Writing and Publishing

8 Ways to Measure Success as an Author

Author discusses possible ways to measure publishing success

What Are You Measuring

As an author how do you measure success? Here are eight possible ways:

1) Number of Books Published: What do you think when you read an author bio and learn they’ve written over one hundred books? You may think they’re successful. I wonder if they do. How many books does a writer need to publish to be successful? Many will likely say, “Just a few more.”

2) Number of Copies Sold: Looking at the number of books sold is another common measurement. However, not all sales are equal. Do we count books given away? How does a 99-cent ebook compare to a $17.95 print book? While the total quantity of copies moved maybe an encouraging (or discouraging) number, it is also misleading because not all sales have the same value.

3) Total Dollar Volume: Instead of looking at the number of units moved, a better way might be the dollar amount of those sales.

4) Amount of Revenue Earned: Equalizing the disparity between units sold and gross dollar volume is looking at revenue earned. This more practical evaluation looks at our writing career as a business. Though revenue earned from books is a great way to measure business and financial success, it may not fully reflect the author’s success.

5) Reader Response: Other authors fixate on reviews and the number of stars, social media interaction, fan mail, blog comments, and email list size. These, however, put authors on an emotional rollercoaster, where success follows the latest whim of reader opinion. Some days are good and some, not so good.

6) Earning a Living as a Writer: Another consideration is being able to make a living as a writer. Meeting basic living needs through writing is all some authors want. But for others, this is an unattainable goal, while another group finds it insatiable.

7) Personal Satisfaction: The knowledge of a book written well drives other authors, knowing they did their best. Similar sentiments are seeing ongoing improvement or having sincere pride over our work. But these are internal evaluations, which vary with our emotional state. One day we may feel successful and the next day, not so much.

8) Enjoying What We Do: There is much value in simply enjoying what we do as writers. Yes, numbers are great, earning a living is a bonus, and seeing improvement is affirming, but enjoying what we do is key.

While the initial question was how do you measure success, the better question is how should we measure success? I’m not sure how I measure success as a writer. It might be a combination of these; at times it may be all of these.



By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

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