In Writing

I have written a lot about letting go of all the things you can’t control in the publishing process. The cover (this is the one that surprises most non-publishing types. No, authors don’t choose covers, although if we’re lucky we’re sometimes consulted). The title. Where bookstores put it. When the price is lowered or raised. Flap copy. Font. And, of course, most of all: sales.

Many of these things feel disempowering. But it’s important to not hold on too tightly. It’s a great lesson, actually.

However, when good things happen, sometimes it’s tempting to grab on to that as proof that you’re doing something right. The other day I logged in to Author Central (an Amazon service that allows authors to see book sale data from Bookscan that until a few years ago was only available to publishing execs). My sales had absolutely skyrocketed. I mean… I had sold more than I did the first week of my debut (and that week represents all the pre-sales that happen for months before the book is formally released).

I was recently at a big book festival, and I was sure that had to be the cause for the surge. Congratulating myself for getting in, I wanted to confirm if that was it. Author Central has a nifty little place where you can check the geography of your sales, so I clicked in to check. Nope. My huge surge in sales was in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I have not been and don’t know a book-buying soul (and not where the book festival was). No rhyme or reason for the massive surge, just… there you have it. More of the randomness of publishing. I will probably never know what caused the uptick.

Relying on external validation is always a bad idea. It’s particularly bad when the external signs seem to be pointing to failure. But so too is it bad when they seem to be pointing to success. Success in book publishing can really only be measured by how much of your truth you’re expressing, whether one person reads or one million read. It’s not a bad model for life, come to think of it. Just be and don’t focus on outcome.

So I take a deep breath. Close Author Central. And write.

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