Keeping Book Sales in Perspective

So my book, Addition by Adoption, officially released on Amazon last week. And so I began my fixation with Amazon’s sales rank, something I imagine most authors go through (whether or not they admit it).

Before the May 11 release date the book’s Amazon sales rank was in the 500,000 range. Not too shabby, considering the millions of books that are published, right? Then on Tuesday the popularity surge began. It zoomed into the top 100,000, eventually settling as high as 55,721. It did end up at #35 in the adoption category.

Whoa. I know, right?

I assumed my book must be selling like hotcakes. Wow. All my hard work trying to spread the word about this thing (i.e., being annoying) must be paying off.

Not quite. Turns out the Amazon sales rank doesn’t mean as much as you might think. Depending on what you read and who you believe, cracking the top 100,000 might mean you’ve sold a single copy lately. Cracking the top 10,000 might mean you’ve sold a dozen copies. The top 1,000 might mean 50 copies.

It’s all relative. It’s all fluctuating. It’s all meaningless.

Just as quickly as my book surged, it also flopped. Today we’re sitting at 483,172. Total monthly sales to date? Seven. I don’t know what ‘selling like hotcakes’ actually means, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than seven.

The Whole Story
I knew all along that self-publishing was no picnic. But this is the cold, hard reality. It’s also why I’m trying not to pay attention to the stats. Beyond being depressing, they don’t tell the whole story:

  • The stats leave out the 66 pre-order copies of the book we sold. That’s a total of 73 sales, which puts us close to the 100-copy mark that would mean being in the top 21% of the publishing industry.
  • The stats don’t include the astounding $784 raised for a clean water well in Ethiopia. (That dollar figure doesn’t include an additional $14 for the books sold in May [Amazon hasn’t paid me yet].) Other folks have donated almost double what the book has raised. That’s pretty cool.
  • The stats don’t include the amazing comments I hear from so many people who are enjoying the book. A small sampling are on the review page, but they keep coming on Twitter and Facebook. My favorite is how often people talk about someone stealing the book from them before they could finish (buy multiple copies, people!).
  • The stats don’t include the mounting number of interviews and reviews (also highlighted on the review page). So many people have graciously plugged my book.
  • The stats don’t include the letter (yes, some people still write physical letters!) from my Grandma. I mention her in the introduction, talking about how these tweets are the kind of thing my Grandma would enjoy. She told me I was right. She finished the book and is reading it again—”Trying to pick a favorite Lexi saying, but I can’t, there are too many favorites.” Grandma’s rock.

So a little perspective helps. As a homeless person reminded me: “Nothing happens overnight.”

As much as I want my book to sell, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter. As Anne Lamott (and others before her) have told us (and I’ve reminded myself), publication is sh*t.

What is Important
While the book sales aren’t so important, that well in Ethiopia is. That well means life for an entire village. It will take $5,000 to build that well. That’s a ton of books (2,101 right now). But as some of the recent donations have shown, selling books isn’t the only way to build a well.

So if you want to buy my book, that’d be great. If you want to give clean water to our fellow brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers in Ethiopia—that’d be even better.

Help me keep it in perspective:

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