Congratulations, You’re #10,995!

athlete winning a marathonThis 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.

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Jan Coates on October 31, 2012 at 3:29 am

    It's a bit sad how it's human nature to compare. But you are obviously ten times the writer I am as I'm well up in the six figures on this Author Rank thing:)

  2. Kathy Stinson on November 1, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Six figures! Congratulations, Jan! Thing is no one knows how to measure the value of an important story made accessible to kids (like your Hare in the Elephant's Trunk) or stories that help teens know they're not the only ones with certain feelings (like my 101 Ways to Dance), however many copies they sell. Or how much support a cause like Wings of Hope gets thanks to your book, etc. But they're pretty nice side effects of doing what we love to do, just the same.

  3. Janet Barclay on September 13, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    I stumbled upon this post today and it was actually a message I needed right now. I’ve been reflecting on some of the activities I’ve been pursuing for years – and even decades, in some cases – and on the fact that I’m not really outstanding at any of them. Your words have helped me to realize that it’s not important to be the best, or even almost the best, at anything. What’s important is that we love what we’re doing.

    • Kathy Stinson on September 14, 2022 at 3:48 pm

      Your comment led me to re-read this post and guess what. I needed it too! Seems there was a DOUBLE reason for your stumbling upon it. So glad you did!

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