How Do You Measure Self-Publishing Success?

Measuring Success Pic

If you write a book and choose to self-publish it, you want to know whether or not it was successful.

Not all authors publish for the same reasons. Most just love to write. Some saw a need and are trying to fill it. Others are exploring something new. A few write as part of a business plan.

All books aren’t created equal. A few authors researched the genre thoroughly. Some books are well-edited. Others have fantastic covers and blurbs. There is a larger target audience for some books than for others, and it’s easier for the target audience to discover some books. Some authors have a strong reputation and large following before they publish. A few books receive independent reviews. Not all writing is equal, either.

But despite all of these differences between authors, books, expectations, goals, qualifications, and such, there is a simple, common way that all authors can measure success.

One step at a time.

The first step is when you finish writing. This is worthy of a round of applause.

The second step is when your book is published. Please, take a bow.

Your first sale. Treasure it always and forever.

The first time you make X dollars in one day. Or month. Or year.

The first time you sell Y books in one day. Or month. Or year.


If you steadily improve, that’s continued success.

Every time you break your own record for the number of books sold or the total royalties for one day, month, or year, you’ve improved. You’ve become more successful.

You have separate records for CreateSpace, Kindle, and anywhere else you publish. So if Kindle is down, but CreateSpace is up, you have some success to smile about.

There are seasonal effects. So if July’s sales are down compared to June, that’s okay. But maybe 2013 is looking better than 2012. That’s successful.

Your first good review. Congratulations!

The first time you’re featured in a paper. Wow!

The first time a bookstore agrees to stock your book. Incredible!

Your lowest sales rank. Way to go!

Your best author rank. Fantastic!

When other authors speak of making bestseller lists, don’t be disappointed or jealous. When other authors complain of no sales, don’t feel superior.

Don’t compare yourself to them.

Compare yourself to your old self. Try to improve upon your previous self. Success isn’t about being  better than others. It’s about being better than you were before.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self,” according to Ernest Hemingway.

Success isn’t just measured in numbers.

If you publish a second book and you improved upon mistakes that you made in your first, this is success, regardless of what the numbers show.

Gaining experience and showing wisdom are measures of success, too. Even if the numbers go down.

Supporting your colleagues is also a measure of success. If your sales go down, but you’re more actively making positive contributions to the community, that’s still successful.

Don’t just look at the numbers. Think of ways that you’ve grown as an author. These qualitative measures of success may be even more important than the numbers.

That’s important to remember. Because if your happiness depends on numbers, you may spend much of your life being unhappy.

Worse, you may make your life miserable working too hard toward improving your numbers.

Don’t let numbers rule your emotions.

Do your best to grow as an author. Strive to improve your numbers. But remember, the numbers involve chance. Your growth as an author is a truer indicator of success.

As you write more books… as you learn more about marketing… as you learn to market more effectively… as you gain a greater following… you improve your chances of growing your numbers.

Do the best you can, and be happy with that.

If the numbers improve, smile. You’re successful. 🙂

If the numbers don’t improve, but you grew as an author, still smile. You’re still successful. 🙂

If the numbers don’t improve, you didn’t change as an author, but you helped other authors grow, you should still smile. This was successful, too. 🙂

10 comments on “How Do You Measure Self-Publishing Success?

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