Thinking Small Rescues Me Again

I have to confess to feeling perpetually disappointed that my book has sold so few copies. It’s a disappointment that still hovers over me, sometimes at quite an altitude, other times much closer to my head. For months, I did my best to promote “Small,” but nothing seemed to boost sales in any appreciable way. Now, I’ve given up focusing on promotion, but the disappointment lingers.

Yesterday, on my way to lunch with three women from Berkeley Rotary, where I’m to give a talk this month, I was acutely aware of the disappointment. So acutely, that I began to feel ashamed. Who am I to be giving a talk to Rotary? I haven’t sold enough books to have earned this gig, I thought . I was walking to a local restaurant, and while I had set off feeling energized, now every step felt effortful, as if I were trudging up a steep hill.

It’s difficult to sell books these days. So many are published, competition is fierce. Other writers I know have hired publicists for steep figures to try to get the word out. But I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars, and decided to promote “Small” myself. Other writers I know also spend hours on social media attracting a following, which helps sell books. I dabbled a bit with Facebook, Linked In and, Twitter, but found posting multiple times a day and each week too intrusive. I had so much ese I wanted to do, like write my new book, see my clients, take photographs, go for walks, read.

I don’t know how many books these other writers sell, but I do know that I haven’t sold very many. And it makes me sad. Sometimes very sad.

That’s how I felt yesterday. Sad and ashamed. Until I remembered to think small. When I caught myself, I shifted my thoughts to the lunch I was heading toward. To my friend, Sallie, who had arranged the lunch. And to her two friends, who are talented, compassionate and active women. How lovely that my book was leading me to new friendships. Wasn’t that more important than the number of copies sold?

And then I remembered the woman who had bought a copy of my book for her husband, who has a brain tumor. “This is just the book he needs right now,” she told me. And another woman who bought a copy for her daughter. “She’s begun suffering from panic attacks, and I think your book will give her some relief.” And yet another young woman, who has been ill with an as-yet undiagnosed illness, “Your book has helped me during this time. I think of it when I go for my walks around the block.”

Thinking small yesterday did not vaporize my disappointment. I know I will feel it again. But thinking small healed my mounting shame and helped me enjoy my new acquaintances even more than I might have. More important, it reconnected me with a few important people who have bought “Small.” And most important, it reminded me what my book is all about. And that what is most important is certainly not sales, but people. The people who do read Small and find solace. What could be more important than that? And what larger purpose could I have imagined?

Beach Art


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