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Confessions of an Amazon addict

Ok, I have a confession to make. My name is Patrick Rothfuss, and I am addicted to Amazon.com.

Not for the reason you might think, while I do use Amazon to occasionally pick up cheap DVD sets and hard to find out-of-print stuff, I actually do most of my book buying from the local independent bookstore. It’s hard walking away from Amazon’s sexy, cheap books, but I feel better about shopping locally. I know the money is staying in the community.

No, I’m addicted to Amazon for another reason entirely: the Amazon Sales Rank.

For those of you who don’t know about it. The sales rank is how well your book is selling on Amazon compared to all the other books. As I write this, I can see my rank is at #1224 among all books. A very respectable ranking, especially considering that I’m a new author.

What you might not realize is that authors don’t have any way of finding out how well their books are selling. We can read reviews and take guesses, but for the most part, we don’t have access to any real factual information about how well are books are selling. Every six months we get a royalty statement and that’s about it.

What we do have is the Amazon sales rank. You want to know the maddening thing? It updates, like, every 15 minutes or so. That means that I am fucking compelled to keep a Firefox instance open to my book’s Amazon page ALL THE TIME. Then, no matter what I’m doing, I can hop over and click refresh. Again, and again, and again. Just to see if it’s changed.

Ooh. Now I’m at 1028! Someone must have bought a book! Maybe two! I am a tiny god!

Because I’m constantly refreshing on Amazon, I’ve also developed a secondary addiction to the Amazon reviews.

Generally speaking, the reviews have been good. People like the book, and they have been generous with their praise. Every time I saw another 5-star review I got a warm fuzzy, and for several months, I was powerfully proud of my unbroken 5-star average. Then a few people gave it 1-star reviews and my average dropped to 4.5 stars, causing a great wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.

Still at 1028.

As a whole, I respect the concept behind the Amazon reviews. They’re like true democracy in action, everyone gets to chime in and let their voice be heard. PHD in English literature? You get 1 review. Fourteen year old boy who loves Nascar? 1 review. Benobo chimp addicted to methadone? Assuming you have a credit card, you get a review too.

Still 1028. Maybe it doesn’t update every 15 minutes.

While I respect the egalitarian nature of the Amazon reviews, it does tend to occasionally remind me how really low the lowest common denominator really is. A couple days ago some choad posted up a 1 star review because the book was 900 pages (which it isn’t) and because he’ll have to wait for book two to come out. I can respect a bad review if the person makes a few salient points, but my suspicion is that this guy hasn’t even read the book.

Nooo! I’m at 1375 now. I suck. The Karma gods are punishing me for defaming some poor anonymous reviewer’s character. And perhaps for the gratuitous use of the word ‘choad.’

Okay. Another confession. I just bought a copy of my own book to see if it would make the Amazon rank go back up. It didn’t (I expect there must be a delay.) But when I made my order, I saw that right now they’re selling my book for less than fifteen bucks. How cool is that? I’m all about shopping locally, but 40% off is a significant chunk of money…. Maybe I should buy a few more… Is it tacky to give away your own book as a Christmas gift?

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough. I should get back to revisions of book two….

Later,

pat

P.S. Still 1375.

Edit:
P.P.S. In the comments below, RoseNeko posted a link to an article so perfectly relevant to this that I wanted to
LINK IT HERE for all of you to see. Bless you Neko, and the person who wrote this article. Maybe now I can start letting my obsession go.

Y’know… using ‘P.S.’ Doesn’t make much sense anymore. For one, it was a convention that came about when you wrote letters longhand, so the P.S. was necessary in case you left something out. Nowadays there’s no reason to leave anything out. Since I’m typing everything out, I could just go back and add it into the original post.

What’s more. P.S. stood for ‘post script.’ But I’m not scripting anything, I’m posting a blog. So really, it should be P.P. for ‘post post.’

But somehow I don’t think that’s going to catch on…

P.P.P.S. 1087

Posted in reviews | By Pat42 Responses

Orson Scott Card likes the book.

The bland, matter-of-fact-ness of the above title in no way reflects my authory delight at discovering this NEWS POST by an author you might have heard of, Orson Scott Card.

