Oh, hurray. Amazon has come up with a new way for writers to feel bad about themselves: Amazon Author Rank. If you weren’t sure before that you’re not a best-selling writer, you now have proof positive. Better yet, Amazon Author Rank tells you exactly how not best-selling you are!
There’s been a little buzz out there about this new concept in jealousy-generating technology, most of it negative. But no one described it better than David Ebenbach, author of the short story collections Between Camelots and Into the Wilderness, who said it was “like tossing a bottle of whiskey to a roomful of stressed-out alcoholics and sitting back to watch us fight each other for the bottle.”
Since that sounds like the most fun ever, I've decided to celebrate the initiation of Amazon's new Author Rank feature with this list of five simple, entertaining ways to feed our addiction to comparing ourselves with other writers. This is in no way intended as a comprehensive list. There are an estimated 2.3 million additional ways to measure your self-worth against the success of others. These are just a few of the easiest and most fun. Enjoy!
1. The I’m Not J. K. Rowling Technique. Sooner or later in every writer’s life there comes a moment when they realize that, no matter how hard they work, no matter how well they write, no matter how many publications, awards, and accolades they receive, and no matter how much money they make, there will always be someone more successful than they are. That person is J. K. Rowling. That person will always be J. K. Rowling. In our lifetime, no one is ever going to surpass J. K. Rowling as The Most Successful Writer and, if they do, it’s close to 100% likely not going to be someone reading this blog. Get used to it.
2. The I’m Not Robert James Waller, Either Method . This is a lot like the I’m Not J. K. Rowling Technique, with one important distinction: Rowling knows how to write. The jury is out as to whether she’s brilliant, but most readers agree she’s a good craftsperson with a great imagination, so, as you wallow in your envy, you can at least say to yourself, “Well, her work isn’t crap.” Waller, on the other hand, wrote The Bridges of Madison County.
3. The Yoda-Has-Left-the-Building Strategy. If you’ve ever played “seasoned veteran writer” to someone just starting out, then you might know the unpleasant feeling of having your mentee achieve sudden remarkable success far beyond your own. This happened to me exactly once, several years ago. I had coddled this young writer through insecurity and doubt, offered her gentle, sage advice, and waved my Magic Wand of Blessings over her head whenever she did well. And how did she repay me? By rudely grabbing the brass ring that everyone knows was meant for me. “I’m so proud of you,” I said, gritting my teeth and wishing I really were some kind of desert-dwelling wise woman who could say, “My work here is done,” and head off into the sunset.
4. The We’re Not Failing for the Same Reason Approach. Maybe you’re having a bad year, or a bad several years, despite doing really good work. You’re getting fantastic feedback from knowledgeable people, but it’s not leading to anything concrete. Your books aren’t selling. Your stuff isn’t getting published. I’ve been there—as when my two novels were declared “brilliant,” “powerful,” and “compelling,” by no fewer than five published novelists and “unmarketable” by every editor who laid eyes on them.
Now, maybe you have a friend—we’ll call him Joe—who is in the same boat. “I know exactly how you’re feeling,” Joe says, bemoaning his own failures. “It’s a jungle out there.” This should make you feel better, right? No one can understand what you’re going through like someone who’s going through it.
But let’s just say you’ve read Joe’s work. And let’s just say you know exactly why it’s not getting published. Let’s just say it sucks.
This is one of those situations that has absolutely no possible pleasant resolution. Of course, you can’t tell Joe what you’re thinking: That his work isn’t getting published because it’s cow pie, and yours isn’t getting published because it “doesn’t meet the needs of the current literary marketplace.” And it doesn’t matter, anyway, because there’s no way Joe’s going to believe that. So you force your face into a robot grin and say, “Well, what can you do?”
The worst part: Joe’s thinking the same thing about your work.
The worst worst part: You know he’s thinking it.
5. The My Success is Better Than Your Success Tactic. So, you finally make it, whatever “making it” means to you. Your poems are getting published in the journal of your dreams. Your memoir has found a major publisher. Your novel is receiving glowing reviews.
Then Joe self-publishes his book, For the Love of Lulu, chronicling the life of his shih-tzu, and three of his friends declare it “unparalleled” on Amazon.
“We did it!” he says. “You and me. We’ve hit the big-time.” As if his success were no different from your success. How dare he!
Your fevered brain screams. It’s not the same thing, bro. But out of your mouth comes, “Yeah. You and me. Everything’s coming up roses, eh?” And once again, up pops that rictus-like grin. Your face is starting to hurt.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...