How do you quantify success as a self published author?

I hope in reading these words you’re not expecting some world-bending enlightenment on my part.  Because brothers and sisters, I don’t have it.

As an American, I’ve been raised to believe that ultimately success = dollars.  To be considered “successful” it means to earn money doing a job (hopefully something you enjoy) enough so that you can survive.

Is that really success?

As I look back over the past few months, I couldn’t be happier with the way my 2017 has started from a self-publishing perspective.  Well… that’s a lie.  I could be happier, but I can hardly complain.

Throughout the first quarter of the year, I’ve been redoubling my efforts on that horrific part of independent publishing… “marketing”.  Ew, right?

You know, the more I get into it, the less ‘ewww’ I find it.  I find it actually quite fascinating and immensely rewarding.

Starting this year I began studying the Self Publishing Formula, courtesy of independent publishing juggernaut Mark Dawson, and it’s been an incredible experience.  Borrowing from some of his strategy, I’ve worked towards building a “brand” and creating reader magnets that might help draw more eyes to my books.  I may be a little biased, but I think I’m a pretty damned good author.  I enjoy my own work.  But people won’t read it if they don’t know it exists, right?

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So I developed a plan of promotion, price drops and give aways that really propelled my first novel The Fog of Dreams.

Only one hitch…  in order to propel it, I had to give it away.

So, something that I’m happy with, that I consider an incredible success gave me a whopping zero dollars and zero cents.  How does that work?

How it works is my novel broke Amazon’s Top 100 Free list, and landed on #1 in the Military Thrillers, CyberThrillers, and Werewolf categories.  How it works is over the period of a couple of weeks, my first novel ended up being downloaded by nearly 6,000 people an audience that previous to that promotional process didn’t even know I existed.

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As a result of those 6,000 downloads, I’ve been selling some copies of Book #2 (not many, but some) and most importantly, I’ve been building a ready made audience who will (hopefully) be excited when I announce the release of Book #3 in the coming month.

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Success!

Money in my pocket?  Eh, maybe $100 this year if I’m lucky.  But, still… success.

The most important part of this success story is that it motivated me in ways that I haven’t felt motivated in a while.  It motivated me to the point that I wrote a follow up G.I. Joe novella (already published) and wrote a brand new thriller novel (which is waiting for editing) and I’m now almost 15,000 words deep in another brand new thriller novel.  It comes in waves.  I’m writing like crazy and feeling a lot more confident about my ability to find an audience, thanks to what I’ve learned and what I’ve tried.

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I just did my taxes.  Last year it COST me almost $1,000 to be a self publisher (after royalties, etc…).  My goal at this point is to maybe break even.  Maybe, just maybe make enough off my books to edit and develop covers for future books.  Maybe have a business model that ends up being self-fulfilling instead of self-defeating.

Is that success?

Yeah, I think it is.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Justin, just finished Fog of Dreams. Absolutely loved it! Not usually a fan of military type adventure but your seamless sci-fi approach grabbed me and didn’t let me go. Can’t wait to read more of your writing. Thanks for your dedication and skills. Anita

    1. Wow, Anita, thank you very much for the nice words! I really appreciate you reading the book and telling me how you felt. Thanks so much.

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