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Author Topic: What Counts as Success  (Read 1939 times)

Offline m3mnoch

What Counts as Success
« on: September 20, 2015, 02:31:36 AM »
so, i was just reading this article:
http://www.npr.org/2015/09/19/441459103/when-it-comes-to-book-sales-what-counts-as-success-might-surprise-you

i kind of have two angles for this.

1) on the relatively low numbers required to be successful:
is that for real?  is that really all that you'd have to sell to count as a success?  i was always thinking success meant selling hundreds of thousands of copies.  is that all it takes to get a second book?  if the numbers sound so achievable, why is it actually so hard?  the author's guild doesn't count ebook authors, right?  and didn't i read that most sff writers aren't members either?

2) on winning awards and a career:
are awards really by writers for writers?  do readers actually care?  am i reading this right in that good writers aren't really best-selling writers?  how does that affect a writer's goals?

so many questions!

Offline night_wrtr

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2015, 04:21:32 AM »
I think success really comes down to personal goals. How can we really judge success in a field so large as writing? If I won an award for a story, but never got a publication deal, I would feel successful. If I got a deal and sold less than 500 copies, I would still feel successful.

I think success depends on us and our interpretation of our achievements.



Offline Raptori

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Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2015, 10:24:57 AM »
It'd be interesting to see the sales figures for "genre" novels - I wouldn't be surprised if they were much higher.

I'm not sure what I'd consider a success really. I read a blog post by MJSullivan recently about that, and how he has never felt like a "successful" author, becuase there's always another step along the road that he hasn't yet reached. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case for most authors.
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Offline Yora

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2015, 10:29:24 AM »
Success as an artist is reaching an audience that feels a strong positive response to the work.

As a businessman, success is making back your investement.
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Offline ClintACK

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2015, 11:32:15 AM »
Somewhere I saw an answer to this for self-publishing that stuck with me:

  • You're a successful self-published author when the total royalties you've made on one book equals the standard first-author advance from a major publishing house in your genre.

Others talk about the day you can confidently quit your day job.

But really, I expect to be completely "chuffed" (my new favorite British word that I'm probably grossly misusing here) every time I hit a new milestone along the way -- for about a day -- and then to go back to thinking about the goals I haven't reached yet.  But that's more about me and less about "success" in some absolute sense.


Offline m3mnoch

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2015, 05:00:05 PM »
It'd be interesting to see the sales figures for "genre" novels - I wouldn't be surprised if they were much higher.

right?!  that's exactly what i'm thinking.  maybe it's my day job that's coloring my thinking, but 25k just seems like such a low and easy target to hit.

You're a successful self-published author when the total royalties you've made on one book equals the standard first-author advance from a major publishing house in your genre.

oooh.  that's cool.  i like that as a clear line in the sand for a self-pub.

speaking of day jobs, my definition of success is absolutely "you can confidently quit your day job".  so, at 8%, that's going to take a helluva lot more than 25k books.  hence why i personally think that number is ridiculous. 

tho, i suppose if you sold that many books each year (not just total) for each of your books in each of your series, you'd be alright.  that sounds like it'll take a lot of work and time, tho.  i think i'll just take the rothfuss approach and sell a couple books a few million times and make a bajillion dollars.  yeah, that seems like a better plan.  i like that one.

/sigh

in all seriousness, it's a good thing i love writing as a hobby.

Offline Yora

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2015, 06:36:58 PM »
There don't seem to be a lot of sales numbers around, but it seems to enter the eternal hall of fame as a fantasy book you probably need to pass the 1 million mark with a single book.
Here's a list of some fantasy writers who have reached 10 millions of their various books sold.
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Offline ClintACK

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2015, 07:11:48 PM »
It'd be interesting to see the sales figures for "genre" novels - I wouldn't be surprised if they were much higher.

right?!  that's exactly what i'm thinking.  maybe it's my day job that's coloring my thinking, but 25k just seems like such a low and easy target to hit.

You're a successful self-published author when the total royalties you've made on one book equals the standard first-author advance from a major publishing house in your genre.

oooh.  that's cool.  i like that as a clear line in the sand for a self-pub.

Ouch.  Glad you were able to parse that.  I'm going to plead insufficient coffee when I wrote it. 

Quote
speaking of day jobs, my definition of success is absolutely "you can confidently quit your day job".  so, at 8%, that's going to take a helluva lot more than 25k books.  hence why i personally think that number is ridiculous. 

tho, i suppose if you sold that many books each year (not just total) for each of your books in each of your series, you'd be alright.  that sounds like it'll take a lot of work and time, tho.  i think i'll just take the rothfuss approach and sell a couple books a few million times and make a bajillion dollars.  yeah, that seems like a better plan.  i like that one.

