Am I The Only…One (A “Bestseller!”)?

Reading is fun. Writing is super-fun. But, even better than writing is being read.

Which leads to the subject of today’s blog (as the wife and I make ready to participate in our first writing conference this week, ThrillerFest, put on by International Thriller Writers every year in New York–of course, the wife never needs an excuse to make at least one pilgrimage a year to (the shops of) New York):

Is it just me, or does “every” author claim to be a number one bestseller?
C’mon, just how many number ones can there be?
Doesn’t “one” mean…just “one?”

For sure, there’s not much room “at the top.”  But now it’s more crowded up there than it used to be.  Or so it seems.  This number one.  That number one.  What’s up with all these number ones?

Even more questionable, for one fleeting hour this past week–specifically from 10:10am to 11:10am, on Wednesday, June 29, 2011–my debut novel, a season for redemption, was one of those number ones!  “The” number one bestselling ”hard boiled” mystery novel in Amazon.com’s Kindle store!

Must be an error somewhere, right?  A rank amateur like me?  Couldn’t possibly be, you say (or at least think, if you’re too polite to say it out loud).  I understand.  Blows my mind, too.  But happen it did.  And, a friend sent me a photo of my Amazon.com book page frozen for all time at 10:30am on the date in question–and showing my moment in the sun, right there for all to see…the number one ranking!

So what could possibly explain this unexpected good “fortune”?

Is it perhaps “just” a matter of the words that one crafts in one’s mind and then holds onto long enough to scribble down on paper.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have some good words, but…:

The words that I’m writing
Do they know what I say?
The ones I sit next to
Do they know me today?

Have I gone too far
Have I lost my way?
Is that why they stare
In a curious way?

Was it me that got lost
On this road called life?
With it’s bumps and humps
And baskets of strife?

Did my bloom turn withered
With no luster or glow?
Or did it sprout new buds
And continue to grow?

Did I put too much
Of my heart on the page?
Too much love?
Lust loss, fear and rage?

Have I said too much?
Did it sting like a bee?
Did I leave hearts heaving
Without apology?

The words that I’m writing
Do they know what I say?
The ones I sit next to
Do they know me today?

  DiAnne Ebejer
Words
June 8, 2011, all rights reserved
Republished with permission of the author

 Hmm.  Maybe something more than “just” the words, especially since words require the intimacy of at least two–one who speaks and one who hears.  But what do “they” hear?  In the spirit of present day social media, I say “LMAO.”  Some hear “Laughing my ass off.”  Some others hear “Leave me alone, okay?”  Some dreamer out there hoping to get lucky hears “Lick me all over.”

To be sure, to be the one–expecially the only one–takes words, powerful and clear, but it ususally takes more.  If one happens to be on a par with Hemingway, Faulkner or a few select others like them, then one’s words might just be enough, without more.  On down the mountain from there, what about, say, Grisham?

For me, his first novel, A Time to Kill, was his best, but its success paled by comparison to his second novel, The Firm.  The difference?  Many think it was not the words, but rather the…book cover.  A nondescript cover for the first, the cover of the second was a man in a three piece pin striped business suit carrying a briefcase–and hanging off of puppet strings.  An image that all too many apparently readily identified with, feeling like nothing more than a puppet in their everyday workplace.  People saw the picture and bought the book, not yet knowing much about the author.

The rest is history.  When A Time to Kill was republished after the enormous success of The Firm, it too became a huge bestseller.  As it should have been from day one.  No changes needed in those great words.

Just like the words of many writers neither you nor I have ever heard of, and may never hear of as they continue their literary journey through life, unhearalded in spite of the fact they’ve written words perhaps every bit as good as Grisham, or Turow or Connelly, to name just a couple of other very deserving writers from ”my” mystery and thriller genre.  Demonstrating more than just “one” clearly deserving of high praise.  There are still more who are equally deserving but not equally recognized–if recognized at all.  (I have heard of me and so I hasten to point out that I am not including me in this unrecognized good company.)

So, what explains it, then?  Aside from those very special, and very few, really great ones, like Hemingway and Faulkner, who are the other writers who do “make” it today? Who become commercial successes and no longer have to wait tables (or practice law)?  And, in terms of credibility, just how many bestsellers can there really be?  Doesn’t “best” mean best and doesn’t that mean just…one?

Not so.  There’s lots more than you think…who reside at the top, in one way or another, at one time or another.  The New York Times has a bestsellers list.  So does the Los Angeles Times.  So does USA Today.  So do countless other print media publishers.  So does online retail genius Amazon.com.  But there are differences here.  The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, each with their own bestseller formulas, release their lists but once a week, one for fiction and one for non-fiction.  (Actually, beginning only a few months ago, the New York Times now also publishes digital (e-book) fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists.  Why?  Because their traditional lists only “count” print sales sold in bricks and mortar “stores.”  The “indies” who don’t have the economics to get their books on the bricks and mortar shelves aren’t eligible.  Nor, except in a minority of recent instances, have ebooks been eligible.  This in spite of the fact that today–thanks to Amazon.com (Kindle) and Apple (iBooks)–digital ebooks are outselling hardback and softback printed books combined!  (Who woulda thunk it?  Just ask the wife, who until a year or so ago wouldn’t have read a book if she couldn’t krinkle the pages, but whose Kindle is now glued to her hip, and who is now reluctant to read anything she can’t load onto her Kindle.)

And now for the even more interesting part (at least to me).  Amazon.com has also given an entirely new meaning to the word “bestseller.”  Unlike its print media counterparts, Amazon.com publishes bestsellers for every imaginable genre because its computers make it easy for it to do so.  And it does so just as much for digital as print books.  Not only that, Amazon.com updates its bestseller lists at ten minutes after the hour, every hour, 24/7.  As a result, there’s a lot more room at the top today, and therefore a lot more players at the top today.  Every Tom, Dick and Harry–and Ron–can be a number one “bestseller“ in one way or another today–without having to match the skill of a Hemingway or Faulkner, or even a Grisham, a Connelly or a Turow.  Just so long as the unknown Tom, Dick or Harry–or Ron–somehow manages to top the sales of his more branded counterparts on Amazon.com–for at least one hour in one day in one genre.

Is this a matter of finessing the system?  Not really.  What happens when Oprah endorses a new book?  Good, bad or indifferent, that’s virtually a bestseller status guarantee.  In my case, on early Wednesday morning this week, a book reviewer I had never met or spoken to, or even (then) heard of, published in her weekly email newsletter an extremely gracious and favorable review of my a season for redemption.  It just so happens 350,000 book enthusiasts follow this reviewer and subscribe to her weekly email newsletter.  Some three hours after her email newsletter landed in the email inboxes of her subscribers, a season for redemption was a number one bestseller–for one hour.  Not the power of my words, but rather the power of the words and social media influence of this reviewer.  Who, fortunately, did like my words.

  So, to answer the question posed in the title of this blog, I am certainly not the only…one.  However, I am, for all posterity, one…of the lucky ones.  And if my words are any good, there are now many more who will become acquainted with my words for themselves and who (hopefully) will help to spread the word–my words.  And, just maybe, grow the numbers reading…what I write.  Now, that would mean something.  To me.  And perhaps to my pending second novel, The Quiet Terrorist(s).)

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