One thing about being published, whether you’re with a traditional publisher or an indie author, is that it seems to become all about the numbers. If you’re with a traditional press, it’s about your print runs and sell-through rates. It’s also (for the lucky few) about your placement on bestseller lists.
For good or ill, authors are obsessed with numbers. (Kind of ironic for people who’d rather work with words than do math — in general, anyway.) Authors are keenly aware of the number of reviews their books have on Amazon, the number of hits on their blogs, the number friends on Facebook, to name a few things. It seems our lives have become ruled by numbers.
And, of course, among the numbers we follow closely are Amazon rankings. I just checked mine at 3:30 p.m. EDT. At that time, the ebook version of IDENTITY CRISIS had reached #535 in the Paid Kindle Store.
Along with that, I made the (ever so heart stopping) discovery that my book had reached #4 for the hardboiled mystery category in the Kindle Store and on Amazon.
Allow me to demonstrate:
Okay, like wow! I can’t believe I’m right behind Harlan Coben. (And even beat out Sherlock Holmes!)
So this is good, right? But it’s important to remember these are just numbers. These numbers can change at any time. They can go up and down and I have no control over it.
These numbers also don’t define who I am. In a sense, they tell you very little. Do they tell you how well the book is selling? Well, sure. But what does that really mean?
Behind the numbers (behind the very blog you’re reading), there is a person. I’m a real flesh-and-blood human being. I’m complicated. And, believe it or not, there’s much more to me than you see on this blog (or any of the other blogs I write).
At the heart of all this is my writing. I take it seriously, and yes, I want to succeed. Numbers (for good or ill) are indications of success. Okay, that’s fine. I can deal with it.
However, there’s something even more important than numbers here. Maybe it’s basic humanity, maybe it’s the feeling of achieving something. Maybe it’s all these things and more.
Here’s the thing — whether my book is #535 or #1 or #10,000, the question is, what does it ultimately matter?
I’d be lying if I said these numbers didn’t make me happy. But I’m not going to rely on them for my happiness. Fortune can change (as I know from sad direct experience) and things can go south.
I guess what I’m really saying is that there’s more to happiness than being a bestselling author. And, while I’m quite happy right now with my numbers, I won’t be crushed if they go down. (Believe me, I’ve suffered worse.)
What’s important is that I do the best job I can as both a writer and a person. And that’s something that can’t be quantified.