Amazon’s Orange Banner: The Anticlimax of Achievement

This content has been archived. It may no longer be accurate or relevant.

From Jane Friedman:

In a world where success is often measured by external markers and symbols, the pursuit of status symbols can be alluring. Whether it’s the coveted “bestseller” label for authors, or a blue checkmark next to your name, these symbols often come with the promise of prestige and validation.

Confession: I was among these seekers, dreaming of how incredible it would feel to see that orange banner on my book’s Amazon page. Number one. Bestseller. It would be the peak of success, the culmination of years of work and energy.

A writer can dream.

And then I got it. One week after my latest book launch, I woke on a nondescript Wednesday to my novel as the #1 new release, orange banner and all.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience a rush of giddiness. I was on top—figuratively and literally. This was the same badge of honor that adorned so many of my favorite authors’ books. Legit authors with legit careers. Now I could say I was alongside them? Incredible!

And so I blasted it out to social media: Woohoo! I hit #1! [insert string of celebratory emojis]

Congratulations came pouring in, and I reveled in being on the receiving end after cheering on other authors for years. It felt good and fun and all the things.

You might think that’s where the story ends, on a high. Sort of. But not exactly.

Not long after posting my exciting news, a weirdness settled in my gut. Was I really making such a big deal about a silly orange banner? It felt a little like carrying a designer handbag just for the logo. You know it’s what everyone wants, but there are plenty of better bags out there.

I messaged an author friend. “Self-promotion is hard. I feel sort of icky.”

“Absolutely not,” she said.

Another friend expanded the sentiment: “Celebrate the crap out of that banner. You earned it!”

Had I? According to the algorithm, yes. Numbers-wise, my book was entitled to the label. But what did it mean? Was my book “better than” so many others? Better than my friends still riding the querying roller coaster or putting out independent titles?

In a word, no.

And that realization brought with it a swift helping of imposter syndrome. It suddenly felt braggy to be shouting my accomplishment from the rooftops. How cringey to be obsessed with a marker that could disappear the following day. To get it was one thing, but to outwardly promote it? Ew, gross. What I’d once envisioned would be such a pinnacle moment, felt anticlimactic once the high wore off, and if truth be told, I was a little embarrassed for putting so much stock in it. What did such values say about me?

For aspiring authors, the dream of becoming a bestseller is often a driving force that keeps them burning the midnight oil. The idea of seeing your book’s name on the New York Times bestseller list is a powerful motivator, and rightly so. Achieving such a status symbol signifies not only creative success but also the potential for financial gain and widespread recognition.

However, once the dream becomes a reality, authors often find themselves grappling with a sense of emptiness.

“Yeah, it was sort of weird,” a writer friend who’d experienced something similar told me. Turns out, the label of bestseller is, in many ways, fleeting. Books rise and fall on those lists, and the euphoria of hitting the top spot can quickly give way to the anxiety of maintaining that status or the realization that it hasn’t fundamentally changed much at all. We’ve all heard of the sophomore slump, right?

But back to the Instagram post with the ecstatic caption. In the age of social media and personal branding, self-promotion is unavoidable to a degree. After all, many authors view their writing and books as a business. While it’s a necessary part of the journey, it often comes with a sense of awkwardness. Around book launches, I find myself wanting to apologize: Yep, I’m posting my book link again, sorry! Sorry to bug you, but would you mind leaving a review?

Then I remember the words of my wise friend: Books don’t sell themselves.

So, what’s the antidote to the anticlimax of status symbols? It might lie in the pursuit of intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, rewards. For many authors, it means writing for the love of storytelling, not just the pursuit of bestseller status. For others, it might mean finding joy in the process, not just the end result.

All this to say, holding the #1 spot was a cool experience, and it felt damn good, but at the end of the day, I call to mind the hundreds of incredible books I’ve read that have never seen that orange banner. Do I think less of them? Certainly not. And that’s the reminder I carry with me moving forward.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

While the author of the OP seems like quite a nice person, PG suggests that she may be overthinking her Amazon best-seller banner.

PG would be surprised if any human being was involved in her book being designated as the #1 Amazon bestseller for a period of time (simultaneously calculated and displayed with a substantial cluster of other genre-based #1 bestsellers). When the computer determined her book was no longer the #1 bestseller, the designation would be moved to another book with no human judgment involved.

PG suggests to enjoy it while it lasts and feel free to use the designation for decades to come on your author pate and in other marketing/advertising materials