Tag: opinion

What’s “Bestseller” Really Mean?

Many writers have the goal of having a best-selling book. After all, that would be the ultimate sign of writing success, right?

Or maybe not.

There are different definitions for “best-selling” on different platforms. Many lists exist that determine what sells the best: USA Today, New York Times, and Amazon are the ones most often referred to in author biographies.
If a book is a bestseller, that means its sales must be watched and compared to other books. That’s why the list it bestseller list it appears on matters in actual significance.

Amazon

Amazon is unique among these three lists in that it is an actual book distributor.
Therefore, the sales of these books aren’t tracked anywhere but on Amazon’s site. And while Amazon is certainly a large book distributor, it isn’t the only outlet for book sales.
Another thing about Amazon is that it has hundreds (maybe even thousands) of sub-categories for its books. This is great if you’re looking for a book about starting a monkey ranch, but it can also be misleading in the case of a “best-seller” tag.
What do I mean?
I’ve seen books in very specific categories sell one copy and since they were the only book sold in that category that day, the book gets the orange “best-seller” banner from Amazon.
The author begins to claim they are a best-selling author (because they are) but what does that really mean?
Shouldn’t a best-selling author have hundred, thousands or millions of books out in readers hands? Certainly if I made dozens of crochet cases for tablets and only sold one of them (which is actually true), can I claim this is the best-selling product I’ve ever made?
After all, it’s the ONLY thing I’ve crocheted that I’ve ever sold. So in one sense, the statement is true.
But it’s misleading.
Fair warning: someone who is an Amazon Best-selling Author may not have actually sold a ton of books. (Caveat: Amazon does have a list of best-selling books that includes ALL the books. The day I wrote this, most of the books in the top ten on that list were also on one or both of the other lists. The number one book was also number one on BOTH of the other lists.)
Since learning this, I give much less credence to that label when it’s claimed by authors. It sounds impressive and prestigious, but it doesn’t always mean a book sold tons of copies.

USA Today

This is a list I’ve seen many of my indie author friends strive to make. And many of them have attained the status.
So, how do you make this list? Is it more prestigious than Amazon’s list?
This is a weekly list (as opposed to one that’s updated hourly like Amazon’s) that ranks titles selling well in both print and electronic formats. The sales numbers are collected from a variety of outlets: bookstore chains (like Barnes & Noble), independent bookstores, mass merchandisers (think WalMart or Target) and online retailers (including Amazon). See the complete list of sellers and the actual definition at USA Today’s site.

The list does NOT subdivide out according to category. This means the list will include nonfiction, romance, fantasy and memoir, along with any other genre that sold in substantial quantity.


For example, the week I wrote this (January 12), the number one seller was in current affairs, number two and three in genre fiction, number four in business and number five in youth.
A couple of my author friends hit the #89 slot with a boxed set including twenty-six fantasy/science-fiction novellas. They marketed hard in order to hit this list so they authors would be able to claim the status as “USA Today Best-selling Author.”

As amazing as this title is, in this case, I don’t think it means as much as it does for those authors who hit the list with a stand-alone title. Before everyone batters me in the comments, let me explain.

I pre-ordered the collection (and pre-orders are important if you want a book to hit a top spot because all those sales count on the day the book releases). I did so to read one specific story by an author I adore.
Eventually, I did finish a few of the other stories, but there were plenty that didn’t fit my reading preferences. And some of the writing wasn’t all that great (in my opinion). But every one of those twenty-six authors is now a best-selling author. Even if NO ONE reads the story they contributed to the collection.
This is the reason I say attaining the bestseller label in this way might not mean much. So, again, I don’t pay that close of attention to author’s who claim this title. (Sorry, that makes me sound like a book snob, which I’m not. I hardly ever go to the bestseller list for book recommendations.)

