How I Measure my Success as an Author

Sometimes I dread being asked “What do you do?” when meeting people. I’m always shy to talk about my books in person. I appreciate the people who say “Cool” and leave it at that. Others ask what I write and then don’t probe too much. Again that’s my preference. It may seem odd, but discussing my work with people I don’t know is awkward.

There are times, though, certain question make me want to crawl into a hole and not answer at all. On several occasions people have said something along these lines: “An author, huh … are you any good?” or “That’s neat, but do you make any money?”

I have never asked an accountant I’ve met “Are you a crappy accountant?” or “Do you make any money in that field?” I would consider that rude. I’m sure those who ask me these types of questions aren’t intentionally being discourteous (some might be, but I’m giving them the benefit of doubt). Most of them probably don’t even realize that they’ve put me in a difficult spot and it probably says more about my own insecurities.

When put on the spot, I usually hedge and say “I do okay.” How should I respond to these types of questions? When I sold my first book I was amazed. There was that fear that no one would want to buy my book. Within twelve hours I sold two copies. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

The next hurdle was being afraid to read the reviews. I won’t lie to you and say all the reviews have been glowing. However, for the most part, most of the reviews have been positive. Does this qualify as a triumph? For me, yes. Especially since it encourages me to continue writing.

Since hitting the publishing button in July 2013, each day I have sold at least one book. Some days I’ve sold hundreds of books, albeit these days are extremely rare, but thrilling nonetheless. Lately I’ve been averaging two to six sales a day. In the past fourteen months, I’ve sold thousands of books. Okay, I’m not a best-selling author like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling.

Luckily for me, I set my expectations low and every time I sell a copy I consider it a success. Self-published authors have an uphill battle (and I’m not saying those who went the traditional route have it that much easier in today’s market). There are days the battle gets the best of me and I mope around. Other days, I feel like a superhero. Mostly, though, I enjoy doing the best I can. That’s all any of us can do. And to me that also counts as success.

So I measure my success with each sale, each review (good and bad), and the fact that I still have the desire to write and publish more stories. How do you measure your success?

Today I’m launching my third novel Confessions From A Coffee Shop.

confessions (3)

To celebrate its release, the book is on sale for $0.99 cents until September 16th. Many bloggers have been kind enough to help me with the promotion. This week I’ll be featured on:

It’s Just Life (Interview on Sept. 9th)

Meetings With my Muse (Excerpt on Sept. 9th)

C.M. Brown (Guest Post and Excerpt on Sept. 10)

Medeia Sharif (Review on Sept. 10)

The Wish Factor (Excerpt on Sept. 10)

Rough Seas in the Med (Interview and Excerpt on Sept. 11)

Relatively Yours (Guest Post on Sept. 12)

The links will be updated during the week. I would like to thank everyone for all of their support and encouragement. It means a lot!

For those of you with a Goodreads account it would be extremely helpful if you added Confessions to your want to read shelf. I’m happy to report that it has already been listed on a Goodreads list: Funny Lesbian Romance Books. Currently it’s ranked 13th out of 38.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!



About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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57 Responses to How I Measure my Success as an Author

  1. Confessions From A Coffee Shop is fantastic! You’re a gifted writer – keep on doing it :).

  2. Hilary says:

    well, in my book you are a superstar!

  3. I think that’s a really encouraging post for other self-pub authors. I can understand the nosy questions, being a nosy journalist. I think being an author isn’t the same as an accountant, lawyer, doctor whatever. People need those services, bluntly they don’t need to buy books, so there’s a certain mystique about an author who can sell their books.

    Which reminds me, have we set a date yet? For the interview I mean. Let’s take this to email and finalise the details, yes?

    Hope you had a great hol 🙂

    • TBM says:

      My holiday was fab. Too short, as always. And I do understand why some people ask the question, but it does make me uncomfortable and I start to turn red, mumble, and look like an idiot. I’m really good at looking like an idiot.

  4. I really enjoyed your article, TB. Very well put! 🙂

  5. That’s a great point you made about the accountant…it’s so true.
    Congratulations on your book release! I hope you enjoyed your time off!

    • TBM says:

      Way back in the day I actually considered becoming an accountant and took some classes. Then I remembered that numbers and I don’t really get along.

