Your Book Can Be Successful Without Being a Bestseller

Jun 29, 2016


Today we spoke with a writer who asked, “Doesn’t every author want a bestseller?”

Believe it or not, the answer is no.

We work with people who publish books for a wide variety of reasons: some want the additional revenue of a book; some want to share information as broadly as possible; some want the credibility a book can confer that may lead to bigger speaking engagements, more consulting contracts, and a higher profile in their fields. Others – you name it.

Your original publishing goals will help determine how you know if your book has been successful. And writing a bestseller is just one way to think about success.

 These are some of the others ways you might measure your book’s success:

  • Gaining the support of key influencers. If Brené Brown talks up your book in an interview, or your mentor presses a copy into people’s hands every chance he gets, is it successful?
  • Winning awards. Literary awards are a thrilling endorsement of the credibility of your work.
  • Selling X copies. Maybe this is your second book, and you really want to sell more copies than you did the first time around.
  • Touching people’s lives. This is one of the more intangible ways to think about success. Are you hearing from readers that you’ve improved their lives in some way, and how important is that to you?
  • Earning a lot of positive customer reviews. Accumulating heaps of reviews and stars on Amazon not only feels good, it’s also a sign that people are noticing your book.
  • Earning X revenue. Maybe you won’t feel your book has taken off until you earn a certain amount from its sales, or you receive a six-figure advance from a publisher.
  • Earning an additional X dollars in ancillary revenue. After publishing a book, you may find your consulting and speaking revenue increase. How many extra numbers does your bank account need for you to consider that publishing experience a success?
  • Breaking even financially. A more humble measure of success might mean publishing a book that recoups your costs.
  • Getting rave reviews in an esteemed newspaper. If the New York Times writes a glowing review, would you consider your book a success?
  • Getting the endorsement of your industry. Would you feel successful if your industry’s magazine wrote favourably about you and your book, or if you were asked to keynote an industry conference?
  • And of course, bestsellerdom. And what bestseller list means the most to you – is it the Globe and Mail’s? Amazon’s? Something else?

The point is, there isn’t really an objective standard for success when it comes to publishing a book. You need to decide for yourself what measurements are most meaningful to you.

We love this comment from one of our clients: “To be honest, I think it is successful that it is done.”