Low Book Sales? Consider the Petrified Forest

Just one tiny part of the Petrified Forest

Just one tiny part of the Petrified Forest

I was feeling serious rock overkill yesterday. My family has been vacationing in Arizona and New Mexico for over a week, and we’ve seen and hiked through some of the most breathtaking rock formations on the planet: The Grand Canyon, Sedona, Tent Rocks, and various others. So as we drove from Flagstaff to Albuquerque, I almost suggested to my husband that we skip the Petrified Forest. Maybe we needed a day off.

There was also part of me that wanted to get to the hotel in Albuquerque as quickly as possible, so I could find a quiet spot to sit with my laptop. I’ve got two novels currently published and am hoping to send a third manuscript to my wonderful editor in a week or so. Therefore, I was itching to get some work done. Like almost all writers, I’m conscious of book sales, and would like mine to be higher. I’ve also heard plenty of people say that the more books an author has available, the better their overall sales will be. Meaning that the sooner that third book gets published….

Anyway, that’s where my mind was as we pulled up to the Visitor Center at the Petrified Forest. We’ll look at some trees that are now rock, then get back on the road, I thought. But when I actually saw the amazing, colored crystals that had formed inside trees that died and decayed 225 million years ago, I began to view the whole “book sales” issue in a different light.

You see, the Petrified Forest consists of thousands of dead trees that fell into river channels during the Mesozoic Era. Over time, the insides of the trees decayed, but they retained their external structures, and those structures were filled with silica from volcanic ash and dead organisms, which crystalized into various masterpieces of natural artwork.

At first, I was simply stunned by the beauty. But then, I began to think about all the components of those crystals. The plants, the birds, the dinosaurs, who’d unwittingly lent themselves to the spectacle. None of them is individually “famous,” but they’re now blended together in unimaginably gorgeous structures they had no idea they were creating.

And that reminded me of classes I’ve taken over the years about periods of art in history. I recalled how teachers—pressed for time—would focus on the “stars” of various periods: DaVinci, Michangelo, and Raphael during the Renaissance; Monet, Renoir, and Manet during the Impressionist period, etc. But what about all the other artists that teachers seldom have time to focus on? Would those art movements have made the impact they did on society if there hadn’t been hundreds—even thousands—of other people painting in similar styles? Of course not.

Which brings me back to the topic of book sales. Because I honestly don’t know any writer—famous, just starting out, traditionally published, self-published, hybrid published—who doesn’t wish he or she were selling more books. But stepping back and looking at those crystallized trees, I realized that even though many authors won’t become “stars,” we’re all part of something too. And some day—long after we’re gone—people will look back on the books of the twenty-first century and classify them in some way.

So don’t let lagging book sales frustrate you! As you keep writing, try to remember that you’re contributing to a movement, to a period in history. It would be pretty presumptuous to try and figure out exactly how this period will be remembered, but like those creatures whose remains created the wonder of the Petrified Forest, we’re components of something much bigger than we can understand.

About Mary Rowen

My three published novels, LEAVING THE BEACH (a 2016 IPPY Award winner), LIVING BY EAR, and IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY focus on women figuring out who they are and what they want from life. Music and musicians have a way of finding their way into the stories. I live in the Boston area with my family and pets.
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12 Responses to Low Book Sales? Consider the Petrified Forest

  1. jan says:

    Sounds like a fabulous trip! You reminded me that I owe you a review for Living by Ear. Let me know if you need an early reader for book three. Since you’ve mentioned it is a little different from your first two, I’m very curious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Rowen says:

      Hi Jan! Thanks for the comment, and you don’t owe me anything. Weird story about Flipka–i have somehow misplaced my Kindle, but am almost 100% certain it’s in my house. I was more than halfway through it and loving it, when I lost the damn Kindle. But when I get home, I’m gonna do a mad search of the house so I can find it and finish Flipka. In the meantime, if you need readers for your new book, please let me know. I’d be honored to read it and review.


  2. DenaRogers says:

    I’m envious of your trip. It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time. I visited The Grand Canyon as a kid and can’t wait to share it with mine. We did a ten day trip to Yellowstone last year, so we’re doing something a little smaller scale this summer. All that you’ve mentioned here is definitely on my list, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. judithworks says:

    That’s how I feel: petrified!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jayni wilson-sickler says:

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for stopping by Mocha Muse and leaving a “like!”
    This post about the Petrified Forest is dear to my heart because: (1) your writing is beautiful (2) I live in/love in New Mexico! I’ll be back to explore more of your site just as soon as I can.

    Many Blessings ~ jayni


    • Mary Rowen says:

      Thank you, Jayni! I also love your writing and musings on the joys of being a waitress. My very first job–a job I’d dreamed of for years–was at a coffee shop in my suburban town. Alas, when I was finally old enough to work there (15), I found it to be a lot less romantic than I’d hoped. It wasn’t the customers’ fault, though; it was the management, who treated the help terribly. However, I went on to work as a waitress in several other restaurants, and have always promised myself that I’ll go back to waitressing some day. It’s hard work, but such a great way to meet people and learn little things about their lives. Also great for writers, as you get to be part of so many conversations! I look forward to reading more on your site as well, and have bookmarked it.


      • Oh, Mary, I’m thrilled to learn that we share a passion for waitressing and coffee shop conversation, and appreciate their marvelous connection with writing! I agree that the restaurant industry is hard work, but, there’s something very compelling about it. I may find myself back at the counter at some point . . . serving coffee and receiving inspiration.Best wishes with your third manuscript. That’s exciting!!


      • Hi Mary,
        I left a response last night, but, it seemed to disappear after I clicked on “Post Comment.” Oh, the frustrations of technology!!
        Anyway, I just want to say that I’m thrilled that we share a love of waitressing and coffee-shop conversation, and appreciation their connection with writing.
        I imagine that someday in the near future I will be back at the counter, serving and collecting inspiration!
        Best Wishes on your third manuscript. How exciting!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary Rowen says:

    Thank you, Jayni! That has happened to me several times as well with blog comments! Sorry about that!

    I’m also happy that we’re kindred spirits in the coffee-shop/writing world. Have you ever noticed how many books and movies feature scenes in quirky coffee shops?

    Thanks so much for your kind wishes, and I look forward to chatting more in the future!


    • Yes! Many of my favorite books, films and works of visual art center around coffee shops, diners and cafes. I really think there’s some magic, creative current within them . . . meanwhile, I also look forward to chatting and exploring ideas!

      ~ jayni


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