have employees (we have three full time and a number of people who work contract for us) and Kris and I would not live in this condo. Yet beginning writers often think Amazon is the only way to license IP. Honestly, I think the Amazon money each year gets into our top ten sources of income, but just barely.

      But, of course, that takes an understanding of IP and the fact that we have 1,010 of the IP published as of last week. Not counting all the other IP we own and that earns us money.

    • James

      Respectfully, Dean, I agree with Matthew. I think you make money from selling advice to aspriing writers not from selling books. If you were making big money from selling books, you wouldn’t need to be selling and promoting courses which is what you mostly do on this website, I believe.

      There are many hopefuls out there willing to pay others for such advice, but few have the talent to make it –that’s the nature of sports and arts and always will be.

      Just my humble opinion, no offense intended. You and Kris have shared many interesting, provocative ideas on your websites which is why I continue to check in and read.

      • dwsmith

        James, if we did that, I would have stopped long ago. I do this and help Writers of the Future as the new editor and other places because Algis Budrys, Harlan Ellison, Jack Williamson, Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, and Fred Pohl helped me a lot and I can’t pay them back because, sadly, they are all gone. So Kris and I pay forward.

        For some reason, beginning writers believe that all the money a writer makes comes from selling books, and mostly through Amazon. As I have said many times, if that was all the money we made from our writing, I would go back to playing poker and we would not have any staff at WMG at all. Granted, the money from say Amazon alone for our 1,000-plus titles would be enough for Kris and I to live wonderfully. But that would be it. We make our money from licensing.

        Do Kris and I make money from all these courses? Nope. WMG gets all the workshop money and Kris and I are not employees of WMG Publishing, nor do we take any kind of salary. We haven’t even taken any money from WMG for our books and stories. We license WMG the work, but in the end, WMG just owes us a note every year. If we took money for that, it would be taxable. And will be if we ever demanded that WMG pays us. (If that makes no sense to you, then you don’t understand how full corporations work.)

        We put a reasonable price on the workshops because otherwise they would not have value to anyone. Getting something free is always what it is worth, in most cases.

        Also, do the math. Say on average we only sold one copy of every title we have up every month. ONE COPY. Making $3.50 per sale, that is 3.50 x 12 x 1000 = $42,000. Let me say this… we sell, on average, a bunch more than one copy per month per title. And that is only on Amazon. And that includes nothing from being wide or any of our other many sources of book sales. And that is not including any kind of licensing that we make more on.

        So yes, James, WMG Publishing gets the money from the workshops. And Kris and I own WMG Publishing. But thanks to the tax laws, we take none of that money from WMG outside of what we legally can as board of directors expenses. We take no salary. And I do the workshops to help writers move forward and at least know there is a forward.

        So your comments, James are just funny. And kind of sad that you only think a writer’s money comes from what can be seen by some app somewhere. You also realize that Kris and I have five major names we write under as well. So your humble opinion, as you put it, James, is funny. Why not try to go figure out what Stephen King actually makes from his Amazon sales. (You do know Amazon does not disclose sales, by the way.)

  • Philip

    Here’s a little math for readers of this blog who are still stuck in The Myths.

    Let’s say a writer had an inventory of 1,010 ebooks on sale wide all over the world. Let’s also say he priced each one at $4.99. Approximate royalty per sale would be $3.50. Let’s say he ONLY sells and AVERAGE of 1 copy of every ebook every other day (only 15 sales per month). What kind of gross income would that be?

    $636,000 per year. $53,025 per month. AVERAGE.

    That’s not even print, audio, a “hit” here and there. Other IP and licensing.

    Sound good, kids? Okay, then here’s what you do…

    Heinlein’s Rules. Go wide. Price like you respect the work you produced. Don’t quit. Have fun.

    • dwsmith

      Spot on the money, but remember the sales average. We have a bunch of those books that don’t sell a single copy in a year (not sure how many, haven’t checked), but then I just sold thousands of one or two books each just last month. All averages out.

      And as I have said, we make more money on different licenses than just regular book sales.

  • Philip

    More Math…

    But wait, Phil, how the hell can I write 1,010 books!? That’s impossible.

    Well, Dean is 70. I’m 43. Assuming I have 0 books (I have more), I’d have to publish 37 books a year for the next 27 years. Even if I could only muster 6 novels per year (one every 2 months), I could easy achieve 31 short stories in a year. Some shorts I write in an hour.

    Get the myths out of your mind. They’re useless!

    I’d like to add, Dean has done all this while breaking almost every Indie Guru’s “rules.”

    BS Rules:

    Be exclusive to Amazon
    Write to market
    Spend tens of thousands to advertise
    Let amateurs be “beta readers” and get inside your WIP.
    Hire so-called editors
    Hire “sensitivity readers” LOL
    Don’t bother with print–print is dead
    on and on and on.

    • dwsmith

      All good, Phil, but I’ll make it even easier. Half of those are Kris’s books. (grin)

      And also remember, I proved it was possible to publish 70 major books in one year last year. Plus 55 stand-alone short stories, so 125 of those books were just from one year. And just mine. Kris had a good year as well.

      Also keep in mind that in 13-15 years of my career, I wrote no book that I can now reprint. All were traditional, work-for-hire, or ghosts. So almost all of my half of that 1010 came from the last 10 years.

      Now the question is, how many years will it take to get to 2,000 titles? I’m guessing seven.

      • Philip

        Excellent point about pushing yourself to write even more. Now all I need to do is marry a fellow pulp speed author–only problem is it’s hard to meet women when you’re always alone in your apartment writing! 🙂

  • Sean Monaghan

    This is where I found the Pulp Speed workshop so useful, because you covered getting up to speed, but also how to manage all that product (and even how those two things are intertwined). I’ve been able to put in place a bunch of different mechanisms to work on getting completed stories to market – I’m good on Heinlein’s Rules 1-3, and now getting better at 4 and 5.

  • Connor Whiteley

    Reading that PublisherRocket comment was funny. I think Zon only makes up about 26% of my income.

    And thanks for sharing the number of books you have in inventory. I’m fully intending to break your record of 70 major titles published in a year (I’m at 38 this year already) and my absolute dream goal would be to published 101 major titles (10% of WMG’s inventory)

    And thanks for talking about your systems too. I need to do a short story spreadsheet for Whiteley Worlds too.

  • Suzanne LaGrande

    Hi Dean,

    I am wondering if you have discovered a good method for cataloguing your work that helps you stay current and able to find things. I am finidng it overwhelming, nevermind publishing 1,000 books. Right now I am using a spread sheet which is simple but requires I keep up with it regularly, and it’s still hard to remember where everything is.


    • dwsmith

      WMG Publishing has all the major books and collections and such on their web site at

      Allyson and Gwyneth maintain a massive spread sheet where everything can be sorted.

      We finally have a spread sheet (not part of the thousand plus titles) of individual stories we have bought from others in Fiction River, Pulphouse, Cat Anthologies and so on. That is huge as well.

      I personally maintain a spread sheet (fairly simple) of stories I have bought for Pulphouse and a larger one of stories of my own that I have put in Smith’s Monthly. And where they have been reprinted and such as that.

      The 70 plus stories I have written that are not in anything, I just have them in files with art, and also paper copies in drawers. Can’t find shit in those, to be honest.