Thursday, July 21, 2011

The things we don't want to know

When I lived in Venezuela after college, I met a lot of interesting people from around the world. One was a girl from Sweden whose longtime boyfriend was a famous magician.

I was fascinated.

“Does he tell you how all the tricks work?” I asked her.

“I don’t want to know,” she told me with a smile. “It would ruin the mystique.”

I’ll admit it, I thought she was crazy. I’m the sort of person who opens Christmas presents early and reads online spoilers to learn how this season’s Bachelorette ends even though I’m not watching the show.

But the issue bubbled to the forefront of my brain yesterday morning when several of you told me Amazon was indicating only a few copies of Making Waves remained in stock. Was it really going to sell out? What did that mean? Did I need to start photocopying pages and mailing them off to Amazon?

The short answer is no: Amazon has plenty of books to sell.

But the whole thing set off a chain of conversations between my agent, me, and various execs at Sourcebooks about how sales totals are tallied, how many books are sent to different outlets, and how many copies have actually sold so far.

And that’s the part where I found myself wanting to put my fingers in my ear and hum. As it turns out, I don’t want to know.

It was a surprising sensation, but true. At this point, I can’t do much to control whether Amazon decides to ship the book two weeks early or how that might impact my first-week sales stats. I can’t control what the reviewers are saying. When presented with numbers about how many books have been printed or sold, all I can do is bite my nails and fret.
You may be surprised to know biting and fretting isn’t very productive.

The way I figure it, I already have plenty of things to worry about in my day-to-day life. There’s not much sense adding to the list with stuff I can’t do a damn thing about right now. I guess that’s why I find myself whimpering, “don’t tell me anything.” While ignorance may not be bliss, it at least keeps me from lying awake all night wondering if one more blog post about hurking in my underwear might’ve made the difference between my book becoming a bestseller or fading into oblivion.

How do you feel about surprises? Would you want to know how the magic tricks are done or how your book stats look once it’s out of your hands? Please share.

Oh, and if you know any good magic tricks, share those as well. I should have another skill to fall back on in case this writing thing doesn’t pan out.


Rick said...

I don't know, biting can be quite productive if it's the sort of thing you're into.

Potentially dumb question: Does Amazon shipping early potentially help you? I mean, I'd think pre-release sales are sort of on the level of pre-orders, which are generally awesome?

Also also, I bet a magician would be fantastic in the sack.

Oh, don't look at me like that. You were totally thinking it.

John Hinze said...

I think I would not want to know anything about the sales, right up to the point that they actually started selling. At that point I would probably start obsessively checking until it got to a point where I could say "Hell yay! I sold a lot of books!" then I could return to my normal state.

Sorry I don't know any magic tricks, unless you count making money disappear!

Patrick Alan said...

I just hope they printed enough Kindle copies and mine isn't delayed.

Sarah W said...

Obsessing about things is my favorite form of exercise, so I have a feeling I'll want to know everything about my book numbers (once I have a book out that generates numbers).

I don't know any magic tricks, but I know a lot of bar bets. Some of them even work. . .

Kristina said...

Magic shows irritate me to no end...I hate that no matter how hard I try, I can't figure out how the freaking card I picked ends up on the ceiling. Like I need any help feeling stupid... :)

Patty Blount said...

I love magic tricks and knowing how they're done! But I don't know any. :(

Elise said...

I join you in your boat, Tawna! I had the red alert appear and disappear on Amazon and let my emotions rise and fall with it. I've been doing a lot of fretting and biting, but am really trying to concentrate on more productive things, like...oh... actually writing. And hanging out with my daughter, which in today's case means watching elephants poop -- we're going to the circus. It's impossible to nailbite while watching elephants poop.

Unknown said...

I think there is such a thing as paralysis by analysis, which cuts me because I'm a stats geek at heart. Using numbers as a pure indication of success, particularly as it relates to a highly subjective experience like reading tastes, is a formula for bat-poop craziness. I guess it's probably best to leave it to the bean counters?

Mary Kate Leahy said...

Oh i disagree, I would really want to know. (I think, having never published a book.) For magic probably not though. Really good question :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Is used to be able to do a few card tricks. Alas, no more.

I prefer things like this to remain a mystery too. If I can't control it, I won't waste time worrying about it. Unless I do.

Judy,Judy,Judy. said...

I'm not that impressed by real magicians. I'm always aware they're tricking me somehow. Now magic in the form of physical comedy like the Amazing Jonathon - I love him.
I'd like to say I wouldn't want to know but I suspect I'd be lying to myself. I base this suspicion on the number of times I check the stats on my blog to see how many people may be reading the novel I'm serializing for free there. If money was involved - I'd probably obsess.

Katie Richie said...

I'm a total information junkie. I want to know as much as possible about almost everything (with the main exception being the dirty little secrets of my friends and family).

Magic tricks fascinate me. I want to know how they do those, too.

Linda G. said...

I'm not big on surprises. Sometimes I can't even relax enough to enjoy a book until I peek at the end to see if what happens is worth the time I'm investing in reading it.

(I KNOW. Sacrilege. What can I say? Spoilers don't spoil it for me.)

Knowing how a magic trick is done doesn't spoil it for me either. I am just as easily impressed by how well the magician pulls it off as I am by any perceived "magic."

Patrick Alan said...

I can teleport.

Anonymous said...

I'm a geek. If it's data, I must... know...!

But I prefer not to know about magic tricks, gifts, and book endings. Some things are just more fun when they're a surprise.

Karin said...

Oh, dear, I know the feeling. That's the way we are, us girls from Sweden, regardless of age. Don't want to ruin the mystique. First time my editor called me about how my book is sellin in East Africa I didn't stop myself. He was so happy: "It's sellin' very well!" (That was a few days after the release. So I asked how well, thinking that hundreds is OK, thousand is unlikely). "43", he said. "Fortythree what?!" I said. "Copies," he said. So now I don't ask any longer.