December 2014 brought the release of my first book, Sisters, Strangers & Slaughter, a collection of three short psychological thrillers I published in digital format via Thought Catalog Books. The release came after four months of preparation. I’d spent countless hours writing and editing, and then editing again at my producer’s suggestion. By the end of it, I’d read the book so many times I had it memorized. Up to that point, it was the best work of my life.
The Best Work Of Your Life & Not Getting Any Love
The release came and went. My publisher gave it a small marketing budget, and by the end of the book’s first week available for purchase on Kindle and iBooks, it ranked on Amazon Best Sellers list at number 2,086.
I thought it’d move up. It didn’t.
Just shy of three years later, it’s ranked at number 2,472,423.
I made a total of 643 dollars from that book, given the 60/40 deal I signed.
Despite the book’s failure, I’m not upset by the ratio of time invested to money made. I don’t include Sisters in my body of work when talking to prospective clients, but I don’t criticize it either, because the process of publishing it is invaluable to my career. I’d do it again a million times over, even if the book had made zero dollars.
The experience made me a better writer. It taught me to understand the difference in communication style when speaking with agents, producers and editors. It destroyed my fear of failure, because I realized failure doesn’t exist.
I wrote another book. And then another book. I keep writing books because I don’t know how not to write them. It doesn’t matter if they succeed or flop. If a project doesn’t turn out the way we hope, we still have the option to keep going. There’s no end of the road until we decide there is.
When we consider what it means to be “successful,” we have to remember scope and scale. For as much as we’d like to be admired and respected as soon as we begin to share our work, it takes practice to produce the kind of work that deserves admiration and respect.
We have to throw our egos out the window. An audience will not come just because we feel entitled to one. People who make great things do so because they commit themselves to practice, to growth and development.