Zip It Mr. Galilei

Did you ever tell someone, “Don’t feel that way” and not get the best reaction?

In the same vein is “Don’t be that way.” Honestly, I could never figure that one out. Feels like a philosophical conundrum of the highest order. Telling someone not to be.

Four hundred years ago this week in 1616, Cardinal Bellarmine, representing the Catholic Church, issued an order to astronomer Galileo Galilei that he needed to abandon his strongly held opinion the Earth and planets revolve around the sun. The position of the church and many in power at the time was the reverse, the sun revolved around the Earth, the center of the universe.

Galileo Galilei was banned from “holding the opinion, promoting it, or teaching it.”

“Mr. Galilei, don’t think that way.”

Obviously, Galileo has been proven correct in his original analysis and the church leaders were incorrect, but it goes to show that when you have power, you can issue orders to those who think differently to stop thinking a certain way.

Like that actually works.

In book publishing, there are a number of things we have wrong, so I am here today to set the record straight once and for all so everyone would stop “thinking that way.” And in the process, I will personally feel better for pointing out the error.

Incorrect Publishing Thinking:

  • The number of books sold does not equal the number actually read. Since many (most?) books are never read in their entirety, you would probably be depressed by how many people actually read and took to heart what you wrote. So, if you sold 10,000 books, don’t go around telling people that 10,000 people read your book. The actual number read is a fraction of 10,000. Stop promoting this behavior.
  • A corollary to the above is for traditionally published authors. The number reportedly sold by your publisher is not the total number sold to readers. Those are different numbers. Publishers pay royalties on the number of books shipped to various sales channels. Sometimes books don’t sell and retailers return them. Books sit un-purchased on shelves. And most people don’t read books they buy in their entirety anyway. (See above) Have a nice day.
  • Promoting a certain number of books “in print” is like telling people the sun revolves around the Earth. It’s just wrong. Authors and publishers shouldn’t be proud for how many books are in boxes in a warehouse. Stop doing this and promoting it.
  • When an editor says, “This looks interesting” regarding your manuscript or proposal, that is good, but it does not mean, “We’ll publish it.” The decision process involves multiple steps and people. Don’t tell your friends you are getting published just yet just because you are so happy an editor liked it. Same principle applies to agents. Stop feeling that way.
  • When speaking with an agent or traditional publisher, don’t mention “Two other publishers have expressed interest” in your book if the two are indie publishers who you pay to have your book published. Of course they are interested, they want to sell their services. Please stop doing and teaching this.
  • Awards for writing won before you exited grammar school do not qualify you as an “Award-winning Author.” Stop promoting this.
  • Using shortcuts to pump up your social media numbers will not result in committed followers. Please stop holding the opinion it does, promoting it, or teaching it.
  • To online reviewers, for Pete’s sake when you are rating a book on Amazon or anywhere “stars” are selected, one star is bad, five stars are good. How many times do we see a one-star review, accompanied by a “best book I ever read” comment. One star does not mean “first place.” This must stop immediately. Again, one=bad, five=good.
  • For everyone in the world, if you are in a local bookstore and mention “Amazon” or any online retailer other than the store website, you are in the same category as the person who tells their spouse about all the other people they would rather marry. In other words, really dumb. Please, stop doing this, stop promoting this and for heaven sake, never teach it.

Isn’t life complicated? So much to know, so many hoops to jump through.

Bonus Correction: The phrase is, “I couldn’t care less,” not “I could care less.” If you could care less, then you care somewhat. You are trying to communicate that you don’t care at all, so you couldn’t care less.

I feel better already.

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