Friday, December 14, 2012
The Numbers Game
My friend Amy has often talked about numbers. See, she's an endurance athlete. And they kinda pay attention to things like pace, laps, intervals - all stuff that revolves around numbers. As in "how fast" and "how many."
But Amy has often written about the dangers of paying too much attention to those numbers. How you can really give the gremlins in your head - the ones who say, "see, you suck, why are you even trying?" - free rein. And all that does is stifle your growth, because you can only hear "you suck" so many times before you starting thinking, "hey, maybe I do suck." Indeed, some of her best workouts are the ones where she's left her watch and Garmin behind and just run (or biked, or whatever).
As a taekwondo student and former sports journalist, I "got" her point. Life is about more than how fast you ran, or how many round kicks you can do in a row, or the points on the scoreboard. I got it - and I agreed with it.
Oh, but that was before I released a book. And now, now, well, I REALLY get it.
Before your book-child goes out into the world, you're insulated from all the "stuff." You write for you, you can pour yourself into the work, tell the story in your heart. And it's wonderful. When I get into the groove, it's my equivalent of a runner's high. I'm unstoppable, man. Look out!
But any writer who says, "Well, I don't really care about sales, I'm only writing for me," is not being entirely honest. Because what's the point of writing if you don't share it? And the minute you share it, well, there are scads of opportunities for feeling like you suck. Maybe someone will leave an unkind review, or you'll get umpteen letters of rejection from editors or agents.
Thanks to Amazon, writers don't have to deal with those rejection letters (although negative reviews are out there). But also thanks to Amazon, authors have their own numbers games: sales rank and author rank.
And let me tell you, those games suck.
You log in to Author Central, and you watch the lines going crazy. You get excited because they go up. But then the go down - and they keep going down. How do you get them up? Can you get them up? Why aren't they going up? Why, why, WHY????
It's insanity. And I'm taking a page from Amy's book. I'm leaving my Garmin behind (that is, ignoring the Amazon ranks) and writing the next book.
See, Amazon's ranking algorithms are kind of, well, unknown. The line may go up on a particular day, but you have no idea how many sales that is, or even what caused the spike. For all you know, it could be solar flares!
And really, it isn't a judgment on you. YOU WROTE A BOOK dammit! Not only that, you sent it out into the world! You rock! How many people think about that, but are too scared/intimidated to just do it? That person isn't you any more, because you did it.
A year ago, that was me. And thanks to some awesome people, now I can go to Amazon, query "Power Play: Hero's Sword" and see this.
So, Amazon, thanks for the opportunity. But I'm taking a stand, right here, right now. I refuse to play your numbers games. They do not define me. I wrote a book and it is for sale, and it's got a few good reviews.
And that, my friends, is awesome.
Image courtesy of Pink Sherbet; used under creative commons