Don’t Ask Me How My Book Is Doing

May 4, 2017

“No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” ~ Martha Graham

When you are toiling away prior to publication, one question you often get is “Have you published anything?” And after you’ve been published, the question changes to “So, how’s your book doing?” I pay attention to who’s asking and also my reaction to the question and have discovered something interesting. First, both questions usually trigger a sense of inadequacy. When I wasn’t published yet and someone asked me if I was, I felt a sense of not being good enough, of somehow failing before I’d barely begun. And after I was published, when someone asked me how the book was doing, guess what? The same feelings were triggered.

Now, I’m not blaming the person who asks the question. Not at all. The question comes from a good place—-a place of interest and support, of care and encouragement. It’s my own insecurity that brings up these feelings of “less than.” I own that.

What is Success?

Tangible results are one of our go-to measures of success, whether it’s book sales, salaries, or how many widgets someone produced in a week. And as authors trying to make a living, sales figures matter. Not just for this book, but for the next one we are submitting. Publishers look at those figures when determining what kind of advance to offer or whether to make an offer at all.

And if I’m completely honest, I’m curious too. I confess to have checked the Amazon ranking of a fellow writer’s book more than once, even though I know the rankings fluctuate drastically and aren’t always an accurate measure of sales. But my attitude has shifted. Where once I felt a little envious or bummed because I wasn’t even close to that number, I now—well, almost every time—feel joy, celebrating their success as if it were my own. Because in a way it is. We, as writers, are a collective, and one person’s success is all of ours. One of our own “made it” and that means we can make it too.

Partly Cloudy

I don’t want to hang my success, my self-worth, on the up and down graph of my sales figures. Blech. The cloud of failure that often appears—a cloud of my own making, I might add—can hang so heavy that I can’t crawl out from under it and get back to the business of writing.

Success for me is writing the damn book in the first place. And then rewriting it. And then getting feedback that gives me an “ah ha” moment that makes the story even better. Success is getting it to a place where I believe it’s ready for my agent’s eyes, getting her feedback, getting more “ah ha” moments and so on.

I do my best to market each book that comes out, all the while trying to balance working on my current projects so that one day they will be a published book that will prompt someone to ask “How’s your book doing?” 😉

And for all I know, they are asking if my book is feeling well, hasn’t been left out in the rain and gotten soggy pages, or is resting after a morning jog. I think next time I won’t assume they are asking about sales and ask what they want to know.

Still, don’t ask me how my book is doing. Ask me how I’m enjoying having a new book out. Ask me what project I’m working on now. Ask me if I want a piece of dark chocolate.

We’ll both enjoy the conversation more and ‘ll thank you for the chocolate.