Next time you're in a bookshop, scan the shelves and count just how many 'best selling authors' or 'Number one best sellers' or 'prizewinning writers' there are.
Some are genuine - we can all check books in line for major prizes. But I wonder about the book claiming to be longlisted in a competition held by an obscure seaside town. And as for 'New York Times Bestseller' - how can we check that? Or did someone buy 100 copies of his or her own book in a day and earned it that way?
If you're a twitterer, or dip into Facebook from time to time - have a look at a profile or ten. Every second author is 'prizewinning' or 'best-selling' ...
It's impossible. For every book that is a 'best-seller' there has to be thousands (or more) that do fairly well but don't rock the boat. For every 'prizewinner' are all the writers who are also-rans. I don't blame anyone not including 'submitted to the Outer Mongolian prize for genre fiction but didn't get anywhere' in gold letters above the title. Or leaving off 'made it into the top 100 on Amazon for half an hour.'
How do you react to this? I respond by not believing anyone who claims any status or award (unless it's one of the big ones). It smacks of self-aggrandisement and I want to sit these writers down and remind them that they eat and sleep like the rest of us. They've written the best book they could - it's enough to be proud of that.
Or maybe they are being disingenuous - they are the best-selling writer in their family? Or their town? Or have won a prize in the short-stories-about-a-slug contest?
Pah, they write and hope and are elated one minute and disappointed the next, just like the rest of us.
(Though you might like to know that I'm the best-selling travel writer in the street where I live ...)