This month Amazon added a “new feature” to “make it easy for readers to discover the best-selling authors”. Excuse me, but is there a literate person on Earth who needs Amazon to tell them that the Twilight series sells more books than the Our Canadian Girl series, or that R.L. Stine sells more books than Kathy Stinson. “Kathy Who? #10,995? Why would I bother reading her books?”
By the way, I make no apology for not providing links to the more popular books and authors referred to here. They don’t need my help! Clearly, ranking at 10,995, I do! 10,995 of how many, I can’t help wondering. 11,000?
This ranking, even if the total number is much higher than 10,995, could be pretty depressing. Except (frankly amazon) I don’t care. Sure I’d enjoy seeing my books earn the kind of income that comes with being a “Top 100”; I bet even “Top 1000” would be nice. But with What Happened to Ivy now on bookshelves and with a wonderful illustrator hard at work on my next picture book, scheduled for publication next year, I’m launched into a new project. And that means all the fun of discovering new characters, figuring out what makes them tick, how they’re linked, the dynamics between and among them, where their stories will begin, and where they’ll end. Way more fun than worrying about how I rank in relation to other authors.
On a recent drive into Toronto, I listened to a podcast of Ideas: Writing from the Rock. At one point in the conversation, the Newfoundland writers got onto the subject of competition among writers, a good thing or a bad thing? I had to agree with the writer who thinks it’s more harmful than destructive. (I’ll leave it to you to listen, to see who that was, and who thought otherwise, and why.) I know that times during my career when I couldn’t resist comparing my achievements to others have inevitably proven to be among my most unhappy times as a writer.
I’ve used a number of strategies over the years to keep myself from slipping into the comparison game, when something like an award announcement or an email from Amazon about a new feature threatens to invite me back into it. One of them is recalling a poster I read in a school library I was visiting that said something like:
“How quiet the woods would be, if no bird sang except the best.”
Writing this blog post, I searched online, to see if I could find that poster. I didn’t find it, but I found another quote to add to my resist-the-comparisons arsenal:
“Who you are isn’t up to them.”
Right. Who I am is up to me. Who you are is up to you. I’m a writer, a good one. Are you a good writer, too? Good. Let’s go write.