Just a rat with a button

Anyone else get an e-mail about Amazon's Author Rank program and roll their eyes? Oh, goodie, another set of numbers to make you feel inferior! This time you're listed by name, so you're SURE to feel inadequate!

Amazon is very good at handling authors, and that has a dark side. Camille LaGuire did a recent post on how Amazon's immediate feedback is so compelling that LaGuire thought her books had stopped selling, when in fact they were selling fine at other retailers.

Writes LaGuire, "[Amazon's] whole site is optimized for you, to reward you and make it easy for you to just focus on them and forget everyone else.... [B]y giving you that little hourly reward, Amazon conditions you to watch Amazon's stats and keep doing things to make them move."

And yet, people want more. There was a recent post on FutureBooks by a Web designer complaining about how little data Amazon and the other e-book publishing platforms give you when compared to, say, a Web site. Passive Guy linked to it with the note, "PG seconds this complaint. He understands far more about the visitors to The Passive Voice than he does about the people who purchase Mrs. PG’s books."

As a practical matter, yes, I understand the issue. But, wow, I feel deeply ambivalent about all the data I can access regarding visitors to my blog (although is it hilarious at times). A big part if it is that I want writing novels to be a higher priority than writing the blog. But you know, I've been sick lately, so I've been writing blog posts rather than working on Trials. And when I do that, I gain a lot of traffic to this site.

Do you know when I lose traffic to this site? When my blog posts are all titled "Progress Report" and are all boring one-liners about how I wrote X many words today. In other words, the more productive I am with the novels, the less of a reward I get from my blog stats.

That's just something I have to inure myself to, but I know that subconsciously it's working away at me. That's part of why I occasionally go read reviews--I need a different kind of prodding, the kind that comes from readers, not other writers.

I feel like having access to lots of sales data is also a two-edged sword--I mean, yes, it indicates whether or not you're reaching readers, plus of course it's money. On the other hand, it is so easy to get all wrapped up in that world. You do need to act like a publisher at times--thinking long and hard about how you want to position your book, for example--but a lot of that stuff is easier and less intimidating than writing novels, and at least for me it can become just another form of procrastination.