New York Times

The New York Times publishes “authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the United states, sorted by format and genre.”
As you can see, this means the books are ranked in genre (so all the self-help books will compete against other self-help books) and format. This means that the numbers of hardback, paperback and digital formats aren’t considered together.
That makes this list more concise than USA Today’s but not as narrow as Amazon’s. Which means it is more difficult to leverage yourself onto the list.

These are the weekly best sellers lists:

  • Fiction combined print & e-book fiction, hardcover fiction, paperback trade fiction
  • Nonfiction combined print & e-Book nonfiction, hardcover, paperpace, advice, how-to & miscellaneous
  • Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover, Picture books, series, Young Adult hardcover (meaning the paperback and e-Book sales don’t even count for authors making this list.)

To compare this with USA Today, on January 12, the number one book in combined print & ebook fiction was #2 on USA Today’s list. The number 2 book in this category was only #23 on the USA Today list, while number three was also in that slot on USA Today. The book at number four was ranked #8 by USA Today.
In case you’re wondering, the book in the top slot on USA Today was number one in both combined and hardcover nonfiction on The New York Times list.
Since it is obviously more difficult to make this list, does that mean it’s more prestigious? I wouldn’t say that, but then I’m not someone who follows these lists.
I will say that my best-selling author goal is linked to The New York Times, though. And I don’t plan to “leverage” sales to make this list. I want to get there organically.
Will that make it more meaningful? To me, yes, but who knows if the average reader will even care?
After all, is Sharon Hughson, multi-genre author any different than Sharon Hughson, NYT Best-selling author? In my mind, I’m the same person, writing in the same style, either way.
Is one of these seen as more prestigious or more famous or more salable? I guess that depends on if the reader cares about such things.
Me? If I like your writing, I don’t care if no one else has ever heard of you. I will buy and read your books. I will give them four or five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, and I’ll recommend them to every reader I know.

What’s your opinion about the title of best-selling author? What makes a “bestseller” in your mind?

Captain America: Is it all about the Bromance?

Opinion_Cover

Captain America is the ultimate super hero. I’ve said this before. In detail (you can read about it here).

That’s why I was a little offended when some people claimed Cap was dumping on the world in order to save Bucky.

It was bad enough when they claimed Cap didn’t have a real reason for neglecting the treaty. You know, the Sokovia initiative that 117 countries in the UN had agreed would govern future missions of the Avengers.

These naysayers assassinated Captain Rogers’ character because he turned on his “team.” All because protecting Bucky was more important than anything. Cap forfeited his good name and reputation all in the name of bromance.

I disagree. Cap wanted to help Bucky, sure, but it’s all about freedom with Captain Rogers. It always has been. Ever since we met him before World War 2. Back before he was an “enhanced” human.

I blame the storytellers for this misunderstanding – or misrepresentation, depending on if you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan. They didn’t do the best job laying down out the cause and effect bread crumbs.

Why did Iron Man, a guy who flouted authority at every turn, suddenly change his mind? Why did the team captain, a known rule-follower, stop following the status quo?

Motives

Iron Man’s change of heart was linked to his encounter with the grieving mother in the basement of MIT.

Thousands of people died in the combined alien attacks the Avengers defended against. Why did this one boy’s story suddenly make Stark rethink his attitude about accountability?

Bring in the end of his relationship with Pepper. He says himself that signing this treaty is his last ditch effort to win her back. Because he can’t stop putting the suit on. And that has nothing to do with saving the world and everything to do with self-redemption. He said as much to the woman at MIT.

He tried to use the boy’s death to motivate the other Avengers to sign the treaty. This was no different than General Ross’ replay of the destruction caused by their former battles.

Cap_IronMan_CivilWar

Even before Iron Man and the General come calling, Cap is watching the news. He was appalled at the destruction in Nigeria (a mistake). However, he realizes the goal and purpose of the team is bigger than that.

Is Cap calloused about the collateral damage? I don’t think so. He understands the principle of commanding soldiers in every offensive. Innocents will die, but you can limit the number of casualties by eliminating the mastermind criminals.

