Many authors have asked me how Marred hit the bestsellers list during pre-release and remained there for several days. It’ll hit it again soon, too, by the way…any day now. But rather than discuss the work involved to sell enough books to hit the list, let me pose this question: Does that make me a bestselling author?
I honestly don’t know the answer. The title of bestselling author has been done to death. Lately, it seems everyone is a bestselling author.
For me, I don’t think I’ve earned the title yet, even though Marred has created quite the buzz and is doing fantastic. I’ve discussed this with my crime writing buddy, Garry Rodgers, many times. Perhaps I’m too honest for this business. But until the day I hit #1 and stay there I simply don’t feel comfortable crowning myself with that honor. Was it thrilling? Absolutely! Do I use Amazon to gage how I’m doing? Yes! So, why can’t I call myself a bestselling author? Everyone else does, and I don’t judge anyone who does. Matter of fact, I’m thrilled you’ve achieved that milestone.
Perhaps the title takes some time to get used to like a well-worn denim jacket or an old pair of jeans. My husband has no problem tooting my horn, but every time he does, I want to dive under the closest piece of furniture.
It’s almost as if Marred and I are two separate entities. I can cheer for Marred. But I don’t dare cheer for Sue Coletta, the author. And it’s not lack of confidence. I’ve done the work, earned my place, and am comfortable with myself as a writer, though I’ll always be a student of the craft.
Take today for instance. This morning I went to my doctor’s office, and the nurses swooned all over me. “I love your book. Will there be a sequel? When’s the next one coming out?” To say I wasn’t prepared for this reaction would be an understatement. One might think I cured cancer by the way they reacted to me. No longer am I just another patient. I’m the author of a book they loved. It’s cool. I won’t lie. At the same time, I found all the compliments overwhelming.
Look. For years I wrote stories that no one ever read. I swam through more than one slush pile and drowned with everyone else. So, when my head finally crested the water’s edge, I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. Intense panic set in when I had a release date. And once Marred hit the shelves, I had no idea how it would be received. Thankfully, it’s been a fun ride so far.
The other day Marred made it onto the local high school’s approved reading list through no work of my own. One of the parents took the initiative. When I first heard the news I thought, “Oh, no. Will Marred give kids nightmares?” I don’t want to be responsible for that.
I posted my concerns on FB and received warm and honest responses from so many people. Basically, they all told me that kids today see worse on TV and in movies. And maybe, just maybe, Marred will inspire a student to become a writer one day. How cool would that be? So, yeah, now I’m over-the-moon happy about it. When enough kids read Marred I’ll go visit the school. Which should be a blast. I’ll post pics here afterward.
Anyway, back to my point.
For many years while I struggled with rejection letter after rejection letter, pulled myself up and studied and learned and persevered and honed my craft, I always believed bestselling authors were those who hit the USA Today or New York Times lists, who were critically acclaimed, who sold hundreds of thousands of copies, who inspired and amazed. Amazon never entered the equation. Bestselling authors won Edgar awards and Bloody Daggers. They gave speeches and taught at conferences and seminars. They were held to the highest level of standards and achieved excellence in their chosen genres. Their work touched lives. Their work touched my life. They’re the reason I became an author. So, for me, until I reach that level of success I can’t in good conscience wear the title of bestselling author. Not yet. In my eyes I haven’t earned it.
The strange part is, I have no problem rejoicing when Marred hits the bestselling list. But when it comes to turning that title on myself, I stop. Is it humility? Or do I expect too much from myself? What about you? Can you wear the title proudly? If you can’t, then where’s your benchmark that will signal when you can?