The Measure of a Writer’s Success

success concept


I keep seeing articles popping up that talk about how 50% of self-published authors never make over 500.00 dollars. Or how only a very few make it to the top. Or some other percentage or graph or some such that bemoans how unsuccessful most indie authors are.

First of all, the first example is very much a glass half empty way to look at things. If half of all self-published authors never make more than 500.00 dollars, then that means the other half of all of those authors are making more than that. Sometimes much more.

The second example is also a glass half empty way of looking at things. If say only 15 to 20% of all self-published authors make it to the top, that is still a large number of authors. There are thousands of authors out there. That makes the number of those self-published floating in the top 100 on Amazon an good amount of people. Whose to say you won’t eventually be one of those?

And that brings me to my question. What is the measure of success? Each of these articles seems to throw around numbers and graphs and percentages as if somehow those are the absolute measure of success.

However, I have found that success is relative. How it is measured depends completely on the individual goals of the person. What is success to one person isn’t to another. For some, their success comes merely from the act of writing and putting it out there for the world. They could care less if it sells five copies or a thousand. For others, that measurement will be different because their end goals are different.

So what does it matter if a percentage of self-published authors never sell enough to make over 500.00? It seems that some articles are written with these statistical findings in a doomsday manner. As if they wish to discourage the budding author from ever considering self-publishing. Never mind that there are a good many traditionally published authors who never make it out of the gate either. And that is fine. For some people, their goal wasn’t to make it out of the gate anyway, but only to show up at the track.

So, as you research your options in the publishing world, don’t allow doomsday articles to discourage you. If your books never make enough money for you to quit your day job, who cares? You wouldn’t be quitting that job anyway if you had never written a word. If it never makes more than enough money to pay for the newspaper to be delivered (do they still deliver newspapers?), who cares? You wrote a book, you poured blood, sweat and tears into and then you published it. That right there is a success in and of itself.

I think often times authors loose sight of that simple goal. The one we all started out with, where all we wanted was to write the story in our heads and some day see it published. Yes, we all have dreams of best sellers lists and movie deals and all of that exciting stuff. But those are dreams, not the goal we originally set. And yes the goal posts can be moved. But that doesn’t mean we should become discouraged by the percentages and graphs. Keep the reason you began writing (I think very few of us started writing in the hopes becoming a millionaire) at the forefront and keep writing. Not because you are trying to measure your success by someone else’s yard stick, but because you love writing.

One last thought: There is one undeniable percentage out there that cannot be ignored and that is, 100% of unpublished books make less than one penny a year.





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