I haven’t dropped my goal of becoming a bestselling author (whatever that even means), but I did get realistic and made a list of smaller, much more doable goals in the meantime. Not making it onto a USA Today or NYT book list doesn’t equate to failure. Every Big Victory is made up of smaller victories:
Victory #1: Publishing the book
Before even getting to the sales part, that’s the first big step! Not everyone who finishes a book gets to the publishing part: it’s daunting and a lot like that recurring dream of showing up to take your math test naked. It’s vulnerable and brave to put yourself out there to be read and critiqued, so good job!
Victory #2: People are buying the book
This counts, even if your only customers are friends and family (so far). Your friends have other friends who are not your friends. Don’t discredit the power of word of mouth. I’m a huge evangelist for books that have a strong impact on me.
I’ve read some rants from authors about low sales during some months, but I’m just glad I sell any books at all…although I admit, I was REALLY excited when I sold 22 books in June, and a little crushed when I only sold seven in July. But still, any sales at all are always better than none. Always.
Victory #3: Getting reviews
Maybe your reviews will come from friends and family in the beginning. But still! Reviews help future readers who are browsing and looking at your book. Considering the number of people who say, “Yeah, I’ll get to it” when asked to write a review but never actually do, consider any review you get to be a victory, because it is. Even a small number of reviews are better than none!
But sometimes even one extremely heartfelt review is a huge victory. The first review that ever made me cry was from someone on Goodreads who said my book Someone You Already Know helped her in her healing process as a survivor of rape. That meant a lot. That keeps me writing.
Victory #4: 1-star reviews
Yes, I’m serious. My first instinct after reading my first 1-star for Public Displays of Convention was to blast “Mean” by Taylor Swift on repeat, but then I realized: 1-star reviews are proof to readers that someone other than your mom has read your book. That’s a big deal.
Victory #5: Building up a readership
In the two years I’ve been publishing books, it was only 10 months ago that I heard that buzz-phrase “build a readership.” So I got a Twitter account, a Facebook business page, created this blog, and started setting aside more time to engage with people who have similar interests. If people whom you’ve never met offline are starting to hear about you, whether it’s ten or ten thousand, that’s still a victory: people know you exist, and even if they don’t buy your books, at least they’ll know your books exist, too.
This non-exhaustive list feels small compared to the success of other indies I know, but I made it because I compare myself to others constantly: that’s a death trap. This list helps me remind myself that every big name in publishing started where I am right now. However you define “success,” remember it comes from a bunch of little things all rolled together over time.
Read other posts in the Indie Author Life series, and check back next week for more.