The bit about the Name of the Wind about halfway down the page. For those of you who are link-phobic or too lazy to dig the piece about my book out of Card’s long, multifarious post. Here’s the good bits version:

Not a word of the nearly-700-page book is wasted. Rothfuss does not pad. He’s the great new fantasy writer we’ve been waiting for, and this is an astonishing book. […]

If you’re a reader of fantasy or simply someone who appreciates a truly epic-scale work of fiction, don’t go through this summer without having read it. At the very least it will keep you busy till the last Harry Potter comes out. But I warn you — after The Name of the Wind, the Harry Potter novel might seem a little thin and — dare I say it? — childish. You have been warned.

Yeah. I’ll take that.

Did I mention that it was ORSON SCOTT CARD who wrote it?

Anyway, I just got back from a family weekend and I’m digging my way out from under about 500-600 emails. So if you’re waiting for a response from me, thanks for your patience. If you’re not waiting, that’s fine too. You just keep on not waiting. That’ll work out just fine.

Later,

pat

Posted in cool things, reviews | By Pat19 Responses

A new review at Strange Horizons

Maybe it’s just been a while since I’ve read an in-depth review of the book (And by “a while” I mean a couple weeks.) but this one seems different. It’s more…. articulate. Not that my other reviews have been composed of grunts and spitting, but this one seemed… I dunno… extra articulate.

Looking at it again, though. I don’t think that’s where the difference is. Maybe this reviewer was thoughtful in a different way. She spends a fair amount of time musing about why the book works, the nature of fantasy, what makes an epic. Stuff like that. It’s not a rambly soapbox though, it all relates to her discussion of the book.

Anyway, I think it’s a lovely review, above and beyond the fact that she’s very flattering about the book.

She also compares me to Dickens. Which I’m still how sure how I feel about. I’m pretty sure she meant it as a complement, though. So I’ll take it that way.

For those of you who’d like to read the whole thing, you can find it HERE.

There’s also a place for comments below the actual review. I was going to leave one for her, mentioning how much I liked the review, but then I couldn’t decide if it was weird to post a comment on my own review. Plus I didn’t want to look like an ass-kisser.

Gech. I’m rambling. I’ve got to go get some sleep.

Later,

pat

Posted in reviews | By Pat7 Responses

If anyone's interested….

There’s a new Q & A interview thingie up over here. It’s a newish blog called Dribble of Ink that has reveiws, author interviews, and stuff like that….

I have a tendency to rant and/or pontificate, so this is actually just half of a longer interview. I think he’ll be posting part two in a couple of days.

And for those of you who were asking, don’t worry, I’m going to get around to the other piece of the Wiscon post soon. It’s just been a busy couple of days….

pat

Posted in Interviews | By Pat10 Responses

Something I forgot….

Tonight I got an e-mail from a friend who just discovered Robin Hobb’s review of my book. I wasn’t surprised that they were geeking out about it, but I was surprised that they had only found out about it now, over a month after the fact. I told them that if they kept an eye on my blogs, they’d get a heads-up when cool things like this happened.

They told me that they did read the blogs, and that I’d never mentioned it.

I didn’t believe them, of course, but looking through my previous blogs proved them right. That’s when I realized this must have been one of the things I meant to write about, then didn’t. This happens with unfortunate regularity.

What happened was this. Last year, when we were trying to collect author blurbs for the back of the book, I mentioned that I’d love to get a quote from Robin Hobb. I’ve loved her stuff for years. When I read her Assassin books back in the day, they gave me hope that my character-centered story might actually be publishable.

I scraped together all the courage in my timid Midwestern self, and introduced myself to Robin through e-mail. She was gracious enough to accept an ARC of the book (Advance Reading Copy) but told me straight up that she was really busy with deadlines, and that she usually doesn’t read or blurb new authors. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. I told her I understood entirely, and that I was flattered that she was willing to talk with me and accept a copy of the book.

Months passed, and we got blurbs from some great authors: Williams and Anderson and Brooks and more. I didn’t hear from Robin, and I figured she was still working against her deadline. I liked that option better than the though that she’d given it a try and simply didn’t like it. It must have been her deadlines. Of course.

Then, about a week before my book’s publication date, I got an unexpected e-mail. Robin told me she’d finally got around to reading it, and she thought it was great. What’s more, she actually went out of her way to post a review up on Amazon. As it was too late to get a blurb from her on the cover.

