Why I’ll only be a Bestseller by Accident.


00 Books



Bestseller. Amazon Bestseller. New York Times Bestseller.

It’s a constant mantra in the writing and publishing industry. Write more, market more, sell more. Those words can be found on nearly every blog from nearly every writer or publisher disguised in a variety of ways.

My first publisher warned me about launch day – don’t expect too much, this is a long process, it takes time and larger catalogs to get the sales numbers you’re expecting, etc.

He was trying to soften the blow of disappointment most first time authors experience. A kind gesture really, but my anxiety and frustration leading to launch day had nothing to do with expectations for sales. It was merely a matter of the push and conflict to get there.

I recently spoke with another publisher. This man’s enthusiasm is absolutely contagious. I mean, he is seriously pumped to make sure one of his authors becomes a bestseller. And hell, I believe he’ll get exactly that. They have a host of talented authors who will do well, if not extraordinarily well.

He said, “One of you are going to be a bestseller, it’s a matter of odds.”

He’s right, but it brought up a dilemma I’ve struggled with since I started writing. In fact, as I clumsily described what I wanted for my career and from them as a publisher, I inadvertently offended their marketing director by implying I didn’t their services to market. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why? Because I don’t really market, but this goes back to the title of my post.

In all the conversations I’ve had with writers and publishers, not one of them actually listened to or believed me when I said, “I don’t write to be a bestseller. I write because I have no other way to get rid of the stories in my head. Whether I sell one book or a thousand, it doesn’t matter because I have to write.”

“Oh, that’s not true because I know you’d be thrilled to see your name on that list,” they’ll say.

“Right, but you’d be happy with the money,” they’ll assert.

“Every writer who says that is lying to themselves,” they’ll challenge.

In the exhaustion of yet another failed attempt at communication, I quietly slip away to the peaceful silence of my gatehouse. Here, the trees know why I write. Their reverent observation encourages self-reflection and honest words. With shushing whispers and ancient wisdom, they speak of being true to my vision, the one compelling me to write this post today.

I admire the authors I know that spend hours trying to achieve amazing success in publishing. But that’s their path, and I respect the hell out of it. My path is different, something I realized very early on, but couldn’t quite put into words until now.

My goals as an author are modest – write, edit, format, cover, and print.

Their simplicity has nothing to do with avoiding work. Hell, writing a book or several is damn hard work, and I believe in every story I write. But it’s not about sales or notoriety. It’s not about being on some list, like an international show dog on display. It’s not about proving my worth or ability as an author.

This is about looking back in fifty years, taking my very last breath while lying next to the man I love, and smiling one last time, knowing I accomplished everything I wanted to, knowing I lived my passion well.


00 couple on bench




Categories: author, bestseller, Publishing, simplicity, writing | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Why I’ll only be a Bestseller by Accident.

  1. Completely! I’m one of those writers that would love to see myself as a bestseller, can’t deny it, but the first reason I write is because I can’t not. It’s the thing that’ll keep me going through the query-submission stage and long after that.

  2. A. Noyed

    Why bother seeking a publisher at all then? Why not self publish and leave the time, resources and effort the publisher puts into marketing and producing your book to someone who actually cares whether their business succeeds or not? Yes, that’s right, publishing is a business. Did you ever stop to think that maybe all this effort they’re putting into convincing you to try to market your book well is because they have invested in you and want to see a return on that investment?

    • I sought the first publisher because of a couple mildly flawed beliefs, two that are found in nearly every mainstream post on becoming an author: in order to legitimize my work I needed find an agent or publisher. The second: self publishing is too complicated and expensive. After many hundreds of dollars and a year in the publishing “business”, I was introduced to a thriving population of Indie authors whose model better suited my desired career path.
      The second publisher sought me out. They’ve been enthusiastic and kind. Though their model is vastly different from any other small press, the dilemma is the same. Therefore, their resources are better suited for a different type of author.
      Yes, publishing is a business. Authors are commodities. They toil away for hours, sometimes years, to create stories and series. They edit, market, and spend countless more hours building platforms. For all this work, they rarely receive above 40% of the return on any given book. Publishers make it clear that it’s the author’s responsibility to market. So many invest hundreds of dollars and even more time in the hopes they’ll see a return. They’re betting on the long shot.
      It’s economics: time + investment = return. The majority of authors at any given publishing house will never come out ahead in that equation over the lifetime of their careers. Quite frankly, publishers only do by virtue of author volume, which is why most small presses fail.
      So then, it becomes a labor of love, and you’re absolutely correct, why not self publish?

  3. I can say I do a little of both worlds. I write because I like making stories, and I want something of me to be left behind for other generations. (My kids first) However, if someone were to come along and say, hey, do what you love and I will stack all these bills over in the corner there while you keep typing…

    I would be okay with that too.

    • Jamie, you made me smile this morning. See ~~> :D. Hon, I hope someone walks up and hands you a pile of money to write. You’re not only talented, but one of the nicest people I know. You let me know if you ever need anything. *Heart Hugs*

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