Authors: Are You Clockwatchers?


A clockwatcher is someone who frequently looks at the time. An employee might do this on the job, constantly checking to see if it’s time for break, lunch, or punching out. Someone who wears a watch can fall into the habit of glancing at it.

An author may be a watcher of a different sort.

If you’re an author, you may be a:

  • royalty clockwatcher. Do you check your royalty report several times per day? (Hey, you might have sold a book in the last minute. You never know. Better go check, just in case.)
  • sales rank or review clockwatcher. Do you check your book’s detail page at Amazon a few times per day to monitor the sales rank and see if there are any new reviews or comments?
  • media clockwatcher. Do you check your views, followers, reblogs, and comments throughout the day at a website, blog, or social media? (Of course! What else would we do?)
  • writing clockwatcher. Do you check your word count every few minutes as you type? Whether your goal is 5,000 words or 100,000 words, you like to see where you are.
  • reading clockwatcher. Do you check your page count, chapter count, or percentage of ebook read frequently as you read? (Doesn’t that distract you from the story? Or is it a sign that the story didn’t engage your attention enough?)
  • community clockwatcher. Do you closely monitor posts and comments at any community discussion forums?

Checking royalty reports can be tedious. If you publish with CreateSpace, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and so on, you have several different reports to check.

Even checking the KDP royalty report is interesting. There is a separate report for each country. By the time you finish checking every report, you might as well start over because you might have sold something since you started. 🙂

The best way to check on sales rank and customer reviews at Amazon is through your Author Page via AuthorCentral. There is a little delay in reporting reviews to AuthorCentral, but it’s worth the wait. If you have multiple books, all of the reviews are collected together on a single page and you can monitor the sales ranks for all of the books together. You’ll also find author rank and Bookscan data for print sales.

Note that searching for your own book on Amazon (rather than getting there from AuthorCentral or a bookmark) may not be a good thing to do every day. If you use keywords to search for your book and don’t buy the book, this could send a message to Amazon’s algorithm that your book isn’t relevant to that search. Amazon’s algorithm changes periodically, so even if that’s not the case now, someday it may be.

It seems like it would make sense for the algorithm to order search results based on what’s most likely to be purchased, then what’s most likely to be clicked, then what’s most likely not even to be clicked. But the algorithm doesn’t always do what authors or customer expect. Also note that Amazon may display search results differently for you than for other customers, as different customers have different interests (so if you search for your book by keywords and it seems to move up in the search on your screen and shows up on your homepage next time, this may be different for other customers – certainly, there homepages will have vastly different recommendations than yours).

Frequently clockwatching probably isn’t a healthy activity for authors. Go write instead, for your book, blog, or whatever. Go do some marketing. Get out of the house and exercise. Interact with your target audience. These things would be much better use of your time.

Look, even if a sale of your book did just report five minutes ago, it will still be on your report tomorrow. Why do you need to check it now? (You do, don’t you?)

The more frequently you check your reports, the more likely you will be disappointed. The longer you wait to check your reports, the more likely you are to notice several sales at the same sitting. And if there are no sales, you’re only disappointed once, not the twenty times you might have checked the report in the same period.

Monitoring reviews closely is a bad idea, too. Take time between looking for possible reviews. When you do see a review, wait a few days and digest it. Try not to comment on the review, blog about the review, or mention the review. It looks more professional, for one. It lets you calm down and avoid reacting emotionally, for another. Reacting emotionally, in public, can lead to disastrous results. A few days after first seeing the review, reread it calmly, looking to see if any criticism may help you as a write or your book, and discard the rest. Remember, the review is for other shoppers, not for the author. Even though you’re personally attached to your book, try not to take the reviews personally. This means good reviews or bad ones.

A single review may not significantly impact your sales, and sometimes it has the opposite effect compared to what you expect. You have to wait a few weeks to really gauge the effect. Just be patient. (Easy to say, easy to hear, hard to do.)

Blogging and social media are more likely to supply you with some positive data. At least, you’re more likely to have a few views than you are to have a few sales or a few reviews. But the mind begins to compare. If you’re used to getting 30 views per day, and suddenly you get 10 views, it might seem like a bit of a downer. (So what do we do? Add five new posts!)

Like any other bad habit, such as nail-biting, even if you know that clockwatching is bad for you, you might still do it. 🙂 At least, it’s probably better than many other bad habits.

Everything you check – from royalties to website views – will have ups and downs. Don’t let your emotions ride this roller coaster.

Remember, happiness comes from within.

If your happiness is dependent upon a royalty report or any other data, that information is controlling your emotions and will often prevent you from being happy.

I stopped wearing a watch several years go. But I don’t know if I can stop carrying a cell phone. 🙂

By the way, Clockwatchers is the title of a movie released in 1997. These department store employees were frequently watching the clock.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

15 comments on “Authors: Are You Clockwatchers?

  1. I did this for about the first two months my books were published. I realised how much time I was wasting checking numbers/sales and eventually gave up on it. I am still time obsessed though. I tend to set expectations of myself to complete goals by a certain time and suffer grave disappointment if I don’t reach them. Good question!

    No swearing.

  2. You have a really great point about searching for books on Amazon — it sounds like it’s better to take a Zen approach.

    I’m definitely guilty of watching my word count, especially during NaNoWriMo (e.g., “I’ve only written 200 words in the last hour???”). 🙂

    • Sometimes, when things are going slow, the problem is too few words per hour. Other times, we’re writing plenty of words, but that delete button cuts into our word count. At least that’s the case with me. 🙂

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  4. I wasn’t expecting all of the different types of clock watchers when I clicked on this post. I was pleasantly surprised! Great definitions. Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

  5. Pingback: You Might Be a Stat Junkie If… | chrismcmullen

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