publishing

Measuring Success

tape measureI was once asked what success meant.  I remember struggling for an answer because I’d never given the definition of success much thought before.  Back then, I was in customer support for a software company, so I equated success to a day of answered calls.  However, that wasn’t what the asker was looking for.  The person asking the question went on to explain that there was no right answer to the definition of success because what I define as success, another person might not.

His words have stayed with me through the years, and as I started my new career as an author, I found myself facing a similar question.  What is success to an author?  As an industry-collective thought, the answer seems to revolve around landing a traditional publishing deal.  By doing so, an author has “made it” as a published author.  But was that a definition of success which would satisfy me?

When I first started researching how to become published in 2012, the wheels of change had been slowly turning for years, thanks to the inception of Amazon’s self-publishing platform in 2007.  That change had opened doors for many aspiring authors, who had taken a self-publishing route.

I read how, with an upload of a file, an aspiring author could instantly reach readers.  I remember spending hours researching article after article about the pros and cons of self-publishing and just wishing someone would come out and say which was the right thing for me to do.  There was no article with the magic answer, and the more I researched, the more I began to understand that the answer lay in the reason why I wanted to publish my books.  I just wanted to share the stories that had so entertained me during their creation.

With the digital age in full swing and rising projections of readers switching to devices, I took the plunge and went the self-publishing route.  January 2013, I uploaded my first book, quickly followed by a second in March and a third in April.  Did I consider myself successful?  Let’s look at the numbers:

Jan Feb March April
Book 1 17 5 7 10
Book 2 27 23
Book 3 9

 

No, I wasn’t very successful, but I was persistent and kept researching and learning about the market, my target audience, and my options.  October 2013, everything changed when I altered my pricing strategy and my covers.  I suddenly had over 2,000 downloads of Hope(less), the first book in my Judgement Series (the second book I published).  I was finally reaching readers and sharing my stories.

Today, I write full-time, out earning what I’ve made in any of my previous careers.  Although I do consider that a level of success, my income still doesn’t define my success.  It didn’t in previous careers so why should it now?

The original reason I started writing and why I continue to write, remains my definition of success.  To share the stories in my head.  To give all my imaginary friends a voice.  To be read.  To date I’ve sold over 300,000 books and given away over 500,000 series starters.

Success can be measured in so many different ways.  What’s your measure of success?

Melissa Haagby: Melissa Haag

Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children.  An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.

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Stereotyping the Masses: Self Publishing in a Traditional World

Keyboard in a dishwasher

There’s been some recent internet controversy over the value of self-publishing, and it’s really gotten me thinking about the whole process. Since I do self-publish and I am a member of a community that still predominately promotes the traditional publishing route, I wanted to add my voice to those indie authors trying to explain the value in self-publishing.

The easiest way for me to describe the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing in today’s market would be to compare it to doing the dishes by hand versus with a dishwasher. The end result is still clean dishes either way as long as all the steps are followed. The difference isn’t the amount of work you put into the process, but where, when, and how you put the work in. The dishwasher is all about the prep. You need to rinse the dishes and maybe presoak the pots. Washing by hand is all about the elbow-grease while scrubbing in the water.

To me, traditional publishing is like using the dishwasher. To have success, a large amount of up front prep work is needed. Synopsis refinement, query letters, and verbal pitches are often all part of the pre-publication process. However, once accepted, the traditional publishing machine takes over the brunt of the work, with the exception of manuscript revisions and shared marketing.

Self-publishing is like hand washing the dishes. I can skip the dreaded query process and the writing of the synopsis and go straight to working with the copy/line editors, proofreaders, and cover designers. Only, I have more control over each step to buff the manuscript into the story born in my head. Much like handwashing the pots, I don’t stop buffing until the manuscript meets my satisfaction.

Reader reading a KindleThe biggest source of contention in self-publishing is the missing validation of the work by the “gate keepers,” the acquiring editors who exist in traditional publishing. It is wrong to believe self-publishing does not have “gate keepers” like traditional publishing. It does. Only it’s a large group of people who hold that position. Readers. They are the ones who validate the manuscripts published. If my book isn’t good, the readers will say so through the lack of reviews, negative reviews, or through low to no sales.

I’m not here to tell anyone that one route is better than the other but only to say both routes have value. Both take a large amount of work to produce a professional book at the end. Yes, some self-published authors may skip steps that result in less than professional work. But, both methods should have the opportunity to provide the same amount of credibility in the publishing community based on the success of the final work in the market.

I have three kids and have raised them to avoid using words like ever, never, and always because there are usually exceptions that make the use of them untrue. Likewise, I would advise not to label the self-publishing process as only good for producing subpar works. Success can be found in self-publishing, just like in traditional publishing.

On a side note, although I’m self-published, the dishwasher does my dishes.

Melissa Haagby: Melissa Haag

Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children.  An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.

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