For When Your Book is Ranked #134,216 on Amazon

I don’t read reviews of the books I’ve written anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do sometimes click over to the page to see if there have been any new reviews, and if they’re good, then my day is fine and I’m a wonderful writer and surely my next book will be a New York Times Bestseller. I bashfully wave at the person who left the review and mouth, “Who, me?” These are the inflating moments, the ego-stroking seconds, when the validation I seek feels found.

And sometimes there is a review that doesn’t quite carry the requisite number of stars, and I find myself muttering arguments under my breath as to how wrong that person is, what a poor reader, how they probably don’t floss, or how they probably pee in the shower. People this stupid – in other words, people who don’t think I’m the next John Steinbeck – shouldn’t be allowed to use the Internet.

Also, every once in a while (or two to three times a day), I’ll check my recent book’s ranking on Amazon. The other day it was 134,216. That means 134,215 books sold more copies than I did, or something along those lines. You can argue with reviews. But you can’t argue with numbers.

This is not encouraging.

* * * * *

This post is for when we feel like we will never be extraordinary at anything.

This post is for when we feel like everyone around us is excelling, and we are existing.

This post is for when we feel overlooked, or under-appreciated.

* * * * *

Every once in a while I get an email from someone who has read one of my books and wants to say ‘hello,’ or ‘thank you,’ or ‘me, too.’ While Amazon reviews give a flash of high or low (sugar coursing through arteries), these kinds of letters are food for my soul.

Last week, when I was feeling especially stupid for taking some time off from promoting myself and my work, when I was wondering if all of these words ever amount to anything, I received the following email:

I just wanted to write and say thank you for Refuse to Drown.  I read “Happiness, A Timeline” on A Deeper Story, I sent it to my husband and said I had to buy that book.  I received it a week later, and read half of it, then put it down.  It was just so hard.  And I know my situation is so different – my son came out in the fall as being transgender, and it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to face.  Very few of our friends and family know.

Then two weeks ago, I felt God (I guess anyway – I tend to question if I really hear Him anymore) nudging me to pick up the book again.  I got to the part where Tim talked about how supportive the community was, and how his children were cared for, and I just thought – OK, my kid hasn’t killed anyone, so perhaps I’m not giving my friends enough credit by hiding the truth about my son from them.

The very next day, after I finished the book, my daughter asked when I was going to tell her best friend’s mother, because she wanted to know how much longer they would be allowed to be friends. My heart broke.  I spoke with her friend’s mom last week, and was so relieved to be greeted with love and acceptance.

So anyway, somehow, that book has given me some sort of strength in facing these days ahead.  And I guess I’m also gaining strength by telling people I don’t know first.  I hope you don’t mind.

Your stories on Deeper Story have really spoken to me, too.  I rarely comment, but I think it was the most recent one about a Cruel Thing for God to Do – I just wept.  And I was reminded of when Eustace had to have Aslan tear off his skin because he for all his trying, he couldn’t do it on his own.  I often feel like a bloodied mess these days, and reminding myself that perhaps it’s really that I’m a new creature helps.

Thanks for writing. It matters.

I wept while I read this, thinking of the tough road ahead for this woman and her child. I smiled while I read this, honored to be such a small part in someone’s transformation.

* * * * *

You are valuable. You are crucial to someone. The things you do are not unnoticed. The work you do is not insignificant. The things you do are like heavy rocks dropped into the center of a pond, and the ripples are moving out into every part.
Don’t measure your success as the world does, with the little numbers and dollar signs and titles. There are better measurements: smiles and tears and transformation.

You might be #134,216 to some. But to others, at this particular time, you are the only one.


7 Replies to “For When Your Book is Ranked #134,216 on Amazon”

  1. Wow! You certainly know how to put things into perspective, Shawn. Oh, and just to add a bit more perspective, most of the people you know, including myself, are ranked #0 on Amazon :-)

  2. Thank you Shawn…just a great big thank you! To many of us you are way more than # 134,216. And thank you for making me feel I am more than # 134,216. You are one of my favorite bloggers – your words have inspired me so many times.

  3. Love today’s post, Shawn. Happy Easter to you, Maile and all the munchkins!

  4. Thank you Shawn for not only interesting reading, but encouragement as well!
    I found your blog through a mutual friend, who had shared a post from your blog on her Facebook page. I am so glad I did! Thank you for being faithful with the words that you have been given.

  5. Posts like these are a huge encouragement. I’ve definitely wrestled with how much to promote myself and have decided, for now anyway, that I’m okay with just writing for me and my friends. It takes all the other voices and pressures away–I don’t feel the need to write a popular list post or in a format that’s friendly for publication. I can write what I think matters to me and my friends and experiment with how I do it.

    Thanks, man!

  6. What a great story, Shawn. Stop looking at Amazon, I don’t care what the ‘experts’ tell you. Just keep putting one word down at a time. We’ll be grateful, I promise.

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