Do you ever play the numbers game? If you’re a writer, then the answer to that is probably yes. I don’t do it often, but I have done it.
Let’s throw out some numbers (as of this writing):
• Southern Bones Amazon rank for Kindle e-books: 489,115 in paid sales.
• Southern Bones Amazon rank for paperback books: 3,164,534 in paid sales.
• Reviews of Southern Bones on Amazon: 3
• Along the Splintered Path Amazon rank for Kindle e-books: 536,637 in paid sales.
• Along the Splintered Path Amazon rank for paperback books: 3,401,363 in paid sales.
• Reviews of Along the Splintered Path on Amazon: 21
• 10,962 views of my blog since June of 2011 (The math for that is 10,962 divided by 29, for a total of 378 views a month).
I noticed when checking the numbers at Amazon, which I do probably once a week, usually on Monday, that there is a question right below the ranking. It is: Did we miss any relevant features for this product? Tell us what we missed.
Yes, Amazon, there is something missing, but not necessarily from the product, but from and for the writer of those books. The thing? Well, Amazon, you said it in the fifth word of that question: Relevant.
The thing missing is relevance. Of what relevance are my books and myself to the reading population? Clearly, I’m not Stephen King, so the relevance is, oh I don’t know, maybe not the size of a mountain like his is. But is it bigger than the tip of a needle?
I am not one of those folks who trumpet out my numbers on Facebook, and, as far as I can recall, this is the first time I have ever disclosed my numbers on how my books or blog are doing. To me, the numbers shouldn’t be important. But they are. They are as important as the covers to the books are.
What? You think I’m crazy? Well, so do a lot of folks, but that has never deterred me from writing or really most things (though it is fair to say I have mellowed over the years).
This is what I believe:
Book covers are important. But reviews and ranking are as important, if not more so.
Why do I say this? It’s simple, really:
How many folks have gone to the book store and picked up a book, then put it back because of the cover? I think most people are guilty of it. It happens.
Now, how many people have decided not to download a book based on the thumbnail size cover on Amazon or Nook or wherever? Probably not as many as with the print books, but some have probably done this.
How many of you out there have decided to purchase or not purchase an e-book based on their Amazon ranking? Come on, it’s okay. You can raise your hand. No one will know. It’s not like I have a camera secretly embedded into the blog that will show me how many folks raise their hands.
Okay, how many of you have decided to purchase or not purchase an e-book based on how many reviews they have received? Oh, those hands should go up a lot quicker now.
Here’s the thing about relevancy: it is the reader who makes a writer or a book relevant. Sure, we can market the books in various places to try and catch the attention of readers, but ultimately, it is not in the writer’s hands to determine how well a book does on the market.
Don’t get me wrong. The writer has to do his/her share of the work. The writer has to write the story, and they had best make it a good story, too. The writer has to put themselves out there and then market their work. The writer has to be willing to take criticism and learn how to be gracious. Even with all that, the readers decided the relevancy of writers.
How do you know if you are relevant, though? Well, a growth in book sales for one. A growth in reviews. A lower number on your Amazon ranking, meaning lower (100 as opposed to 1250) is better in this case.
But we can scrap all of that if we want to. The best way to know you’re relevant is when a reader tells you something good about your work. Or when someone who admires you lets you know. Relevancy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Do I want to sell my books? Of course. Would I like to make money at this business? You bet. Do I want people to enjoy my stories and take them with them long after they are done reading? More than most anything. Do I want to be relevant in this business? That would be nice, but more importantly, I want to be relevant to the reader–to you–and if I can do that, then I have done my job.
One thing I stopped doing at Type AJ Negative is talking about my kids. I feel that is a huge mistake. My kids are so much a part of me and have inspired so many of my stories (two of them are in the collection, Southern Bones).
So, today I will end with a short story about my children.
I took my son and his friend who is a girl (no, not a girl who is a friend–I made the mistake of saying that before) skating for school skate night last Thursday. He is normally a very good skater for an eight-year-old, but on this night, there were girls there and they were all around him. He, like most boys, showed off and looked silly for doing so.
In the process he managed to bruise his knees and one hand pretty good. After dropping off the friend who is a girl and taking him home, he took a shower. Then he came into my bedroom where my wife and I were talking.
“Can one of you give me a massage?”
“What needs massaging?” I asked.
“My legs. My feet. My back. My arms. My butt.”
“Not me,” I said quickly.
“You’re on your own when it comes to massaging your butt,” The Wife said.
The Boy frowned. “Okay.”
“Hop on the bed,” The Wife then says. “I’ll massage your legs for you.”
The Boy is very ticklish and his laughter could be heard all over the house. Then he got quiet and lay back on the bed. The Wife had reached a spot on his foot that apparently hurt.
The Boy, after several seconds of this foot rub sighs, and then says, “I feel so aliiiiiiiive.”
With that, I bid you farewell, until we meet again, my friends.