About a year ago, I signed with an agent. And shortly thereafter I signed a book deal with a publisher. These were joyous times, something I had worked toward for years. Even still, I was not without my insecurities.
As my debut novel’s release date approaches, I’ve felt increasingly anxious about whether or not my book will be “successful.” I do not want to disappoint my publisher, my agent, my family, or anyone who pays actual money for my words. These people have supported me. I want to make them proud.
There are two main measures the industry uses to determine a book’s success: sales figures and awards. But even with these metrics, success is ultimately a subjective concept. Stephen King might be bummed if he sells 50,000 copies, but my head would explode. What satisfies one might not satisfy another. So I’ve been asking myself: what would need to happen for me to feel content? After thinking pretty hard on this question through the last month while swimming, eating ice cream, taking long walks on the beach, etc., I’ve narrowed it down to just two things…
1. I want people to connect to my characters and find meaning in my story. This is why I read, and it’s why I write. I love falling in love with fictional people, living in their world, and accompanying them on their journeys. And I love when a story moves me and makes me think about myself, others, or life in a new way. Of course, if this is happening with my readers is a difficult thing to measure. The only way I will know is if people tell me through emails or tweets or reviews or old-fashioned conversation. So, people, if you read a book you love, I encourage to tell the author. It will make him/her very happy.
2. I want to sell enough copies that someone will want to publish more of my books. I don’t need to make the NY Times bestseller’s list, but I certainly want people beyond just my family and friends to buy my book. I like writing, and I want to keep doing it. I have a day job, so I’m not rubbing my hands together in anticipation of potential earnings. I just want respectable sales figures so that a respectable publisher will want to put something else I’ve written into the world. If my figures are laughable, it’s still possible to publish again, but it will make it much harder.
So there you have it. Has figuring this out helped lessen my anxiety? Meh. For now, I suppose. I’ll try to keep reminding myself of these things and hope it’s enough.