We all want people to buy our books and then read our books. That’s the ideal. But what if we can realize only one of these two outcomes? Would we rather have people buy our book or read it?
In the first scenario a lot of people would buy our book but they never actually read it. It sits around unread and later moves to a bookshelf and later still ends up in the trash. No one ever reviews the book or lets us know how much they enjoy it.
In the second scenario, readers download our book for free, read someone else’s copy (that wasn’t paid for either), receive an advanced copy, or finds a pirated version. We receive a boatload of positive reviews and everywhere we go it seems someone says how great our book is. A lot of people read our book and love it, but we never make one penny from it.
Both these situations are extreme, but if we had to select one, which one would it be?
If we pick the first, then our primary goal in writing a book is to make money. If we pick the second, then our primary motivation to write is for the love of the art. Neither one is wrong, but by themselves, for the long-term, neither one will fully satisfy.
We need people to buy our books, and we need people to read them. The first need is practical and the second need is emotional. We must have both to sustain ourselves as writers. Without the money we starve physically; without the feedback, we starve creatively. Don’t be caviler about either; we need both and shouldn’t dismiss one as unnecessary.
We must write books that will make money and that people will want to read. The money doesn’t have to be a lot, but we need to make something. Our readers don’t need to be many, but we need to have at least a few.
Of course, we’d prefer to sell lots of books and have lots of readers. Isn’t that what we all dream for—even if we don’t say so or are afraid to admit it?