Funny Ways People Have Found My Website

First, if you found my site through some strange combination of search terms… welcome! No matter how you got here, I’m glad to have you as a reader for as long as you stay.

I haven’t paid much attention to my website stats as I’ve been working on this blogging thing. The stats tend to make me feel like the effort I put into the blog isn’t really worth it, that no one is reading after all. But sometimes I check out the stats, especially how people are finding my site, and there are some pretty funny search terms that lead people here.

Many of the search terms make sense… searches relating to some of the characters I’ve mentioned I like, books and movies I’ve enjoyed, or writing and publishing information I’ve shared, particularly on worldbuilding. Even some of these are a little odd, though… “how to be like Edmond Dantes” (in what way? unjustly imprisoned, ridiculously rich, vengeful, or forgiving?), “you’re jean valjean” (I think there was only the one, but still… this makes me think of some interesting stories), and “stares into the fire, her eyes glowing” (I don’t think I have this phrase, but I imagine the searcher was looking for something in particular). I like “must have fantasy authors”… I’d love to think I’m on that list!

Some of the search terms make me laugh, though. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Shall I write a novel if I don’t necessarily have to publish it?

Shall you? I have no idea. You should write it only if you want to write it. Publishing is not the only, or even the most important, reason you should write. Write a novel if you want to write a novel. Write a novel if you want to experiment with writing long form fiction. Write a novel if you want to say “I wrote a novel.” Write a novel if you have a burning desire to write that story in your head, the one that keeps you up at night thinking about it.

But don’t write a novel because you want to be a famous published novelist. Fame and publishing success (as measured in critical acclaim and/or in royalties/money) come to a very very lucky, talented, select few, for reasons that are not entirely under the author’s control. Even the biggest, most powerful traditional publishers can’t simply make a runaway bestseller… they can affect how much publicity a book gets, they can get great cover art, great editing, and everything else, but they can’t make people like the book. Publishing success and popularity are and always will be a little bit of a mystery.

Writing a great book is an important step toward whatever publishing success you’re aiming for, but it isn’t sufficient, and it may not even be necessary (if you doubt this, check out the raging internet firestorms over the quality of writing in Twilight, or Fifty Shades of Gray, or any other popular book that people love to hate). Sometimes books become popular because they hit a particular trend at just the right time, not because they were profoundly wonderful but because they were acceptable and just ahead of a trend.

Writing a novel is a lot of work. Writing a good novel is even more work! Writing can be therapeutic, fun, relaxing, stressful, cathartic, and almost anything else you make it. But writing is almost never a quick route to fame and riches. Even the overnight successes wrote for years before their “overnight success.” Write because you want to write, not because you want the acclaim that might-but-probably-won’t come after publication.

Elf named CJ

I am not an elf. I am human. Also, I’m not aware of any books with elves named CJ, but I haven’t actually read many books with elves in them. If you know of this book, please let me know!

C. J. Brightley is a pen name. I have a career consulting for the government that I want to keep distinctly separate from my fantasy writing. I have also edited professional publications under my real name, and I don’t want them showing up in the same searches on Amazon or anywhere else. As much as I love fantasy, I don’t want my professional connections to take me less seriously because I might write about dragons, swashbuckling adventurers, kings, soldiers, and Fae. Some of my professional associates do know my pen name, so I’m not completely incognito; it’s more an attempt to keep it from coming up in casual internet searches or being obvious to a work acquaintance looking me up after a quick meeting.

C. is my real first initial and J. is the initial of my middle name (which is technically no longer part of my name, since I took my maiden name as my middle name when I married, but still… it’s mine). Brightley is a name that I made up, with the E before Y in order to make it look more like a name and to make it more easily findable on the internet. Also, the URL was available, which is actually an important consideration when trying to create an internet presence from scratch.

However, although I write under a pen name, the personality you see on my blog is real. I want to be honest about my journey as an indie author and the struggles and successes of writing and publishing. If you have questions, please ask!

author vanity

Hm. I hope this is a reference to vanity publishing, the fine line between self-publishing and vanity publishing, and how to avoid being scammed by predatory vanity presses. I hope it’s not a reference to authors being vain… if so, you won’t find any of that here! Instead, I’ll be posting in the next few weeks about confidence as an author. I think few but perhaps the most successful authors even have the opportunity to develop arrogance about their writing. Instead, most authors I know or have read about struggle with confidence in their own writing. Reading reviews can be encouraging, but it can also be profoundly demoralizing when readers or critics don’t get what you’re trying to do* with a given story or character, or when they “get it” but don’t like it for some reason.

That’s not unusual, either… even the greatest works of literature have unflattering reviews. Check out the Amazon reviews of A Tale of Two Cities or any of your favorite books. Chances are, if more than a few people have read it, someone didn’t like something about it. Perhaps emphatically.

Even without negative reviews, writing can feel lonely, and that can be discouraging too. If sales aren’t stellar, reviews aren’t all fantastic (or you can’t seem to get reviews at all), writing can feel like a lot of work with nothing to show for it. That doesn’t mean that writing isn’t “worth it,” but it is a pretty strong damper to any burgeoning arrogance.

If you’re not an author and you’re looking up author vanity, I hope you haven’t run across an author or writer who thinks they’re better than you are. If so, I’m truly sorry, and you won’t find any of that nonsense here. Writing is a thing we do, hopefully for fun, and also because sometimes we earn money from it. It’s a hobby or a profession (sometimes both). It’s not a proof of personal awesomeness. Don’t feel down because you’re not an author! If you read, you’re the reason we write. You are important.

*Note for authors: readers not “getting it” isn’t necessarily their fault, nor is it necessarily your fault as the author. Like most things in writing, it’s somewhat subjective. Readers have different expectations, and some readers wouldn’t “get it” if it was spelled out in explicit detail, and others might not “get it” because your writing didn’t convey at all what you intended it to. This is why multiple beta readers with different perspectives can be so important, and why no single review is necessarily indicative of the quality of your writing. Check out my  experience with beta readers not getting it here, and what I learned from the experience.

Helpful hint: Don’t take even a harsh review or harsh comments from a critique partner personally. Identify what you can use from their comments (on that piece of writing or on future work), improve as much as you can, and let the hurt go. Don’t ever respond with anger or condescension. Be classy. If it’s a beta reader or critique partner, remember that they’re doing you a favor by reading your work. Thank them for their time and their thoughts, ask for clarification if necessary, and handle it with style. If it’s a reader commenting on a retail website or other public venue, it’s best not to respond at all. Their comments are generally intended to help other potential readers make a decision about whether to purchase your book… the conversation doesn’t include you (even if you think it should). Book bloggers deserve thanks for the time and effort they put in.

financial book by brightley

I have not written any financial books, sorry. I haven’t released much financial information here about my writing income, although I might in the future if people are interested. I will note again that writing is not a quick and easy way to fame and fortune. If I do ever release financial info, it will be in the context of “Slow and steady can indeed lead to a reasonable income, and these are the strategies that worked for me,” rather than “Look how easy it was for me! If it’s not easy for you, you’re doing it wrong.”

Searches that just confuse me:

please check them and let me know your feedback: This seems like it could be on any of a million websites… how did this reader end up here?

a short story about a photographer that work late at night and trying to reach an important goal brainstorm: Sorry, I don’t have any of these. I’m not sure why this reader ended up at my site.

Why aren’t ghosts in heaven? As a theological question, I don’t believe in “ghosts” and I’m not sure how this reader ended up here either.

If you’re a blogger, what funny ways did people end up at your site? If you’re a reader, welcome again! Whether you meant to be here or not, please stick around for a while.

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