by Giselle Renarde
Last year I had a friendly disagreement with a fellow author about the meaning of success. No, I take that back--it wasn't friendly.
I was finally starting to make ends meet month after month, which is huge for someone who's been living out of a savings account for *mumble-mumble* years. I was also coming off a bout of depression, and my heart felt all gushy with gratitude for this ability to live life on my own terms--conduct my business on my own terms.
To me, that spelled success.
The aforementioned author tore a strip off me. She told me I had no right to be satisfied with my wretchedly low "making ends meet" income. Why didn't I aspire to be a big earner? I was just a lazy so-and-so.
If you're satisfied, you're stagnating.
Well, first off, don't tell someone with chronic depression they shouldn't be satisfied with what they have. It's kinda... ummm... counterproductive?
Also, I just plain disagree.
But I disagree as a self-professed lazy so-and-so.
I know authors who feel like failures if they don't earn $100k in a year. That's fine for them, although you won't find me beating myself up about it. I have zero aspirations to become a self-publishing millionaire. If that happens, by some unlikely stroke of luck, it's because I unknowingly captured some zeitgeist I didn't realize existed.
If I get rich, it won't be because of my business acumen and winning personality. Or even the quality of my writing. It'll be pure luck.
Does that mean my rich writer friends are just getting lucky? (heh--phrasing)
Nope. They're working their asses off. They're spending money like it's going out of style, baby. *raises Ray-Ban sunglasses. winks. takes a sip of Crystal Pepsi*
They are masters of Facebook advertising. They get BookBubs. They spend more on marketing than I pay in rent. That's not an overstatement. Easily double or triple what I pay in rent every month.
And they reap the rewards. Their books sell. They make money.
All in all, I'm glad I had that little falling out with a colleague. From that day forward, I was better able to articulate why I felt professional jealousies (when I felt professional jealousies), and once that happened, they dissipated. Well, that's not true. But I had the tools to easily resolve them.
I used to hear other authors bragging about their successful book launches and think, "Dag nabbit, that woulda coulda shoulda been me!" I was full of ze, how you say, sour grapes, no? Why was everyone else reaping rewards and not me?
Then I started looking at things logically. When I heard about someone's successful book, instead of dwelling on that initial visceral sour grapes sensation, I delved into the makings of their success. I ended up with a kind of jealousy-repelling checklist.
Now I ask myself:
Does this book belong to a hot, in-demand genre?
Would I be willing to write in that genre?
Pretty much always, the answer is NO.
I have a friend whose book took off recently. It was a footsketbaseball romance. Footsketbaseball--that's a sport, right? Okay, anyway, it was a SPORTS romance.
And I said to her: "Eww sports!" And she said to me: "Eww I know! Sports are the worst! Took me three days to write the playing-field-surface-rink scene."
But she did her research. She knew sports romance was an up-and-coming subgenre. She put in the hours and wrote a book she wasn't interested in because she knew it would be a big earner. Her work paid off.
I don't begrudge authors writing to market. I totally get it. This is a JOB. But there are certain things I have zero desire to write about even for big money and you can't make me, nyah-nyah!
Okay, so let's pretend I saw a book doing well in my home genre. Say some heartfelt trans lesbian literary erotica tops the charts (HA!). Am I jealous yet?
Well, no. I might have a twinge of jealousy since this is a genre I've been writing in from personal experience for more than 8 years, but then I have to think to myself:
Is this author spending a shitload of money on advertising?
Am I willing to spend a shitload of money on advertising?
Nah, I'm too cheap.
Okay, say they're not spending a dime.
Is this author spending a shitload of TIME advertising the book?
Yes! Blog hops and marketing doodads and podcasting thingamaboppers... I'm just making up words now.
Am I willing to spend a shitload of time advertising my books?
Honestly? I'm way too lazy.
And the be-all and end-all question:
Would the benefits of achieving sales success with a similar title outweigh the cost in time, energy and money?
That's always up to each individual author to answer. I can't answer it for you and you can't answer it for me. And when we try to measure success for each other--that's when we get into trouble.