Have A Clear Understanding Of Success
How do you define your success as a writer?
Is it measured by how many books you release? Maybe by how many books you sell? What about by how many awards you win? Something else, perhaps?
For most authors, but by no means all, success is measured in terms of income. And note that there may not be a connection between income and books sold…if you pocket a dime per book and sell 50,000 copies you may not break-even on expenses. On the other hand, if you get $4.50 per book, you’re pushing a quarter of a million dollars in income.
I want you to take care when comparing your income to that of other authors. Not only can that practice be a road to grief, but it’s damned near impossible to get actual numbers…
Getting sales numbers from publishers is pretty easy (if they are publicly traded), but that covers copies sold and income to the publisher, not what is paid to the authors. Depending on the accounting system used by the publisher, you may see a line item on the P&L for “Royalty Obligations” (or something similar), but more often the amounts will just be lumped under general liabilities. You also have no way to group pen names together under one real person…in other words, a particular writer may make only $500,000 a year gross per pen name, but he might have two-dozen pen names.
At the same time, writers tend to be secretive about their income. I don’t know of a single full-time, professional author who will give you a straight answer about how much they make. Most writers I know will even lie to researchers about their income just to mess with them. Playing games with amounts made by the author’s various pen names is also common. Frankly, it’s not a damn bit of your (or anyone else’s) business how much I make. (As for me personally, all of my income from writing goes into my privately held corporation. I am not required to release any financial information and I don’t do it at all. There are many things my company does, and my personal financial input is about 2% of the corporation’s total earnings. And I get paid from the corporation by way of both royalties on my writings and salary as the CEO and board chair.)
All of this conspires to make it rough on relatively new writers to figure out where they stand dollar-wise.
But it simply doesn’t matter when it comes to figuring out how you’re doing success-wise.
Here are a couple of questions I’d like you answer…
(1) Are you happy doing what you’re doing? (What you’re doing doesn’t matter…you might be spending 100 hours a week writing, or one hour a month.)
(2) Can you pay your bills doing what you’re doing? (And it also doesn’t matter if your writing income pays 100% of the bills or lets you get a Big Mac meal every quarter when the royalty check comes in.)
If you answered “yes” to both questions, then you are successful. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not…most especially do not let yourself tell you that!
If, however, you answered “no” to one or both questions, then you need to figure out how to change your answer(s).
How to do that is usually much easier than most people think, despite the fact that most people want to make it complicated. All you need do is avoid falling into the traps set by people who have allowed themselves to fail and want everyone else to fail as well. As Grandma used to say, “Misery loves company.”
And there are LOTS of them out there. Luckily they are easy to spot, and a little common sense applied to their comments and actions make them glow in the dark. Many times, the comments will focus on how wrong one group or another in the industry are doing things, and they will always be nebulous or subjective in nature. Usually both.
Ignore them and move forward so you can answer both questions in the affirmative.