An Obsession with the Amazon Number

Author Kevin Sessums‘ has been blogging about his book tour. He writes:

I am exhausted and frustrated and close to tears. I sold three books tonight at the store. I paid for this trip myself. My Amazon number is for shit. I feel like I’ve sort of reached my limit in sales – I pray I’m wrong about that – and I’m just treading marketing water now. I hate to sound so down but that’s the way I’m feeling. I live a pretty solitary life but this life-on-the-road has taken the loneliness I often feel and encased it with a meta-loneliness that is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with on a night like this.

My book‘s not even out but I still feel for him. The obsession within the publishing industry on the Amazon rank of your book is unbelievable (and stupid, since it’s only one very opaque metric).

With the pub date of my book a few weeks away, I’m beginning to feel the full range of emotions: genuine excitement for the platform my ideas will now have and for the people I will likely meet, and intense nervousness about whether people will like and buy the book.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

4 Responses to An Obsession with the Amazon Number

  1. Shefaly says:

    If the book reviews on his website are anything to go by, I can see why he is not enjoying his book tour. Each reviewer appears to have a gift for vocabulary from Blandville. The reviews are cliched and unspecific, and tell the potential buyer nothing useful about the book.

    The only good and curiosity-inspiring reviews are from San Fran Chronicle and Library Journal. They bring out some elements of the book that makes one want, at least, to flip through read the book, but appear so far down the list that in our age of continuous partial attention, most, but the very curious, might drift off long before they reach those reviews.

    Even so, to someone like me, who buys and reads books like some people buy croissants and latte, and who is particular sucker for autobiographies of unusual lives, an introduction that says ‘celebrity journalist’ is an immediate turn-off. Is that how he sees himself? Is that his identity? How does that relate to the book he is trying to sell? Is he only interested in the Vanity Fair reading folks or did he intend to reach more people anywhere else too?

    All in all I think his marketing is a tad ill-advised. And clearly he is bearing the full brunt of it in his book tour.

  2. Virgilio Costa says:

    The tail gets longer and longer… The book might be a success to a limited amount of people.

  3. Jason says:

    As someone who studies both creative writing and PR, I can say without a doubt that authors would be well served to take a portion of their advance and reinvest it in their marketing.

    That’s right, take some of the money you’ve been paid and go to an advertising/marketing/PR firm and have them help you.

    Publishing is in the dark ages of marketing and they’re unlikely to end up on the brighter side of things anytime soon.

    Is it any coincidence that America’s number-one fiction author, James Patterson, has a background in advertising and PR? I think not.

    So Ben, if you really are concerned, take my advice and get help from real professionals outside the publishing field who know what they’re doing.

  4. Tim Taylor says:

    I’m curious which of the two (like or buy) makes you more nervous?

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