New ways to chase your tail

So, my friend Laura asked me to write a top 10 list for her online magazine at the beginning of the year. I thought, “Great, I’ll do a top 10 favorite books of 2011.”

I used to keep a running tally of books I’ve read on this blog until, well, I guess I got busy and Goodreads just made it so much easier to do, and so the list is languishing. (I should take it down, shouldn’t I? I probably should. Maybe later.)

What was I saying? Oh yeah. Top 10 books. I looked at my Goodreads page and realized, much to my dismay, that I read a whopping 17 27 books last year. (See, originally I thought I’d read only 17, then I realized I added a slew of books all at once that I’d read in a madcap dash, so I feel slightly better.) In any case, not even half of those books came out in 2011. Most were much older. So, how could I really write a top 10 list when the number of books published in 2011 that I’d read was probably, oh, 15?

Far from definitive. (Be that as it may, I will say that my favorite book from 2011 was Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. She is brilliant. Read her. Seriously, step away from your computer, go to your local bookstore, and get this book. Don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back.) So, no top 10 list from me.

But.

Since my novel came out last year, I discovered many new ways to obsess about things completely beyond my control. So, without further ado, let me tell you about a few of them:

  1. Novelrank.com
    This is a wonderfully evil little website that allows you to plug in the ISBN number for your book and get sales information from a variety of sources. It’s like watching your novel tread water in (sort of) real time!
  2. Amazon Author Central.
    As much as I find Amazon kind of icky, if you’ve got a book for sale there, you can set up an AuthorCentral account and see just how many copies have sold over the past eight weeks. You can even see where they sold, when, and in what format (not surprisingly, I’ve had a lot of sales in St. Louis).
  3. On the other hand: The joys of having a good publisher. In case you’ve been living under a rock, my novel, Detours, was published this past November by Bold Strokes Books. I’ve had the good fortune to contribute short fiction to several of their anthologies in the past three years or so, and I’ve found them to be uniformly supportive and encouraging. Which helps. A lot.
  4. The fear of the sophomore slump: I’m working on my next book, and I’m behind schedule, and I keep wondering if it’ll be good enough.
  5. On the other hand: Editors are still asking me to contribute stories for their anthologies, so I guess it’s not all bad.
  6. BONUS: Realizing you will please some people (“Hey! 5-star review!”) but you will never please everyone (“Wow, 1-star? Harsh.”) This is as it should be, really.

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