It's terrible to be a writer. We're all crazy. Writing--the act, the art, and the career--is a specific set of mental defects grounded in the most outlandish insecurities and wrapped in a poisonous atmosphere of ego. It's bad enough to think what you have to say is worth anyone's attention, but then you want money for it? Puh-leez.
I've served as therapist for several writers over the past year, and it's almost entirely about their numbers. I can't recall one writer saying "I'm stuck in my writing, and I need some inspiration." Instead, all I hear is "Oh my gosh, my numbers are down" or "Sales are hot, how can I keep it going?"
Because I've had exhilarating success and abject failure in my writing career, it's easy for me to seek the middle way. Being a taoist libertarian works fine when I'm sitting here in a Blue Ridge Mountain hollow with nothing out my window but the garden and the trees, but I can't afford to be a taoist unless people buy my books. Indeed, the primary goal of The Indie Journey: Secrets of Writing Success is to define happiness as apart from money while at the same time offering you tips to sell more books. The inherent contradiction drives me nuts, but at least I am not tricking you into believing you can sell a million copies. Because you won't. Neither will I.
So my advice to writers worried about their numbers is, "The numbers are numbers and the words are the words." I am not sure what that means, except after 15 years I've come to believe that sales are largely due to luck. Talent is luck, the mental stamina to work hard is luck, and getting book sales that stimulate book sales is luck. Indeed, in the larger picture, all writers sitting right here in the Great Digital Gold Rush of 2011 are lucky. It won't last, of course. No good thing ever lasts. But there will be a next good thing, and a next, just like always.
Nothing sells like sales. Nothing writes like words. I don't know if that's taoist or not. But your numbers are no more real than the stories themselves. This entire thing is impossible--from writing a book to finding a reader. The fact that it has happened once or twice doesn't make it any less impossible. You, as a person, are not your numbers any more than you are the words you put on a screen.
My thriller Liquid Fear hit the Kindle Top 20. Right now it's probably around #12,000-15,000. Yet it's the same book. Amazon will publish it Dec. 20th, and it will likely be a hit again with their promotion. Great editorial assistance aside, it's basically the same book. So am I the indie rock star from April, the forgotten shmuck from November, or the Amazon poster boy of 2012? All and none. All and none.
The book that didn't sell at first is still the same book as when it breaks the Top 100. No better or worse. You as a person and as a writer have no more inherent value than you did before or after your stardom. You will be forgotten. You will go out of print. We all do.
So what are you so worried about?
What am I so worried about?
All and none. I told you all writers are crazy.