/sigh

in all seriousness, it's a good thing i love writing as a hobby.

My impression is there's a snowball effect -- as you have more and more books out, you get more average sales per new reader discovering you.  This is particularly pronounced with long series. 

Offline xiagan

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Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2015, 08:55:35 PM »
We had some threads about this before. I salvaged this from them.

Both aren't up to date but may still be interesting:

Michael Sullivan's author survey: here

Self-Pub Success Stories
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline cupiscent

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2015, 09:48:57 AM »
Rachel Aaron blogged a little while back about how "good money" earning standards differ wildly for self-pub and trad-pub authors - Is $500,000 the New Midlist? Rachel publishes through both channels, and she has a lot of interesting posts about the numbers, challenges and benefits of each.

For me, I'm still measuring by my teenage dream: seeing myself on the bookstore shelves alongside all the names I love. :)

Offline Yora

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2015, 11:47:45 AM »
I think 20,000 after taxes per year would already be a very sweet deal.
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Offline m3mnoch

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2015, 04:05:09 PM »
We had some threads about this before. I salvaged this from them.

Both aren't up to date but may still be interesting:

Michael Sullivan's author survey: here

Self-Pub Success Stories

that 2014 survey link is AMAZEBALLS!  the first thing i want to know is how many copies people sold who had professional editing AND professional covers vs. who didn't.  empirical data ftw!

i was less excited about the success stories.  they've got nothing on there since 2012.  lots has changed since then.  that being said -- thanks a heap for the links!  you rule!

Offline tebakutis

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Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2015, 04:30:53 PM »
As far as measuring "success" for indie folks, another yardstick that might be viable is qualifying for membership in SWFA. Since they updated their guidelines last year, you can now become a member of SWFA if a book you've published sells at least $3,000 US worth of copies in a calendar year (the dollar amount, rather than the quantity of books solid, is the quantifier).

From the SWFA site:

http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/#novels

A published work of fiction of a minimum of 40,000 words either sold to a small press or self-published for which the author can demonstrate net income of at least $3,000 over the course of a year since January 1, 2013. Income can be in the form of advance, royalties, or some combination thereof.

I'd also agree on "number of books out" increases success, or at least helps it build. One of the successful self-pub authors who's given me a lot of great advice is Stuart Jaffe, and he has around 20 books out across multiple genres (post apocalyptic, fantasy, urban fantasy, etc).

Of course, another indie author I've gotten to know (Janine Spendlove) also recently signed a deal to write a media tie-in for Star Wars: Battlefront. So perhaps that's a good measure of success, as well. :)

For me personally, success would be:
- Selling a book to an agent, and getting published through traditional press, or
- Selling enough copies of one of my indie books to qualify for SWFA membership

I'm not sure if I'd count earning enough to quit my day job, as I actually *like* my day job. So I'd probably keep making games regardless of how my author career developed.
T. Eric Bakutis: 2014 Compton Crook Finalist and author of Tales of the Five Provinces

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Offline jefGoelz

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2015, 01:45:28 AM »
success is when agents and readers want to read your next book.

Offline jefGoelz

Re: What Counts as Success
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2015, 01:57:29 AM »

1) on the relatively low numbers required to be successful:
is that for real?  is that really all that you'd have to sell to count as a success?  i was always thinking success meant selling hundreds of thousands of copies.  is that all it takes to get a second book?  if the numbers sound so achievable, why is it actually so hard?  the author's guild doesn't count ebook authors, right?  and didn't i read that most sff writers aren't members either?
These aren't self-pubbed ebooks where a half of them are given away and the other half are sold for $2.99 or less.  The numbers don't surprise me one little bit.

2) on winning awards and a career:
are awards really by writers for writers?  do readers actually care?  am i reading this right in that good writers aren't really best-selling writers?  how does that affect a writer's goals?
One of the Mann-Booker nominees had sold 3,000 at the time of the nominations.  I'd guess it has already doubled, and if it wins, it will certainly sell over 100,000 (probably 100's of K).  Winning a major annual award will certainly greatly increase the sales of that book, but it will also increase the sales of the author's previous books, and will increase the sales of all subsequent books by that author.  There are several writers that have turned a Pulitzer (or similar prize) followed by a series of mediocre novels into a lucrative career.

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