Friday, 1 February 2013

Bestselling Blues

I know all my own flaws, so why does it hurt so much when someone I care about points out my inadequacies?

The proof - click to enlarge
As you may or may not know, the Reluctant Duchess entered Amazon's romance charts on Thursday, selling a shocking amount of books and making me giddy with happiness.

Even as i was telling my friends of my success last night though, I'm qualifying my (limited) success.
"I'm not really an author though. In fact, I wish I could call myself a storyteller because while I have no particular love for Language, I just love telling stories. That's why I write."

And growing up as a dyslexic, I was hardly going to turn around and start blowing my own trumpet, just because I have reached a few of Amazon's best seller lists. A lifetime of being told you're bad at spelling, language, grammar and writing etc. etc. ad infinitum, isn't overcome in one day. I suffered no delusions that the quality of my writing had dramatically improved, I was just pleased that I had seemingly found an audience.

And waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm still waiting.On Thursday the book entered the chart at #11 (or that's when I became aware of it) then peaked at #3 in the regency romance chart, went down to #4 Friday morning, then climbed back up to #3 and has now peaked at number #2.

But this run cant last forever, eventually people will figure out that I'm a bad writer and start requesting refunds and writing bad reviews and a host of other stuff. On Tuesday, when the sales first began doing well (but not chart topping well) this is what I posted to facebook.

See, I know my place on the writing heap, and that's right at the bottom, what my English teacher would have called pap. I harbour no delusions about that.

So when someone I care about begins explaining how I'm not a "real writer" (yes, she put it in inverted commas) but that it's okay, because Barbara Cartland made a fortune doing what I am. So what if I will never be [insert list of literary writers I can't remember] that doesn't matter because Barbara Cartland churned out a book per month!

I felt the need to interrupt her here and explain what I have already explained on this blog, that I know I'm at the bottom of the literary totem pole and she really doesn't need to remind me.

Perhaps realising that I am hurt, she doesn't listen and goes on to explain that while I'm no Hilary Mantel (who won the Booker Prize and 3 other literary awards just in 2012) that's okay because some literary authors are even too literary for her to read, like Salman Rushdie and someone else. Shock Horror!

And now I feel crushed, even although I know she didn't intend to crush me.

I was aware of everything she said before. I have no delusions of grandeur. No secret dreams of one day winning the Booker Prize or the Nobel Prize. Hell, I'd consider myself exceptionally lucky to win £10 on the lottery.

I have never wanted fame or fortune. Well maybe a little fortune, but certainly not fame. I hate being in the spotlight and when someone praises me, I feel like a pretender and while I thank them politely, I'm already explaining away their nice words in my head.

All I have ever really wanted was to tell stories. I've been doing it since I was 14, long before the internet allowed me to share them. No one ever even saw those first stories, they were just for me and if no one ever read another story of mine, I would still write. It's a compulsion.

My biggest dream was to find an audience of people who wanted to read a story of mine, to lose themselves for a few hours in something I had crafted and maybe eventually, find enough of those people that I could write full time.

Now I seem to have found that audience (for a while at least) and I feel like crap. Last night I didnt want to go to bed, i was so eagre to see if i stayed put on the chart, or perhaps, maybe even climbed a little!

Right now, sales figured no longer make me smile, I'm not excited to wonder how long this charting will last, I'm no longer thrilled to know that I'm #15 in Amazons stable of historical romance authors, and the fact that I have currently have the 173rd best selling book out of all kindle books (which considering that Amazon has 1,672,889 kindle books for sale, is no small achievement) leaves me cold.

Instead of enjoying all that, I feel like a pretender who doesn't deserve any of this.

What I just can't figure out though, is, why it hurts so much more for someone you love to tell you something you already know? Why does the truth from someone else's lips reduce me to tears? Can someone explain that to me?


  1. Congratulations. What an accomplishment. As for getting rid of the inner critic, I find that the morning pages from The Artist's Way book help. Best wishes.