      Vacation was fab.

  6. cheriereich says:

    I think you have a great view on success. We all have to find out how we measure it, not how others might perceive it. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I think this is true in all fields. If we let others define it for us, odds are we won’t be happy. People and society as a whole focus too much on one thing: money. I’ve found on the individual level it’s much better.

  7. Sherri says:

    Welcome back TB, hope you had a good holiday. Many congratulations on your book launch. You sound very successful to me and that is a great point about the accountant. Why do people ask such questions of us writers? I find it so annoying. You have the right attitude for this business, I am learning a lot from you 😉

  8. The Guat says:

    Duuuuuuuude so glad that I could lend a hand on your tour. Definitely love hearing about your success and the fact that you sell at least a book a day. That’s pretty sweet. And I absolutely love this post. I totally dread when they ask me so what do you do for a living. I get the same responses as you most of the time it’s a nice comment followed up by a question, but when they start turning into Barbara Walters I feel bad …like I need to explain my path or circumstances or something or else it won’t seem “successful”. Then I smack myself and say dude does this person really matter? I learned not to do that too much anymore because you’re right I don’t say well what kind of teacher or HR Rep are you? Are you any good? I get you and it’s so great to have your perspective when it comes to success sometimes I struggle with that…got to work on my perspective. Good post!

    • TBM says:

      I used to try to explain more, but when I did, the more incoherent I became. Now I just grimace and say “I do fine.” In my book, I am. Just because they haven’t heard of me doesn’t mean no one has. And thanks for the help Dude!

      Have you been to the beach lately? Tell it I say hello. One of these days I’ll make my way back to California for a visit. It’s been way too long.

  9. I love your positive attitude, TBM. I wish you many more superhero kind of days!
    Best wishes with the new release.

  10. Kimberly says:

    Congrats on your release! I like the idea of measuring success by the fact I still like to write – that is a good one. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      When I pondered how to write this post and when that thought popped into my head I thought it fit perfectly. If I still like writing then I’m doing something right. And isn’t that what matters. And I hope you continue to write–can’t wait for the next book!

  11. Best of luck on your latest book and many books to come. My current dental hygienist asked me how much I make a freelancer during my last visit. My response was similar to yours.

    • TBM says:

      Did you ask her how much she made? Sometimes I want to ask, but then shrink back since I’m not confrontational. I hope you enjoy your holiday. You’ve earned it. Safe travels and can’t wait to hear all about it!

  12. Cher Green says:

    I’m with you on the talking to strangers, or even non-writers, about this thing called ‘Being an Author’. It’s a touch subject and sometimes those who aren’t can stomp all over the mere mention of this profession. The question I’ve gotten which I HATE is “How much did it cost you?” Am I the only one getting this one? Assumptions of having to pay to be a published author really offends me, even though I’m aware they probably don’t even realize what they are saying. My guess is they think that is how it works, or maybe not. Ha, they might really think someone like me would have to pay for a ticket in this profession.

    Keep your desire! That is what’s most important.

    • TBM says:

      I’m convinced most people don’t think before they speak and they have no idea that their comments might be hurtful. They’re curious and ask whatever question pops into their minds.

      I will do my best to keep my desire. That’s the best part about this career. You too!

  13. Geoff W says:

    Such a great book! And I think you’re measuring things perfectly, as long as you’re happy with what you produce and enjoy doing it! Good luck with this one, it was great and I can’t wait to see what other shave to say about it.

  14. Congratulations TB! Third novel published would certainly count as success. I believe society constrains us to see success in certain terms: money, power, fame. However, success to me is being able to live a fulfilling life. In this “definition” of success everyone’s ultimate goal is as different as their personality. What defines a fulfilled life for me doesn’t mean the same to an accountant, a politician, or even a painter. Thank you for reminding all your readers that it is necessary to keep our own meaning of success always in sight.

    • TBM says:

      I would go mad or become extremely depressed if I had to judge my success against society’s definition. Not every writer shoots to the top of all the best-selling lists, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us have failed. Thanks for your kind words and support.

