How do You Measure Success?

The publishing industry has limits on how many books it can produce each year, which has always made published authors part of an exclusive club. But not anymore. Digital publishing has swung open the door of opportunity to anyone willing to undertake (or hire out) the legwork involved in producing a book. It’s an exciting time to be a writer. There are so many low-cost avenues to print, so many ways to reach an audience. And lots of us are getting in on the action.

It’s no secret that a few self-publishers are making a killing. Names like J. A. Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler and John Locke are in the news quite regularly for pulling in six- and seven-figure incomes. Some jumped in and rode the wave early, before the beach got so crowded. Others brought an already big name to the water. Other just plain got lucky.

So what does that mean for the rest of us? Can we all hope for such success? Should we shoot for it? Plan on it? Work for it? Follow their methods? Can we all really be that successful? The obvious answer, of course, is that the vast majority of writers will never see such outrageous money. That begs the question, then, what is success?

I guess the answer will be different for each of us. We all want different things. For some, just seeing a book in print is a huge success, whether it sells well or not. This includes memoirs, family histories, books by children, a class project, a photo book, family cookbooks, or other personal projects. There was a time when these types of books could never go to print without a significant investment, if they could be created at all. Now, these treasures can be professionally bound and distributed with little cost and great pride.

Some authors may simply wish to find an audience for a story they’ve been passionate about. Others might be hoping to sell enough books to save up for a special purchase. And still others hope to quit a hated day job and still earn a modest living. I would qualify success as meeting any of these goals.

And lots of folks are doing it! I know many authors who are finding an audience for the first time and earning a little extra money. And I’ve read a score of stories about people earning three, four or five thousand dollars off their digital books every month! A killing? Not by any means. But that’s between thirty and sixty thousand dollars a year. A variety of professions draw similar pay. So what if we’re not all earning millions? Writers are succeeding!

I, personally, have two goals.  One, I wanted my books to finally find some readers.  That’s happening!  I’d also like to accumulate several thousand dollars for my kids’ college funds before they actually graduate from high school. I really haven’t set a figure because I’m in a difficult genre. Children’s literature is not widely read by adults, not many kids have ereaders, and no kids have credit cards. That makes this an uphill battle. But I’m working at it, I have several years before my oldest leaves home, and I’ve got lots more books in the queue. Sure I’d like to see higher sales, but even at my slow pace, I’m going to have a good deal more money in the bank by college time than I would had I not self-published. By that measure, I’d say this venture is looking pretty successful.

We, as self-published authors, have every reason to be proud of what we’re accomplishing, whether our successes are big or little.  So now it’s time for you to share.  Tell us about your success story!

4 thoughts on “How do You Measure Success?

  1. Great post. Success definitely means different things to different people. I find that once I have success in something I reset the goals. Then I’m just continuing the path to my next success. Where the path will stop – I don’t know, but my aim is to enjoy the journey.

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