Shock Jocks, Amazon Rank and the Slippery Mountain
AKA “Things I Learned In My First Week As a Published Author”
For many years I wondered what it would be like to have a book in the wild. (In the stores, I mean.) I imagined slipping into a random Barnes and Noble now and again to try to catch someone perusing my title and say, “Hey…what do you think of that?” while wearing that elegant “author” medal they give everyone at the signing of their publishing deal.
Well friends, reality has settled in. (In a good way.) Here are my top four lessons to fellow would-be published authors based on my first week.
1. Amazon rank is from the pit of hell.
I’ve lived a pretty self-disciplined life over the past several years. I have no problem getting up at 5:15a to write or play basketball at the YMCA. I am good about study and keeping my energy levels in check. But the bane of my existence this week has been Amazon rank.
For those who don’t know, it’s possible to – on an HOURLY basis – check how your book is selling relative to the rest of the titles on the Amazon site. (All 8,000,000 of them.) Now, you might think that being ranked – say – #400 out of 8 million might feel pretty good. Nope. Not when LAST hour you were at #380. “What does this mean?!? Why is the book losing traction?!? Am I doing something wrong?!? Was it something I tweeted?!?”
My advice: Keep it in check. You don’t need to know that your book tends to tank overnight because it’s only in domestic markets. You don’t need to know that there’s an odd lull at 3pm when the west coast goes to lunch. Once per day, or in the wake of a big push will suffice.
2. All publicity is NOT good publicity.
I was invited to go on a shock jock radio show. I’d heard of the host before, though I’d never listened to his show and knew little to nothing about him. (I think he used to be on TV at one point.) Anyway, though I was hesitant I knew that he had a substantial audience due to syndication so I agreed.
They called me during my appointed time slot, and everything seemed fine. As I sat on hold I was able to listen to a little of the show. My stomach sank. I knew I was – ahem – pretty scroogied, but there was little I could do about it now. I realized that this was one of those “producers set ’em up, host knocks ’em down” kind of shows. Yikes.
My segment lasted about a minute. He asked a question, I tried to answer (like I had on numerous radio shows before.) Nope. He asked the same question. I tried a more detailed answer. Nope. He cut me off.
My advice: Know your audience, and speak to them. In my case, shock jocks and business books don’t play well together. Those kinds of shows are about making the host look great, not about sharing things with the audience. Play to your strengths, and don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities, no matter how shiny they appear.
3. It WILL feel like you are running up a slippery mountain.
This week I had glowing articles about the book on almost every single major business publication’s website. It was a press coup. Really. Couldn’t have asked for more. Even my neighbor came up to me and said, “Yeah…I saw a couple of articles about your book!” Add to that tons of great blog articles, guest posts and more. It was a huge week for publicity.
And still…it feels like running up a slippery mountain to try to gain traction with this book. Really.
My advice: Do what you know to do, and spread the message far and wide. Whatever you do, don’t play the “if I’d only had THAT” game. I had great coverage this week and I still feel that way. YOU are the chief ambassador for your work. No one else will care about it as much as you do – not your publicist, your agent or your mother. It’s your job to promote it, and just know that it’s going to feel like you can’t gain traction. The important thing is to keep chugging up the mountain.
4. Don’t forget to enjoy it.
I’ve dreamed of the day I’d have my work out there for others to experience. I worked long and hard for many, many years to gain the privilege of working with such a great publisher. Yet this week felt less like celebration and more like trying to control the weather by staring at the clouds. It was as if I thought I could somehow will the book to become a bestseller with my thoughts.
My advice: Enjoy it! Take time to sit and be grateful when someone else sees your work as noteworthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s five, or fifty, or five thousand people. Just be grateful. (By the way…copy/paste this advice into nearly all other areas of life too.)
All in all, this has been a joyous, stressful, ambiguous, thrilling week. The book is doing well (thanks for asking!) and I’ve survived the literary version of Navy Seals hell week. I hope my experience can make yours a little better. Now, I’m off to check my Amazon sales rank.
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I'm Todd Henry.
I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More