  15. Pingback: Confessions… from an American in London | roughseasinthemed

  16. Pingback: Success Comes in Threes | The Wish Factor

  17. It is daunting to discuss your work with other people. How do you condense down a lifetime of thoughts and attitudes ending up between pages of a book, even if fictionalized? You are a lovely writer though, so don’t be shy! And welcome back from vacay!!

    • TBM says:

      Thanks Renee. I also find I get nervous and start to ramble a bit, butchering my stories and making a horrible impression. Maybe I should start memorizing my blurbs, but then people will think I’m a robot.

  18. Sherry Ellis says:

    You are a gifted writer! I think your sales are proof of that!

  19. Popped over from Roughseas. Enjoyed your interview there. Many will appreciate the time and care you put into your responses.
    Colorado, traveling – and great observation about “people never ask accountants…”
    Just delightful. (Now I have to wander around your blog a bit more.)

    • TBM says:

      Welcome! I appreciate the visit. I’m usually fearful of my accountant the and the news they have to tell me about taxes so I don’t ask many questions to be honest. Just do as they say.

  20. Melly says:

    Congratulations TB! You have such an admirable writing ethic and it makes possible for us readers to enjoy your new (wonderful) stories so often. I wish you every success with your new book!

    • TBM says:

      Thanks so much! How is your novel coming along?

      • Melly says:

        Well…I’m shelving it for now. Even though technically it’s out in the open and only a foot away from my desk. I poke at it occasionally, but I have been putting most of my writing energy into a new book. I haven’t abandoned it but I think I needed to spend some time in another “world”, if that makes sense.

      • TBM says:

        Sometimes it’s best to take a break. I published my first two books out of order. Marionette was actually the first one I wrote, but I needed more time with it so I completely understand. I’m not a huge fan of rushing things. It has to feel right.

  21. pattisj says:

    Great job! From what I hear, authors get some of the craziest questions.

  22. Pingback: New York City and a Blog Change | 50 Year Project

  23. Colline says:

    I think you have done well TB and are to be applauded.

  24. You are a success.

    I don’t like talking about writing with strangers. They do say some cringe-worthy things.

  25. I’d be so tempted to respond with a big laugh and then say, “Oh, I don’t know. What do _you_ do? Are you any good? Do you make much money?” and then, “Honestly! What kinds of questions are those?!”

    What you need is a friend who’ll do that for you, so it gets said but you don’t have to be the one who says it.

  26. Nick Wilford says:

    I think money is a pretty moot point when it comes to discussing writing anyway, I’m sure most of us don’t get into this game with that at the forefront of their minds, unless you’re deluded or think becoming the next JK Rowling sounds easy (actually, that would also be deluded!) Obviously people don’t consider this, though. Sounds to me like you’re doing pretty well!

  27. Sounds like you’re doing very well, TB — I’d be quite happy with a sale a day. For me, it’s more like one every three days. Good luck with the launch! I’ll be sure to retweet anything I see.

  28. Sometimes people do ask the strangest questions! Your answer sounds good to me!

    I think it is awesome that you sell at least a book a day and that some days you have sold hundreds. That sounds sooo cool and fabulous to me! I can imagine the first sale is an amazing feeling (I look forward to that day, but so are the rest. Keep writing and loving what you are doing.

    Best of luck!!!

  29. stephie5741 says:

    OMG people are SO rude. “How is your book doing?” If I had a dime for every time I was asked that, I’d be set! I was at a writer’s conference this weekend when a Newberry award-winning author told us she makes a decent living off her fiction writing, but ONLY because she combines it with paid school visits. (Big thing for children’s writers–they make hundreds or thousands of dollars going around to schools.) If she can’t make a living off of her 6 or so books that are still doing really well without school visits, nobody can! And she emphasized that even with all that, it’s just a decent living, not an extravagant one.

    I quit my job last fall because I was making more $$$ freelance writing than working full-time. I do pretty darn well with that. My book sales will likely never be the bulk of my salary, but I’m okay with that. I’d love to do author visits to promote my book, but I’m not interested in doing them to make a living–I’m a writer, not a public speaker! To be honest, the authors I know who do make a full-time living at it are romance novelists. They get made fun of by society–but most of them are consistently published, have a huge fan base, and make enough to not have to supplement it with anything.

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