Jim Ryder, the maverick founder and CEO of my company, in order to have fuel for our customers, purchased a non-producing fuel refinery on the condition that it would be on line, in thirty days. The refinery came on line and then we discovered that its entire output had been allocated to its previous customers. Jim was incensed, but not defeated. He began searching for empty storage tanks on the east coast that he could lease. He discovered that there were no empty fuel tanks in America. They were all full, and there were oil tankers anchored off the coast of Florida waiting to off load as soon as there was a facility to take the oil.
The “shortage” didn’t last long. Big Oil got the price it wanted, and it was business as usual. Well not quite. The increase in fuel costs put a bite on everyone’s budget, and they began to demand increased wages. Employers raised prices to meet their employee’s demands and thus began the inflation spiral that we’ve come to take for granted. I know that is a simplistic overview of inflation, but I’m a simple guy and economics is not my focus, at least not with this blog post.
Out of control inflation has become a way of life in the West. So much so, we take it for granted. For a moment, I invite you to take another look at it and consider just one of its ramifications. First, we’ve been sold some major myths to make some of the more unpleasant aspects of out-of-control inflation palatable. I’ll share one myth that I met head on eight years ago. In an effort to control escalating operating costs, many manufacturers moved operations to emerging countries. They were accused of using “child labor” and exploiting the people of the countries who now made their goods. That’s by and large, a myth, told rather than telling the truth. Overseas manufacturing in, for example, Vietnam, where in 2004, $40.00 per month purchased a fine life style, is not exploiting people – it’s employing citizens of countries who have no inflation problems – think about that. I know that’s true because Christina and I went to Vietnam to investigate the possibility of opening a manufacturing facility there. We were told by officials that the government would frown on any operation whose starting pay exceeded $40.00 per month. You see, Vietnam has no desire to get on the inflation roller coaster.
Now, finally I’m ready to make my point. Let’s talk about ratings – top ten, top one hundred, highest grossing, etc. The critical importance of ratings is a direct product of inflation that few of us examine, but they control a large part of our lives because ratings are money and our money is critically inflated so that every unit or every service must produce. In other words, ratings are more critical in an economy whose foundation is built on inflation. A company must sell every product, and sell it at the highest possible price to survive in an inflated economic environment. Every dollar also counts with consumers, so they won’t spend money on a product, say a book, which is less than top-rated. To get top ratings, writers are writing what they are told people will read, i.e. buy. This cycle goes beyond the tail wagging the dog. This is a dog with a tail on each end who can only wag – that means he has no time to read, to write, or to appreciate the beauty and art of each.
There is an answer to the ratings problem. And like all problems, the answer is in us: us the writers and us the readers. First – forget the ratings. If you write – write what you love. Write it well, from the first page through the last. Package it perfectly. That means, use a great cover, get an outstanding edit, and impeccable formatting. Get the word out about your book(s) as best you can – or, to put it another, more basic way, do what you know is right. If you do that, you will succeed. If you read, don’t choose your book based on New York Times ratings or position in Amazon sales at a given moment. Forget the rating. Buy books that resonate with you. Trust your heart; you won’t buy a bad book.
Following your heart, and doing what’s right, will lead to other things: things you will bundle together and call a simpler life. When enough of us get on that wagon, inflation will disappear, we’ll remember that we are all in this together, and ratings-based on popularity will become history.
And if you’re in the market for a good read – check my author’s page at Amazon