The Wall Street Journal has an article today about how Amazon and other online sales rankings are meaningless, and PR firms that promise to drive up ranking numbers are big fat scams.
This is oh so true, but one thing the article doesn't point out is that for poor authors existing in a giant sales vacuum, Amazon rankings are the one tangible sign that someone out there is buying their book. Or not. After all, when you go into a bookstore you only see the copies that haven't sold (which, if there's no clerk watching, you immediately move to the top shelf and face out.) You can't see the copies that were there but someone bought (you hope.) But on Amazon, even though it's all psychological, it's very heartening to watch your Amazon number crawl out of the low millions into the low hundred thousands. Someone somewhere has bought your book. Yeeha!
It's Bookscan's world now--we poor writers just live in it, hoping that our life's work won't be consigned to the free book box of literary history or that we won't sell the next book, no matter how wonderful, because the last book didn't do so well. Sometimes it's better not to know the day-to-day cold hard solid sales figure facts. There's time enough to face those truths later.
Sometimes it's better to be blissful and ignorant and rejoice when your Amazon ranking suddenly jumps from 50,002,001 to 50,002,021. Whoo--hoo--New York Times Bestseller List Here I Come.
As The Oscar once said: "Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone."
And so, I think I'll go check my Amazon ranking right now.
NB: (Actually I don't check my Amazon ranking at all; Devilman found an online program that automatically checks the numbers and makes them into a little graph that looks super cool and very official. When the little line goes up, I feel Important. When it goes down, I cry and Devilman gives me chocolate. It's a win-win!)