“You can’t bring them back.”

The biggest contributor to Cap’s change of heart toward the “new rules” proposed by the government is Agent Carter’s death. Specifically her words about compromise resonate with Cap. “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, plant yourself like a tree.”

Cap couldn’t compromise on using his abilities to protect the masses. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been following the franchise. In the first Avengers movie, he told Director Fury something similar.

Captain America’s done being used by politicians to further their agendas. He wasn’t sad to see S.H.I.E.L.D. fall. They had too much control and wanted even more. Their presence was infringing on the right to freedom and justice for Joe American.

The irony: in choosing not to sign this UN proposal he falls into the machinations of the evil mastermind central to Captain America: Civil War.

Manipulations

There’s no doubt that Cap was distracted by the thought of helping Bucky. We saw this in the beginning when the virus-stealing terrorist mentioned his name.

That fact is how the vengeance-seeking villain manipulated the situation. He had “studied” the team, and especially Cap, for a year. He knew Bucky was his “weakness.”

And he used that to move the Avengers around the chessboard of his evil plot.

Emmo manipulated the system to force Cap’s hand. Cap had to choose “follow the new law” (which he never agreed to do) or follow his principles. Would he let the authorities gun down an unconvicted man? (Face it. We all knew Bucky had to be innocent since he was in Bucharest while the UN was bombed in Vienna.)

Cap felt it was his duty to bring Bucky in because he would have the best chance of doing so without collateral damage (and isn’t that was the muckety-mucks were supposedly screaming about?). He went to Bucky’s apartment with the intention of taking him to the authorities.

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

Would he have protected a perfect stranger with the same vigor? I would say yes. Because that is who he is. He’s the defender of the weak, protector of freedom and upholder of justice. Even though the filmmakers have tried to paint him in a different light in this movie.

Another reason Emmo chose to frame Bucky was because he needed the information about the other winter soldiers. The fact that he knew Cap would feel compelled to protect him, even if it meant going against the rest of the team, was an additional bonus.

The logic behind Emmo’s knowledge is another shortfall in this film. How did he know about the Starks’ murder ahead of time? The video footage was an essential part of guaranteeing a fight between Tony and Steve.

On my second viewing of the movie, I did catch how Emmo ordered breakfast from Russia. This insured that room service would discover the dead psychiatrist thus alerting the Avengers that everything had been a set up.

But the power-jealous authorities won’t see it that way. And that’s why Captain America had to step outside the law to deal with this villain.

Is my infatuation with Cap blinding me to this bromance-inspired revolt? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Were the motives for Tony and Cap realistic? Do you think Cap would have signed the treaty if Bucky wasn’t in danger?

Why What other People Thinks Doesn’t Matter

People are happy to give us their opinions, aren’t they? Even when we don’t ask. But, why do we ask? Does what they think really matter in the long-term scope of life?

So, you’ve probably already been judging me for buying a diamond in the Caribbean. Or maybe for not bringing you back something nice, too.

Which means it’s time to finish telling on myself. When you left me on Monday, I was walking into the den of diamonds. Completely oblivious to what was about to happen.

A Diamond in any other Color

I mentioned how wedding rings traditionally have diamonds. And these are clear diamonds. The more colorless the better.

I have to say, I’ve swerved from the traditional path. (People have something to say about that, too, I’m sure.)

While we listened to the shopping expert give her spiel, Mr. Wonderful was jotting down notes on watches (THAT’S a whole different story). Me, I was gaping at the rainbow of colors.

Chocolate. Pink. Blue. Black. Diamonds – but with color. (Because we all know clear is not a color.)

And I’d become a little infatuated with blue diamonds. Not that the pink weren’t sparkly or the black wouldn’t go with any outfit. But there’s something about blue. *sighs*

Little did I suspect as I trod into the den of diamonds to pick up my free charm bracelet and charms that this store would host a gaggle of the brilliant blue babies.

