Saturday, November 16, 2013

Springsteen Sang a Song About Me

...back in about 1984.

Yeah, you  remember Born in the USA. Honestly, not even close to my favorite Springsteen album (does that word date me? Yup). But do you remember the song from that album, "I'm Goin' Down"? It's the one with the intellectual chorus...

I'm going down, down, down, down
I'm going down, down, down, down
I'm going down, down, down, down
I'm going down, down, down, down

Now, I know it sounds like I'm bagging on the Boss, but I'm not. Anyone who knows me also knows that I'm a life-long Springsteen fan. Moreover, it's the songwriting that I admire most (though he is a hugely underrated guitarist, too).

But what's with these lyrics? Well, here's the part of this blog post where we make a massive transition...ready?

Amazon ranks authors in various categories, based upon book sales. Over the last year, I've been falling slowly but steadily. In fact, here's a visual representation, courtesy of Amazon:

Hard to read? Maybe, but the trend should be clear. Just in case it isn't, though...

Even easier to see now, huh?

I'm going down, down, down, down...

So this has been bothering me for a while. I've tried (and will continue to try) different promotions to raise my profile (and sales), and honestly, I don't know if they've worked or not. You can see upticks and down slides along that graph, so is that a result of my efforts, or just the way of the buying public?

Who knows?

Anyway, like I said, I let myself get a little bothered by this downward trend. I looked at it as a negative event, one that somehow defined me as a writer. Something like "Oh, my ranking is going down. I must suck." Well, maybe not that fragile, but you get the idea.

Then (and I have my wife to thank for this, whether she realizes it or not) I stumbled across the real meaning of this graph and the statistics behind it. I discovered the truly important facts surrounding it. So here are the top ten facts I gleaned (and in honor of the Boss quote at the beginning of this post, we will count them down).

10. Graphs suck.

9. No, really. Graphs suck. They should be outlawed, especially if they make you feel bad. Even if they are, like, factual and stuff.   

8.  Wait a minute. To be on that graph, I have to have written a book. I wrote a book! Yes! [victorious fist pump]

7. Wait another minute. I wrote more than one book.  Yay me!

6. Hold on now. This is getting crazy, but....that graph means SOMEONE BOUGHT ONE OF MY BOOKS! That's right, someone paid money to read something I wrote. Sha-zam!

5. Last year, I was (albeit briefly) the #1 Police Procedural author on all of Amazon. Michael Connelly was #2.! (Michael Connelly is still #5. Good for him. He deserves to be.)

4. Amazon sells more books than anyone else in the world, so #1 on Amazon really means...#1 in the world. That means that (albeit briefly), I was the #1 Police Procedural author in the world. Uh...speechless.

3. I'm still #99 on Amazon (in the world!), which is pretty damn cool.

2. People are still buying, reading, and reviewing my books, and I'm still writing them, no matter what my number is on that graph.

1. I write because I'm a writer, and I love it. Everything else is gravy.

That last one is really the lynch pin of my little wife-induced epiphany. It doesn't mean I don't care about sales or ranking or reaching readers. Of course I do. But it does draw into focus what my purpose really is. My purpose is to write, because that is what I do. I strive to improve my craft, to tell another story and another after that, to connect with a reader, all because I am a writer.

Lastly, I think this entire thought process reinforced in me the importance of recognizing the truly good things you have in your life rather than lamenting what may be missing or imperfect. I mean, how many people want to write but never put pen to paper fingers to keyboard? I've been lucky to have realized my dream, and to be living it.

So this is what I've learned, though I imagine many of you already knew it. Sorry to be late to the party, but here's what I bring:

Enjoy your success...but don't let others define it for you.