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What happened to the and in fame and fortune?

This week, I was on the cover of Publishers Weekly. (Their lack of punctuation, not mine.) The whole industry buzzes about the importance of a writer’s platform. Being on the cover of PW should add a big plank to one of those, surely? Book sales should soar. Telephones should ring. Fortune should follow fame. Did it? Well, no.

I’m in the unusual position, being also a publisher, of being able to track my book sales. Most authors go out into the world and line up their store readings, and their school visits, their advertising and promotion (if they’re rich), and their pubic relations and media coverage (if they’re lucky), and have no way of telling what’s making the blindest bit of difference. I, on the other hand, can log into my distributor’s amazing database and see, in real time, how many copies of each title were ordered and shipped, by whom, and exactly when.

So, I’m sorry to have to report that I have found no direct correlation between being on the cover of Publishers Weekly and the following week’s book sales. Similarly no correlation between being on NPR and book sales. Or in the San Francisco Chronicle and book sales. Or being well reviewed and book sales. Or winning awards and book sales.

What I have found, though, is that my brand image has changed. I’ve received an increasing number of invitations to read, and to speak, and to teach. When I take up those invitations, I find that more and more people know of Goosebottom Books, and they have a very gratifying perception of our success. Opportunities that I once had to chase now come my way—being on the cover of PW not least among them. And the phone does ring. Every week more people seek out and are willing to pay for my help as a self-publishing consultant and children’s book editor.

So maybe fortune will follow fame? Maybe it’s just a long and, like the here in “hhhhhere’s Johnny!”?

I like to think of it as skipping a stone across a pond (something I’m horrendous at, by the way). Just because your stone’s not across the pond yet doesn’t mean it isn’t in the middle of a skip that’s necessary to get it there. Just because each plank hasn’t seemed to make much difference doesn’t mean they won’t eventually hammer up into a stage.

And if not—because let’s face it, the reality could be not—if not, then well, better fame and no fortune than no fame and no fortune, right?

Enjoy the writing life. As grandpa said in my book, Ruby’s Wish: enjoy it while you can.

Shirin Yim Bridges