A year in the life of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle

Warning: navel-gazing

Charles Darwin’s Barnacle is a year old! Not the species – that’s probably a few million years old, or at least that’s a guess given the average lifespan of a species. And not the name “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle”, which is 138 years old (the deep-sea barnacle species Regioscalpellum darwini was originally described by Hoek in 1883 as Trianguloscalpellum darwini). It’s my book: my book Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider is a year old.* It’s a little hard to believe.

People often ask me how the book has sold. I don’t really know (because other than Amazon sales rankings, I have no data), although I can tell you that it spent exactly zero weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Publishing a book in the first month of a global pandemic may not have been the ideal marketing strategy. It was a banner year for people reading books, but it was a terrible year for people discovering books, with book launches, readings, book fairs, conferences, and the like all canceled. Authors who were already famous have done quite well; for the rest of us, it’s been a struggle. (Word of mouth is extremely important; if you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, please tell a friend.)

There have been plenty of bright spots, though. It makes my day every time I hear from someone who’s read the book and enjoyed it.** I’m excited that translations into Turkish, Estonian, Russian, Japanese, and Korean are in the works, which should bring the book to a LOT more potential readers (none of whom are me!). And perhaps the brightest of the bright spots: with the pandemic having busted open the doors on remote speakers and online talks, I’ve had the pleasure of talking about Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider with quite a range of audiences – across North American and overseas, and ranging from high-school biology classes to university writing courses to academic departments to naturalists’ clubs. I’ve been asked some truly great questions – some of which have made me think about my own book a different way. (This is especially true of the writing courses; I’ve never been asked about my “influences” as a writer before, and it brought me up a bit short!)

Next to “how has the book sold”, the most common question I get is “what are you writing next?” Well, I spent the last year on a second edition of The Scientist’s Guide to Writing (look for it some time in 2022).*** Next on the agenda, a pair of projects I’m not quite ready to reveal yet – one related to writing, and one to natural history. Watch this space – when there’s something solid to announce, I won’t be shy about it.

What might the second year of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider have in store? Well, I hope more folks will read it and enjoy it, of course; and I hope I’ll be able to keep giving talks about it (hit me up, if you or your organization might be interested). Eponymous Latin names might seem like an odd and obscure subject for a book, but I’m convinced they have important things to teach us about science and about humanity – and they can teach us those things while also being pretty darned entertaining. I hope readers agree.

© Stephen Heard  April 6, 2021

Haven’t read Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider yet? You can read more about it (reviews and more) here. And if the illustrations I’ve included here have tickled your fancy, you can enjoy all of Emily Damstra’s wonderful illustrations in a virtual exhibit hosted by the magazine createdhere.

Images from the book © Emily Damstra. Really, they’re fanastic, even if you have no intention of ever reading the book, go look at the virtual exhibit!

*^Not exactly a year. It was published March 17, 2020, so it’s really a year and three weeks. I should have posted this on March 17, 2021, but I completely forgot about the anniversary – not the first thing I’ve forgotten and neglected in the year of the pandemic.

**^Have you ever been tempted to write to an author to tell them you enjoyed what they’d written? Have you ever not done it, perhaps because you think they’ll think it’s weird, or because you figure everyone else is doing it, or because, well, see footnote 1, lots of best intentions go unfulfilled? Whether it’s a book or a paper or anything else: send that email! With just a moment’s work you can make an author very, very happy. (Here, by the way, are some other ways to do that.)

***^I have no idea how I managed to finish the job, given everything else we all had to do this year I certainly let a few other things slide.



8 thoughts on “A year in the life of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle

  1. jeffollerton

    Have you not asked the publisher for sales figures? I’ve been asking mine for regular updates, which they’ve provided. Amazon figures can be a bit misleading as relatively few sales in 24 hours can dramatically shift a book’s position. After a live talk that I did a couple of weeks ago, my book shifted from about #150,000 to #15,000 in a matter of hours, and then back down the next day. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make me a millionaire though 🙂

    Good luck with the new projects!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

      I haven’t asked – I know I could. There’s a royalty statement expected in the next couple of months. I don’t expect it to make me a millionaire either! 🙂

      (Agreed about the Amazon ranking – there’s information there, but it’s in long-term average rankings not day-to-day swings.)


  2. kenworthy4

    I have bought the book, and enjoyed the book. I find the whole business of taxonomy fascinating and love following connections when I can. I wondered if you’d come across a plant called Darwinia fascicularis (Clustered scented myrtle). Named for Erasmus rather than Charles and a native of Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. laanisto

    Another upside of the blogging – if I hadn´t followed it, I would probably have not heard of the book (as there are so many of them being published). But I enjoyed it so much, I ended up suggesting it to the publisher and translating it into Estonian (which, truth to be told, will not bring too many new readers…).

    Liked by 2 people


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