The Hope Diamond is a blue diamond.

In fact, blue diamonds abound with this retailer. (I mean, level two distributor who can give you the BEST deal ever because you don’t have to pay any middle men. Yes, I’m repeating word-for-word what our shopping expert told us.)

Next thing I know, one of the managers is presenting me with a 1.62 carat blue diamond pendant. (”I don’t wear necklaces.”) And showing me how it would look set in a diamond wedding band and paired with the blue and white diamond band I had starting drooling over admiring.

OR there was this Crown of Light cut white diamond (.82 carats) that I could set between the blue diamonds. This is what I wanted. Or so I thought.

But when they displayed those diamonds side by side in the proposed settings, I had to admit the blue diamond called to me. It was unique. It was my color. And it was HONKING HUGE.

Not that I care about that. Or I didn’t think I did.

Until the man started giving us numbers. We could get the blue diamond – twice the size of the white – for the exact same price as the much smaller traditional diamond.

What about the Crown of Light cut? That’s what I really wanted, right?

Lucky for me (or perhaps the salesman), that gorgeous blue diamond that glittered and glistened like snow in the sun was also faceted in the Crown of Light manner.

What do you think?

Enter the moment when the title comes into play. You know, the issue of what other people think (and if it matters to me).

My jaw still sat on the floor at the exorbitant figure this man wanted us to spend on a new wedding set. I’m a starving artist. I LOST money in my career during 2015. Anything over $1000 seems out of reach.

This was WAY beyond that.

My husband asks, “What will you say when other people don’t really like this ring? That might happen.”

Because, you know, it isn’t a traditional white diamond. And it’s gigantic, so people will likely assume it’s zirconium (i.e. FAKE).

It took me a second to answer. But not because I was pondering the question. My brain was still frozen over the price tag. And the fact we were still talking about this ring instead of walking out of the store (we had the charm we came for).

So you don’t like my ring, huh?

“I’ll tell them it’s unique and showcases my individual style and personality.” (You know, the standby ‘it’s unique like me’ argument.)

He nods. The bartering begins. And just like that I’ve got a ring I never planned to want.

The Truth of It

Ring Number Three (which looks a LOT like ring #2 only marquis-cut stones)
Ring Number Three (which looks a LOT like ring #2 only marquis-cut stones)

The truth is, I received tons of compliments on ring number two in the five or ten years I wore it. The same can be said of ring number three.

“Your ring is gorgeous.”

“Are those rubies? What a cool idea!”

“Where did you get that ring? It’s amazing.”

“I’ve never seen a wedding ring like that before.”

And the list could go on for the rest of the page, but you get the gist.

Welcome to the present. Now I have a truly amazing ring. One that is unique in every way. But very few people have said anything about it.

Granted, I’m not the person who shoves my hand into someone’s face and says, “Look what The Man bought me.” Mainly because I don’t want to answer what will be the next question, “How much did it cost?”

Because it cost more than my husband should have spent. Anytime he buys me something I perceive as expensive (and only a millionaire wouldn’t classify this ring that way), I immediately shy away from it.

I don’t deserve that. The money could be better spent elsewhere.

What is that about? (Whatever it is, it will have to wait for a different blog post – or better yet, a therapy session.)

Do any of us deserve a gift?

And why does your opinion of a gift I received matter?

It doesn’t.

Sorry. That’s the truth. The gift was for me. Personalized according to my specifications.

Here is the Caribbean Blue - Hope Diamond's baby sister
Here is the Caribbean Blue – Hope Diamond’s baby sister

I adore it. I’m amazed by it. I stare at it, twisting it this way and that in different lights (while hubbs laughs at me).

The giver wanted to demonstrate his love. He thinks nothing about the price being “too much.” Is anything too expensive for the one you love?

In the end, what other people think about my ring (and I guarantee you, they all have opinions, even if they haven’t spouted them to me) doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t.

