My next novel, Proximity, has a high school football coach as its hero. As such, I find myself thinking lately about sports metaphors.

Thus I have this to share from great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”

In the publication of Primacy, naturally, I’ve done some things right and also made some mistakes. It’s too early to tell definitively what the final outcome will be, but this is my last column on the subject. Thus, here is my moment for self-reflection.

In her introduction to Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints, Joan Acocella writes of the collection of her New Yorker pieces, published in the magazine over fifteen years: “As I was deciding what to include, I thought I was simply choosing the pieces that I liked best, and wanted to send out into the world again. But as I read through them, a single theme kept coming up: difficulty, hardship…”

Here’s my third and final check-in on the numbers behind the Primacy publishing project. They won’t be final, even on the hardcover, and they mercifully avoid returns season after the holidays (at which point this column will have ceased), which, believe me, won’t make things look any better.

When it was published in 1948, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain became an immediate bestseller, despite the fact that the New York Times refused it a place on the bestseller list due to its religious subject matter. In my edition of the book, editor Robert Giroux wrote in the introduction:

Why did the success of the Mountain go so far beyond my expectations as an editor and a publisher? Why, despite being banned from the bestseller lists, did it sell so spectacularly? Publishers cannot create bestsellers, though few readers (and fewer authors) believe it. There is always an element of mystery when it happens why this book at this moment? I believe the most essential element is right timing, which usually cannot be foreseen. The Mountain appeared at a time of great disillusion: we had won World War II, but the Cold War had started and the public was depressed and disillusioned, looking for reassurance. Second, Merton’s story was unusual — a well-educated and articulate young man withdraws — why? — into a monastery. The tale was well told, with liveliness and eloquence. There were other reasons, no doubt, but for me this combination of the right subject at the right time presented in the right way accounts for the book’s initial success.

For most of the Nineties and Oughts I regularly visited a barber in the New York area, an old-timey guy who wore an unfussy comb-over and a zippered blue smock. Let’s call him Mario.

Mario, a man in his late fifties and early sixties when I knew him, kept a small shop with a striped barber’s pole attached to the facade and two cutting chairs inside that rested on warn-out linoleum tiles. By the entrance stood a three-foot tall glass-front cabinet, the top buried in papers and the inside cluttered with items that had witnessed men and boys climbing in and out of the nearest chair a thousand times while the decades cascaded by.

Late last month, in keeping with its pattern of showering attention on successful authors while ignoring those who could use a leg up, the New York Times published a Q&A with Paul Coelho, author of — well, you know. In case you hadn’t noticed, unsaid novel was a Times bestseller for four years and has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide.

Here’s a second check-in on the numbers behind the Primacy publishing project. You might look at it as a result of the sum of my efforts or as a meaningless pattern in the randomness. Most likely it’s some of both, if that’s possible.

One day last month I checked in with BookScan via my Author Central account on Amazon and discovered that a copy of Primacy had been sold in Colorado Springs.

When I was a literary agent I once chased an author in Colorado Springs, a fine writer who worked at the university there but never produced enough words to fill a whole book for me. Nice guy, too, but I doubt he was the buyer.

Here comes a confession: I have never had a sustained relationship with a bookstore.

Oh, I’ve had quite a few casual on-and-off bookstore relationships, places I’ve visited more than once over many years. Likewise I’ve had my one-night stands, hitting a store hot and heavy, walking out with armfuls of books but never going back. I’ve bought books from guys on the street and from national chains and from mass merchants and from newsstands. Of course, I’ve also bought books from Amazon.

The other day I had a phone conversation with the head of sales for my distributor. As readers of this column know, we had a good lay-down (i.e. sales to wholesalers and retailers), with about half the books going to airport stores. Information on retail sales (sell-through) has just begun to trickle in, and that information is incomplete: BookScan only tracks 70% of bookstore sales, and sell-through data at the airport stores won’t be available to us for several weeks. From what we know at the moment, hardcover sales look modest, but not discouraging, since first-time fiction nearly always requires building from the ground up.

The beauty and shame of blogging, we all know, is that you can post whatever you want whenever you want. But guest blogging is a little different, since it requires the cooperation of a host site.

I’ve been asked to do a few guest blogs in support of Primacy, and I’ve obliged.

I’m a word guy and I hope that’s obvious. But numbers are important, too. Here are some numbers to date with regard to the Verbitrage effort of publishing Primacy.

On some basic level, the type of independent publishing that I’ve undertaken with Verbitrage is an expression of self-reliance. Nine months ago I turned my back on big-house rejections and small-house opportunities and seized the best tools I could find to foist my novel onto the world.

Here’s a shocking statistic courtesy of Fast Company magazine: four hundred independent bookstores have opened in the past six years. Don’t these people know their industry is supposed to be on life support?

But the article went on to say that some bookstores are changing their business models and thriving. Brookline Booksmith in Massachusetts, for example, has increased store traffic seven percent by cross-merchandising books with non-book products. In St. Louis, four bookstores banded together in an alliance that saved one business while increasing sales at the other three.

The website GalleyCat has been running a series, based upon numbers crunched by an outfit called Glassdoor, about the average salaries of publishing professionals. The numbers aren’t pretty. The average salary for a book publicist in the New York area, for example, appears to be $37,093 per year. (I say, “appears to be” because in the surveys that generate this data the sampling is very small.) The figure is higher for those working at the biggest houses, but only by about ten percent.