Last week came the news that Amazon.com is giving authors access to BookScan information--which tracks sales of your books in the big chains, Amazon, and some independents. You can just click on a tab and find out how many books you sold the week before, and see a lovely map of your sales across this great land.
This confirms my suspicions that Amazon, with its sales ranks and customer reviews, exists solely to drive authors batshit crazy. We need something, of course; we're all such paragons of sanity and equanimity--at least we have been since no one drinks absinthe anymore.
It seems like such a good thing. And, indeed, people on the internets are embracing the news. Transparency! Access! No more of those nasty publishing-types holding the keys to all the information!
The thing is, those nasty publishing types have met authors before. When they speak to you in soft, soothing tones, it's not because that's just how they all talk.
Listen to me now. You do not want this information. Just like you don't want to know what every person with internet access thinks about your book. Having internet access is not necessarily a sign of good judgement. My mom once set up a Google alert for me so she could find out whenever any blog or message board mentioned my books. Then she turned it off. Some things, even your mother doesn't want to know.
The thing is, it's really hard to sit down and write when you're constantly pressing reload on Amazon for your sales rank, or when your email dings with the news that some blogger thinks your characters "have some intelligence," or when you're shrieking at some customer reviewer on Amazon because she obviously didn't read your book and probably can't read anyway because it's really hard to read with your head so far up your ass. And it's really really hard to write when you discover you've only sold 5 copies of your books in Montana, ever. And then you start thinking about Montana, and what you ever did to it, and why they don't appreciate your genius, and how you are not a genius at all but a complete failure and should develop an absinthe habit to numb the emptiness gnawing at your soul, and then you look at the population of Montana and divide it by copies sold, except you forget how to do long division and anyway it doesn't matter because your books sold per person in Illinois is so much higher, and you're clearly beloved in Illinois, SO WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH MONTANA?
The internet provides all sorts of ways to drive you nuts. And to make sure you never write again. Don't go looking for it. Let those nasty publishing types tell you what you need to know in their soothing tones. And then just go on living your life as a paragon of sanity and equanimity.