Clinging to life in the Goodreads Emergency Room

I’m haunted by this recurring vision in which I have a sudden crisis. I am rushed to the hospital and hooked up to all the most sophisticated machinery. As the doctor hovers over me and shines a light into my glassy pupils, the nurse hooks up the monitor, displaying all my vital statistics, as found on my Goodreads Author Dashboard.

The nurse starts reading important stats for the doctor to consider. “His average rating is stable at 4.29, but it’s based on only 21 ratings.”

“How many reviews?” the doctor asks.

The nursed scans the screen. “Seven.”

The doctor sighs. “That explains why I’m seeing signs of a collapsed ego.”

“It gets worse,” the nurse explains. “There are four books showing, but they only show up 1200 times on ‘to read’ shelves.”

The doctor shakes his head. “That’s only 300 per book. It’s a miracle he’s still writing.”

The nurse gasps as she continues reading. “Oh my goodness! There’s only one ‘currently reading’.”

“For each book?” the doctor asks.

“One, total,” the nurse replies, stifling the instinct to cover her mouth with her hand. “He’s hanging on by a thread.”

The doctor wipes sweat from his brow. “This is serious. Please tell me he has a few followers.”

“Yes, 37,” the nurse replies, trying to sound up-beat.

“That’s not good,” the doctor laments, “but I’ve seen worse. Is there anything we can use to jump start his writing career?”

“Well, he’s got quite a number of blog posts, but not too many people read them, maybe one view per post.”

“We’re going to have to do something to get his numbers up before his ambition flatlines. Set up some Giveaways, STAT! Let’s start with three and see where that gets us. Then I want him in some groups. Maybe we can get him interacting with people, if it’s not too late. If we can’t get his numbers up, he has no chance of becoming relevant.”

Later, the doctor greets my loved ones in the waiting room. “His writing career is not out of danger,” he tells them. “The good news is we were able to raise his average rating slightly, to 4.32. Also, we got his ‘to read’ shelf appearances up over 1300 and his followers to 39. These still aren’t great numbers, but, as far as his writing career goes, it’s a step in the right direction.”

“Doctor, I have just one question,” my wife says.

The doctor leans forward, showing a large, empathetic ear. “What is it?”

“Why do you keep making air quotes with your fingers every time you mention his writing career?”


5 reasons why I don’t aspire to be a famous author

I used to be like that. I used to have fantastic dreams about my books becoming best sellers: Oprah told everybody how good I was; I made money hand over fist; I went on talk shows, and all the eyes staring at blinking cursors spent half their time hoping to emulate my success and half their time resenting it.

I’ve changed. The more I thought about it, the more I realized fame and fortune would be too much hassle. I’m content being a regular guy with a modest income. People leave me alone. Sure, my kids will have to collect 47 scholarships to be able to go to college, but it’s good to establish goals early.

Here are five reasons why I can’t be bothered to become a rich and famous author.


I can’t have people chasing me around with cameras, waiting for me to do something embarrassing. They wouldn’t have long to wait. An individual as socially awkward as I am would become a feeding frenzy for the press. People forget all my gaffs because I’m just some random guy. They just shake their heads and walk away, and that’s how I like it.


All my new, hoity-toity friends would be constantly hounding me to go back to Spain again this year. “That little villa overlooking the Mediterranean you took last season was just so charming, you simply must rent it annually.” I’m used to driving to my vacations in a minivan. I don’t think there’s an interstate to Spain from here. Plus, “I’ll turn this private jet around right now!” rings hollow as a threat to bickering children.

Charming as all hell, but where do I park the minivan?


People lined up out the door, all of them wanting their books personalized, and the names people have today. I can’t spell any of them. They’d have to spell them out for me, and my penmanship is bad enough when I’m not distracted by trying to listen. At my little signings, there’s a short line and it moves fast, because everyone gets a book inscribed “To Jim”.

Impatient fans

Everybody would always be wanting to know, “When’s your next book coming out?” With all the mega-signings, Mediterranean vacations, and remembering not to pick my nose in public, when the hell do I have time to write a next book? As it is now, I have a much less stressful relationship with my public. By unspoken agreement, they don’t ask me when my next book is coming out and I don’t ask them if they bothered to read my last one.


I’d get so wrapped up in carting my big royalty checks to the bank, I’d lose my fire and start writing lazy prose instead of sharp, insightful pieces like this one. I’d wear pajamas for a way-too-large segment of the day. Maybe I’d just do underwear. Not being distracted by constant trips to the bank, or Spain, and not having to worry about how to spell multi-syllable names, leaves me plenty of time to be thoughtful and stay hungry. For example, right now I’m thinking about how hungry I am. I bet the famous guys haven’t had gritty, real-world thoughts like that in years.

Fame? Who needs it?