A fellow author, Tim I Gurung, asked a very probing question on LinkedIn: Seriously, how many books one has to sell to become a decent author?
This really struck home for me because as my husband and I are planning out my strategy for next year, he keeps asking a similar question. We are trying to determine how to build my reach and allow me to taste the financial success of a "decent author". Last year we spent a lot of time and money on advertising in an effort to bridge that gap, but didn't see 1/10 of the ROI. That is a financial recipe for disaster!
Not to mention, it is very disappointing. Looking at my book sales, I should just pack up and forget about becoming a "decent author" because it ain't gonna happen!
If you are only measuring success based on sales, then you have already lost. I have seen some really poorly written work (50 Shades, anyone?) become a bestseller... Playing the numbers game is very disheartening. Keep in mind that many "best selling" authors are no longer making a living solely on their book sales. (If that were the case, they would not be offering master classes, charging to go to signings, or selling their books for movie/ tv deals)... and a lot of well known authors with tons of books are doing precisely that!
For me, I have learned to gauge my success as an author by my fans' response. I read every review and based on people's comments, I realize that I am doing something decent. When I go to a show and have one person eagerly asking me when my next book in such and such series is coming out, I know I am doing something decent.
Am I making a living? Yes. Is it through book sales? Sadly, nope. But many big authors are in the same boat.
Some people think that this is because of self publishing. More content is being produced every day than a person could consume in a life time. Some people believe that it is because our society has become one that expects entertainment for free. Some believe that books are dead/dying as an art form and that if creatives like me want to make any money then we need to focus on new and emerging fields.
What are your thoughts on the matter? How do you measure success? Share in the comments below.