To put it simply, I was filled with geeky joy. That’s probably why I forgot to write up a little blog about it. I was too tingly.

So for those of you who haven’t already seen it. Here’s a link to the review on my page. Or, if you’d prefer, you can go check it out directly on the Amazon site.

For you Hobb fans out there, sorry I didn’t mention this before. Better late than never.

pat

Posted in reviews | By Pat3 Responses

On Becoming a Review Connoisseur….

I love talking about writing. I love talking about books I like and what makes them work. Alternately, I like talking about books I hate and what makes them suck.

So it goes without saying that I love talking about my own book, too. When people read my book and want to ask me questions, it’s fun answering them. I’m proud as a new mother talking about her baby.

But there is one question I do not love. One question that I’ve never really been able to answer.

It usually comes up in a casual conversation that goes something like this:

Me: So what do you do?

Them: Oh, I’m getting my PHD in advanced beverage management. What about you?

Me: I teach and work on my novel.

Them: You’re writing a novel? Wow. What’s it about?

At this point the conversation can take two different paths. Most people really don’t care about the novel. They’re just making a polite social noise. So I say, “Oh, it’s about a lot of things,” and the conversation moves along to another topic.

But some people are really interested. They ask follow-up questions, gently encouraging me to talk until eventually I break down and try to explain it. Because, ultimately, and I WANT to tell them what the book is about, I just suck at it.

Them: What’s it about?

Me: It’s… well, it’s kind of the story of a man’s life. An exceptional man. It’s sort of like a behind-the-scenes look at the myth of the hero. As the story progresses you see the truth of this guy’s life is really different than the legends that have grown up around him over the years.

Them: Oh, I –

Me: But it’s more than that. It’s a mystery. The story centers around his attempt to uncover the hidden truths of his world. It’s about what it means to be human. It’s a love story, too. It’s a story about stories. About how everyone tells stories, but at the same time stories shape our lives.

Them: Um, Okay, I guess that –

Me: It’s about adventure! It’s about a world so real you can touch it. About love, loss and betrayal! Truth! Beauty! It’s like a thousand angels singing in your head! It’s a three-day orgasm with super-size fries and a footrub. It’s…. it’s….

Them: [backing slowly away.] I’m just going to go hide behind something if that’s alright with you….

What makes it hard is that I’m trying to be honest. If I just lied to these people about my book, it would be easy:

Then: So what’s your book about?

Me: It’s The Princess Bride meets Fight Club, with a little bit of Pirates of the Caribbean sprinkled over the top.

Them: Sweet!. [Leaves at a sprint to go buy the book.]

It’s probably this particular deficiency that caused me to get endlessly rejected back when I was writing query letters to agents.

What’s the point of all this? The point is that my particular handicap has helped me really appreciate the art of the review.

In the last month or so, my book has been getting reviewed. It’s a new experience, having strangers read my book, then publishing their comments up for the world to see.

I’ve never read reviews before. The most I want to know about a book or movie is if it’s good or not. No details. When I read a book or watch a movie, I want to experience it uncluttered with any previous knowledge or expectations.

So this last month has been an eye opener for me, because the reviews have been rolling in, and I’m curious what people have to say about my baby. Er, I mean my book.

My newly formed opinions of a review is this: a bad review summarizes a story, like a third grader’s book report. A good review delves deeper, they not only tell you why it a book tickled their fancy or left them cold, a good review shows you what a story is about, what lies at the heart of it.

And, since that’s something I’ve always had a hard time expressing, it’s really interesting watching other people do it. I know the book better than they do, of course, but they’re better at describing these things. Sometimes I read a review and think, “Yes! that’s it! Why couldn’t I have said that?”

Sometimes I read one and think, “Huh, I’d never considered that before, but I guess that is sort of a central theme….”

And, of course, there are a few where I read them and think: “The hell?!?” Luckily, these have been few and far between.

Anyway, here’s a few reviews that I read just today, that led to this rambly musing.

One’s from Locus, which is one of the high-mucky-muck sci-fi/fantasy magazines out there.

And this one is from a smaller, independent reviewer on a website called Flames Rising.

In some ways I’m jealous of these people who get to read by book for the first time. They get to see the book from the outside. That’s something I’ll never be able to do.

Later,

pat

Posted in reviews, the craft of writing | By Pat8 Responses
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