My editor told me yesterday, “Enjoy the last day of your life where you’re not checking your rank on Amazon.” I smiled and sighed, because I knew she was right. Quadruple-checking any measure of my likability is now a habit with me.
I blame all of the people who’ve advised me to build my social network and online presence, two terms that sound professional but that have wound up occupying my most junior high of insecurities. How many friends on Facebook? How many people clicked on the link to my latest blog post? What’s my most popular article this week? How do my numbers stack up over last month? Last year this time?
To a great degree, following these data is a ridiculous process, because they’re so shallowIf I want to pay WordPress extra money I can see some more under the iceberg, but I still have to make guesses about which of my fan base is interested in which topics or posts or Tweets. I can set up short links using bit.ly and get some country data on the work I leave around the web, but then I’m paying more attention to popularity than my writing itself, and since the baby, my time is too short to worry about such things.
Enter the Amazon ranking system, which is enigmatic on purpose, and now all of my numbers are generated in direct comparison with other authors. I’m already competitive as people go, but last night I found myself trying to stare down Portia de Rossi’s memoir. At one point Bumbling was number 5 on the gay and lesbian memoir/autobiography Amazon list. I made a few cracks about between de Rossi and Meredith Baxter. Yuk yuk. My memoir streaked like Icarus toward the top of the overall chart, hitting the 2,000 mark.
I texted my publicist, because the cynical me kicked in: “It’s nowhere but down from here, folks!”
Perhaps I jinxed myself. Soon enough, I fell to number 6. I told myself, Well, Jeanette Winterson has the top two spots with two versions of the same book, so I’m really still number 5. And then myself responded with, Which made you number 4 before, dumb ass. So that’s when I realized I was having a conversation with nobody and sweating my introductory numbers. Overall rating: 3,200. Then 3,999, which became 4,780. Now I’m in the low-5000s. Number 8 in the same list, with Baxter in the third spot. I wondered if she saw I’d displaced her earlier and bought a flat of her own book. Celebrities can do that, you know.
My friends and a few fans pinged me to say they’d bought copies of my book. I got teary realizing that this project means as much to some others as it has to me. I could hear Gene Wilder proclaiming, “It’s alive! Alive!”
I still haven’t held one of my books. I will rendezvous with a big box of them next week in Portland, gearing up for a reading of Portlandia proportions. But I did pop online to Amazon last night and buy one for myself. Looking at the tracking, it’s somewhere west of Kentucky, making its way to Walla Walla. I’ve never measured by writing in miles traveled, but perhaps that’s a good metric, because it’s purely cumulative. I won’t have to feel some challenge from Chaz Bono or Ellen’s life partner.
Though it would be nice if those folks could buy one of my books and help me a little on the Amazon ranking chart. You know, to build community.