Monday, August 4, 2014

On How I Need to Stop Looking At Amazon Rankings, Comparing Myself to My Peers, and Slowly Driving Myself Insane

So, I promise - I'm not whining on this blog. At least, I'm not intending to. And I'm not looking for any advice, really. There's been a lot of "rah-rah, yay me!" on here lately, so I'm kinda returning to form with some very transparent, "this is what's on my mind today" kinda format. 

Anyway.

This has been a productive year. I compiled my first short story collection and saw it published by what has turned out to be a stellar small press, Crystal Lake Publishingto excellent reviews and good sales. I sold my first two pro-rate short stories. I finished off a stint as submissions reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and have now leap-frogged to a position as Associate Fiction Editor at The Horror Channel

I also saw a linked novella collection published by another stellar small press, Ragnarok Publications, in late June, once again to excellent reviews. The sales seem to be a little slower on that one, but more paperback copies seem to have moved than of the collection, and we also didn't do the count-down sale, so whatever sales I HAVE made, the royalties for each have been higher than for the sale on the collection, so it'll be interesting to see what the first royalty statement looks like. Also: an audiobook deal was landed with Audible, which will eventually lead to my first advance ever.

In addition, my BILLY THE KID WEIRD WESTERN entry made it to the quarterfinals of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest, where it sorta got slammed by a Publisher's Weekly review, which sorta bummed me out until lots of really qualified people pointed out that PW reviews aren't always reliable, and mine in particular sounded like it had been written by someone who hated genre fiction in general, so it might not have been the most objective review either.

To round out the year, I've gone on a summer writing blitz that has seen the most productivity from me, yet: a serial novella to be published in The Midnight Diner this coming year, and three completed first draft short stories/novelettes with a fourth in progress. Also, my serial novella And I Watered It With Tears, initially published in the first volume of Lamplight Magazine, will be republished in the near future by Ragnarok. 

I should be over the moon.

And, in most aspects: I AM. I've come much further than I ever thought I would a bare seven years ago. I've made advances. I've climbed the ladder. Strangers have emailed me telling me how much they enjoy my work. And yet...if I'm not careful...something could very easily spoil all that. As the last few months has worn on, I've found myself doing several things that I need to stop, RIGHT NOW, before I spoil everything for myself, and drive myself INSANE.

1. Stop Looking at Amazon Sales Rankings

It's pretty heady stuff to see your work debut and shoot up the Amazon sales rankings. Even after you come to understand it just reflects the frequency of purchases in a short span of time (one purchase is enough to shake things up), it's still exciting, especially to a green newbie like me. One day, you're nobody. Next day (even if it's because of a .99 sale) you're #4 on the rankings,  next to Stephen King.  

Eventually, of course, the sale ends, you drop off the top 100, and things go back to normal.

Except, they don't.

Because now you're hooked. Or, at least, I was. Maybe all other authors everywhere are utterly secure, confident people full of perspective, and they don't get hooked. But hey, I'll admit it: I got hooked on seeing my work rise in the rankings. So hooked, that I've found myself checking the rankings of both my works sometimes up to three or four times a day.

And that's gotta stop.

It's one thing to be aware and up-to-date on things. It's another entirely to be obsessed. I feel like I'm bordering on obsession. Every author gets a little smile when they see a bump in sales. Any author who says they DON'T care about sales is either an excellent liar, or a way better person than I am. 

And in the end, it isn't really about the MONEY, because you don't end up getting all that much. It's the thought that people have heard good things about your work and are seeking it out. And I've found myself worrying too much that my work is going to sink into obscurity. It's completely natural to be happy about a sale. To be utterly depressed and defeated when sales slow down?

Geez. I'm not gonna last long in this gig if I don't kick that little bug-a-boo.

2. Stop Comparing Myself to Genre Peers, Stop Comparing My Sales to Theirs

Probably one of the biggest things I didn't expect happening was for me to be always comparing myself to others. And I'm not jealous. God, I hope not. It's more like: What are they doing I'm not? Do I really suck that bad? Am I too shy and withdrawn at conventions, and not forward enough, not meeting enough people? How come so many people seem so popular at conventions, and I'm not? Am I that weird and awkward? Is that hurting my career, that I can't travel to as many conventions as these other folks, who seem to hop the whole freakin country? Why are no "big names" sharing my work with everyone like they seem to do with others? Again - do I suck that bad?

Careers move at different speeds.  I know this (in my head, anyway). Just recently, I was praised in a review by a fellow colleague for my slow, steady pace. So why do I worry so much about where I'm going, what I'm doing wrong when I see other peers land these big deals? Why am I so - alright, I'll belly up to the bar and face the music - jealous when I see genre greats gushing about peers' works?

 I SO NEED TO STOP THIS. I'm going to drive myself insane. Part of this, admittedly, is from some advice I received several years ago about sales, and being the type of writer who sells well, and doing all these things at conventions and on Facebook to assure that I "sell well."

What a bunch of crap. That's gotten under my skin, now, making me worried about what I post on Facebook, if I post about my writing too much on Facebook, worried about which publisher I should submit to and why, and yaddia yaddia yaddia. The only thing I can control is what I put on paper every day, how intensely I edit it, and where I chose to send it. 

I can't control who likes my work, who talks about it, what big names endorse it and which ones ignore it, I can't control who likes me at Cons and who doesn't, or control our finances and magically make it so I can afford to attend every genre convention every year. The only thing I can control is my writing, every day, and that's it.

I used to be content with that. And I need to get back to that place.

So, starting today: my simple goal is not to look at my Amazon Rankings at all today. And then tomorrow, not look at all. And then the next day. My goal? That I'll forget about them entirely, and just focus on writing.

Also: less time on Facebook. Pop in to check stuff out, pop out. Focus on life, and writing.

Because I'm not insane, yet. I'm still very happy with all the success I've enjoyed thus far. 

And I need to keep it that way.