I might need to say that a few thousand more times. Because when I love something, I want everyone else to love it, too.

But if they don’t? That should never affect my feelings or thoughts.

Do you let what other people think affect your own attitudes? Why is this such an epidemic in our society?

It’s all about the Attitude

positive-attitude quotespositive

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen the daily memes. They’ll stop soon. There can’t be 365 unique quotes about having a positive attitude.

Life should be an adventure. And as I learned on my biking trip in Hawaii, the key to enjoying an adventure is to have the right attitude.

Some people would say there are only two types of attitudes: positive and negative. Or maybe good and bad. But I think attitudes are colored in shades of gray.

Negative

At the black end of the spectrum is the naysayer. You know who I’m talking about. They just won the lottery – and complain about the amount of taxes they have to pay.

Any normal person takes at least a few minutes to jump around like a maniac, shrieking in delight. But a blackened attitude doesn’t see a good side.

It’s difficult to spend more than a few minutes with this person. Why? You feel like crying. Or strangling them. Or jumping off the nearest cliff.

Or heading back to bed – with earplugs so you don’t have to listen to their downer-isms any longer.

It’s Eeyore, but without the cuteness.

Bad-ish

Thankfully, there aren’t too many people with a full-blown negative attitude. At least not as a permanent fixture in their personality.

We can excuse it when they’ve had a bad day, been fired from their job, wrecked their car or lost someone they loved. If they were all sunshine and roses in those moments, we’d question their mental health.

The type of person that bugs me is the dark gray bad attitude. This is the person who takes it upon themselves to rain on everyone’s happiness.

“I just got a raise.”

“Uncle Sam thanks you for the additional taxes he’s getting,” Says Big Gray. Really? How about a “congratulations” before you burst my joy with your sharp words?

This type of person is worse than Mr. Black because I can’t be myself around them. I’m constantly keeping my excitement about life inside because I don’t want it sullied by their caustic commentary.best-quotes-on-attitude

Average

Somewhere at the mid-scale gray is where most of us reside. We have good days when we can spout appropriately positive remarks upon hearing the good news.

We’re quick to agree with those whose day was less than charming, consoling them with a few black comments of our own. All in the name of being there for them.

Good-ish

There is a silver-hued attitude. We know some people like this. They always have something upbeat to say no matter what the situation.

“I lost my job.”

“That’s terrible, but truthfully, you’ve seemed pretty unhappy with it the past few months anyway. Now you can find something better.” Oh the brilliance of their shiny silver-tongued words.

But do they mean them?

Often, the people who are eternally optimistic make me suspicious. It’s not that I don’t believe you can have a positive outlook all the time (we’ll get to that next), but because sometimes turning the tables on a disaster is the wrong move.

Don’t they care that I lost my job? Their positive spin minimizes my anguish over the bad turn I must endure.

Positive

What on earth does she think a positive attitude looks like, then? If it isn’t the person who always has something nice to say, what else is there?

True empathy.

“We had to put my dog to sleep.”

If you try to put a positive spin on this, you’ll alienate that person. Go ahead. Try it. Give me your positive comment below.

Sometimes no words are the most positive thing you can offer. Sharing their tears and wrapping them up in a hug are great ways to fill the silence.

Seriously.

How is this positive?

When that person thinks back on that difficult time, your kindness will stand out. They might even tell you how much they appreciated that you didn’t try to console them with words.

I’m a writer, but sometimes there are no words that are situation-appropriate.

The person with the crystal-white positive attitude exercises wisdom with their tongue. They have upbeat words when that is what fits the moment. Helpful words flow from their lips when a person spews negativity and there is a positive antidote.

Ms. Positive knows that sometimes a smile, shared tears, or physical comfort is the positive “shot in the arm” to remedy truly heartbroken moments of negativity.

In the end, life is all about the attitude you face it with. Where are you on this scale? Or maybe you see it in black and white. Let’s discuss it.