This is pointless. I can't write anything on here because I've erected this artificial barrier in my mind between what I'll allow myself to write about and what I'm afraid to write about, because I worry too much about writing something I'll later regret and I worry about how whatever I write comes across, and I'm too afraid to be vulnerable and reveal feelings except in this narrow realm of law school stuff, where there are no real consequences. And the problem is that I crave the feeling of connection that this blog has given me for the past four years, and the sense that there's actually some set of people out there that care about the thoughts in my head, but the less I write about the real things going on in my head, the less connection I feel, the less I hear from readers, the less this even makes sense to maintain. And the other problem is that writing helps me deal with stuff and sort through my feelings, and somehow this has become the best place I write, and if I don't deal with something on here, I don't have a place to deal with it, and it makes me stuck. So I'm going to do this all right now, at 3 in the morning, and just dump a whole bunch of thoughts out here, and try not to edit myself or anything, because they're taking up too much space in my head and I can't sleep. And either I'll delete this post tomorrow when I realize I don't want to write about any of this, or it'll finally help me resume actually feeling like blogging, and writing more generally.
(One stupid point I feel compelled to add -- one thing I honestly worry about, as I think particularly about the first thing I'm about to write, is that I don't know for sure which friends read this, and who I've talked to about this and who I haven't, and I don't want actual friends to feel bad I didn't tell them stuff going on with me before blogging about it, but that's not what I mean to be communicating at all, and it's not like I planned to write about this, I just feel like I have to or I won't be able to fall asleep.)
Okay. About three weeks ago, my mom had a mammogram and they found something, and it's an early stage cancer and the doctor says she'll be fine but obviously it's awfully scary. She had surgery last week and it hasn't spread anywhere, lymph nodes clean, she'll do radiation, and then yesterday we went to the doctor for the pathology report and he said he didn't get all of it and she's having another surgery on Monday, and he still says she'll be fine, and I believe him, but now he's saying maybe chemotherapy, and it's just really, really scary. Obviously it's a common thing, and they got it early and tons of people deal with this every year, and a lot of them in a lot worse situations than this, but it doesn't make it less scary and I've basically spent the past week or so trying to learn everything I can and reading journal articles and message boards and web sites, and we have an appoinment with a specialist and the numbers are good and she should be fine, but watching her have to go through this is really awful, and I don't have enough things to take my mind off of it. I feel like my general way of thinking about stuff is to imagine a worst case scenario and work backwards from there, and try to minimize risk of ever getting to that outcome -- I mean, that's why I ended up in law school, I guess -- but that's a bad way to do it for stuff like this. Anyway, I'm trying to make myself an expert as best as I can because that's the best way I can feel like I'm helping, and I'm going to all the doctor's appointments and trying to make sure I understand what's going on and can help my mom make informed treatment choices and not have this turn into something worse than it is. It's weird, it's the kind of thing where I feel like it's so common that I need to underplay my level of concern or I'm just seeming silly, and also I feel like it's a burden on whoever I'm talking to if I talk too much about it, because I don't want them to have to listen to me when there's nothing really I can do anyway at this point except be there for my mom and hope the doctor is right and she'll be fine. Okay, that's all I've got on this front.
Next. My book's not selling as many copies as my publisher hoped it would. I had a post a few weeks ago where I asked a generic question about what makes people not buy books and I got a comment saying I should stop pushing the book so hard, and an e-mail from a friend I trust saying I don't need to be hinting to my readers that the book isn't selling as well as my publisher hoped. But, hey, the reviews have been a lot better than I expected they'd be, pretty much all good reviews, and a lot of the blog reviews have been really quite excellent, and I don't know if I can come up with a good reason not to be as honest as I can be about how it's doing, especially since it's 3:45 in the morning. It's actually doing really well for a debut novel, especially in hardcover, and especially since it's not targeted at a traditional fiction market, like chick lit or mysteries. The frustration is that my publisher expected the Anonymous Lawyer blog readership numbers would lead to more release date purchases than it did. He and I think there are a bunch of possible explanations, and some of these may be totally off the mark -- (1) Blog readership numbers seem a lot bigger than they are, and 100,000 unique visitors a month really just means that maybe there are 10,000 people who are reading the blog, checking in every few days, and that's just not that many, and even if a good fraction of them have bought the book, that's not going to lead to 30,000 copies selling. (2) Internet buzz is just reaching the same audience over and over again -- there's been lots and lots of blogosphere activity, about 60 reviews of the book and lots more links and quick mentions, and lots of online press about it, but it may be that it's this group of 10,000 people who are in this world and see all of it, and there hasn't been enough traditional buzz to get outside this group and to the legal community more generally, and beyond, to the people who buy books. (3) People who read blogs read enough stuff for free that they don't buy that many books, and it's hard to get them to spend money when there's so much on the Internet. I don't know that I buy this as an excuse -- my hunch is that people who read blogs probably read more books, not fewer. (4) There's enough material on the blog that even though the book is mostly different, and a different kind of experience overall, some people are just getting enough Anonymous Lawyer for free on the blog and don't feel the need to go buy a book, which is of course totally fair, and this is probably the explanation that makes the most sense to me. (5) Internet buzz, like the Anonymous Law Firm site, came way too early. Anon Law Firm launched on June 1 and got 100K visitors in 3 days. The book wasn't out until 7 weeks later. We didn't think the visitors would spike so quickly. So maybe we just didn't capitalize well on that spike, and should have waited. (6) Hardcover vs. paperback -- it's light reading, the kind of thing people could bring on a plane or to the beach, and that might be a paperback market and not a hardcover one, and also for law