It’s All Relative

Man pulling his hair outWhen I published my debut novella under a pen name three weeks ago, I had low expectations. Conventional wisdom says that you don’t get any traction until the third book in the series comes out, and things really take off with book five or six. And I was content to wait for that to happen.

But the book didn’t hover at around 1,000,000 on Amazon like I expected. The day after it was published, it hit an Amazon bestseller list. I was, of course, over the moon.

And that’s when the crazy set in. I couldn’t be content with that modicum of success. Instead of focusing my energy on writing the next book, as I had planned, I felt like I had to promote the one I’d already published, to keep it visible. It was holding pretty steady in the top 20 on the list, and the top 10 in hot new releases in its category. Things were going great.

Until suddenly, they weren’t.

And that’s when the crazy got worse.

Sales were dropping along with the ranking. I experimented with new categories, and sales stopped altogether. So I dropped the price to 99 cents and ran a promo. The 99 cent price point helped, but the promo didn’t. The book was back up to #9 on the bestseller list for its category, and #5 in hot new releases, and I felt like I had failed because it wasn’t higher.

Like I said. Crazy.

I’m working on shifting my focus back to the things I can control, and letting go of the things I can’t. I’ve decided I’m allowed a few weeks of crazy after the first book is published, because it’s a super big deal to achieve something you’ve dreamed of your whole life. But it’s time to get back to business—to buckle down and write. The best thing I can do for the sales of the first book is to finish the second.

A month ago, I would have been so happy to be where I am now. But I am most definitely not happy. I’m distracted and sleep deprived and constantly fretting.

When things change, even for the better, our expectations change with them. And with the new expectations comes a whole new set of problems. Sometimes you have to step back and figure out what really matters. I didn’t become an author so I could worry about sales figures. I became an author so I could write. And when I’m doing that, I feel centered and happy, instead of anxious and out of control.

When we’re young, I suspect we all believe we’ll reach a point when we’ve got it all figured out. Now I realize that’ll never happen. Until you stop striving, you can never say you’ve succeeded. And when you stop striving, you’re taking the first step on the path to failure. I hope that as long as my heart keeps beating, I’ll keep trying new things. Even if that means anxiety and frustration and a bit of obsessive behavior.

What was the last new thing you tried that made you feel out of balance? How did you cope? 

About AndreaJWenger

Andrea J. Wenger is an award-winning writer and editor in Raleigh, North Carolina. She specializes in the fields of creative, technical, and freelance writing.

Posted on September 24, 2014, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. You have written a great post about why we write. Do we do it so we can freak out about sales figures? I don’t think so. I’m happiest when I’m writing a book and less happy when I’m trying to find someone who will publish it.

  2. I know exactly where you are, Andrea. You are entitled to your freak out. As long as you dust yourself off and keep going! Here is an old post of mine on the same topic:

  3. So thrilled for your success, Andrea! Having minute by minute access to sales figures is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, you are wise to focus on writing. You will figure out a healthy balance, but until then, keep writing as your focus.

    I, too, am experiencing stress. I’m engrossed in my non-fiction project and it’s going very slowly. I thought I’d be able to do fiction at the same time, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I know once this is over, it will feel like starting over again and I fear I will have lost ground. But I feel so strongly about this project and I wasn’t all that happy with my last few books because I was too focused on speed and not quality. I’m trying to give myself the time and space to focus on the non-fiction and get back to fiction with a renewed excitement and a commitment to quality.

  4. So happy for you, Andrea! Keep writing. In the end, that’s really what matters most.

    • Thanks, Aidee. I just finished an amazing book tonight, and it reminded me that it’s all about the storytelling, Transporting readers to another time and place so they lose themselves in your fictional world. Nothing else is quite like the magic of reading a good book.

  5. jillhannahanderson

    I love this, Andrea, and I think every reader can relate. We set the “happy bar” for ourself, and then when we reach it, we push it up higher. If we fall below that new high, we deflate and despair, instead of looking back at how far we’ve come.
    I’m happy to hear you went ahead and published and had great success – no small feat!

  6. It’s a crazy business, made crazier by the ability to self-publish. Remaining calm during the up and down ebb of sales is vital to our sanity. 🙂 Andrea, what name did you publish under? I want to read your book. 🙂

  7. Oh dear. I don’t know how you *couldn’t* get wrapped up as you have. I can’t blame you one bit.

    As for your statement: “I’m working on shifting my focus back to the things I can control, and letting go of the things I can’t.” I hear you, sister.

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