students and young people who don't buy that many books, the cost difference between a hardcover and a paperback may be a real factor and people might be waiting. (7) Bookstore placement. Borders liked the book and got it in stores pretty quickly and displayed it well, but some other bookstores weren't as excited (the failure of Wonkette's -- Ana Marie Cox -- book, which was also based on a blog, although it wasn't in the form of a blog -- made some stores gun-shy about blog-related book) and were slow to stock it or give good placement. I'm not sure if that had an effect, and if people who were going to buy it didn't because it wasn't in stock right away. (8) Word of mouth for something like this is going to take longer to build, and drawing conclusions at this point is silly. (9) Time of year was wrong -- law students weren't in school, lots of lawyers on summer vacations, wasn't timed around graduation or father's day, which may be two events the book would make sense for. (10) People who aren't working in law firms don't want to read fiction about them. Maybe, although the e-mails I get from blog readers are often not from lawyers, and lots of people watch legal shows on TV, but this one is probably a fair explanation. (11) Satire generally is a hard genre to get people to buy. Maybe. (12) People don't like the book, don't think they'll like the book, couldn't care less about the book, at least not in greater numbers than are buying it. Probably the most straightforward explanation. If the reviews hadn't been good, it would make more sense. What I think is confusing is that reviews have been really good, and press has been good -- USA Today, NY Post, WSJ -- but it's only translating into moderate sales. (13) Sales really aren't bad -- it's a good number for a debut novel, and it's just the Internet buzz that made them expect more -- and so maybe it's more a case of silly expectations than it is that the book isn't doing well. So... that's more about that than you care to know. I'm trying to get some more publicity stuff happening, but they may wait until the paperback release to really get more things going, and it's more that I'm disappointed my publisher's disappointed than I'm actually disappointed -- I'm not disappointed, I'm thrilled I have a book out, thrilled people are enjoying it and I'm getting e-mails from readers about it, really excited whenever I see it in a store, and feel amazingly lucky and fortunate for all of this stuff having happened, because if anyone told me 2 years ago that this would be what I'd be thinking about 2 years from then, I would have thought they were insane. Please don't take this as me complaining. It's just me throwing thoughts onto my screen. Forgive me if it doesn't sound like I'm still amazed even a single person I don't know has bought the book. Ridiculous. Why would they do that? Crazy.
Next. Been dating an awesome girl for the past three and a half months. Really like her. I don't usually write about that kind of stuff because it's not nice to write about other people in my life without their permission, but hopefully she won't mind this mention, and if she does, I'll delete it. But I figured it was OK in this brain dump of a post, and besides, no one's reading this far anyway.
Next. The TV stuff with Anonymous Lawyer is really cool. It's a lot of conference calls with lots of people on them. Being on a conference call with TV executives while on a cell phone, sitting on a bench in the middle of Flushing Meadows Park, because the call got scheduled for a day you have tickets to a Mets game, and because most of the people on the call are in LA, it's Pacific Time and the call is at 6:00 Eastern, and trying to listen and take notes and think and be engaged in what's going on, is really hard, but also pretty cool and makes a good story to tell your friends once you get to your seats for the game. I've also been on conference calls for this stuff while on an Amtrak train (and then, with the phone on mute, while getting off the train and rolling luggage down the platform, while at an art museum, while at dinner with my grandma, while in a car (multiple times), and while in an airport. This is why I need more structure to my days. :) The writing part of it has been really neat so far -- no pilot script yet, but it's getting there.
This Times article about the Spanish chef Ferran Adria is really neat. I read it earlier today and meant to post a link. It probably doesn't belong in this post, but it's here anyway.
This afternoon, I'm doing some volunteer tutoring for the first time with a group called 826NYC. Seth Mnookin mentioned them in the acknowledgments to his book about the Red Sox, and I know for months I've written posts now and again about how I want to find some more fulfilling things to do with my time, and get involved with something but I don't know how, and all I've been doing is making excuses and it's stupid and I finally decided no more excuses and I e-mailed them and went to a volunteer orientation and signed up to help kids with their homework Thursday afternoons. The organization seems really cool -- it's a writing center for kids, they do workshops, school events, and have drop-in tutoring. If the tutoring is cool, maybe in a few weeks I'll pitch a workshop about blogging for kids, or even about law school, and see if there's interest. It will feel good to get involved with something like this. I should have done it sooner and am upset at myself that I didn't. It should be fun. I'm excited about it.
I also put up a post last week on Craiglist about tutoring people for the LSAT, another way I figure I could fill some unstructured time until I have more structure. Which I probably will soon, to some degree, but it's just some indefinite things in the works so far, and nothing worth talking about yet. But, anyway, lots of people post on Craigslist and I only got one reply and I'm not sure it'll end up as anything. But I figure I'll offer here -- if anyone in the NYC area is looking for an LSAT tutor, or help with admissions essays, stuff like that, or even younger -- SAT stuff, college essays -- let me know. I'm not doing it to make money so much as just to fill some unstructured time that I'm finally fed up with having, so we can probably work something out. I trained with one of the major test prep companies for the LSAT but never taught a class because $18/hour was pretty silly and the scheduling didn't work out anyway.
And, finally, this post, long as it is, really does kind of feel like a weight off my shoulders, and a freeing of some stuff that, when I write it, it doesn't seem as weighty as it did, and, now, about an hour and a half after starting this post, I feel like I should have written it a couple of weeks ago, and I feel like it's actually kinda doing its job even before I push send. Deep breath. Time for sleep. Life's okay, I can deal with all of this, wow, writing stuff down really makes a difference. Why is it sometimes so hard to make yourself do it?
(And, please, if this post sucks and is pointless, please don't be a jerk in the comments. It's 4:30 in the morning, no one's making you read my blog, I don't want to worry about it, I'm trying my best with all of this, I really am.)