Self Publishers Define Success

success in self publishingHave you ever wondered how self publishers define success? When the question popped into my head, I had eighteen self publishing writers at my disposal, so I asked them.

At the 2010 Sunshine Coast Writers' Festival, my fellow independent writers with whom I shared a table to sell self-published books, agreed to answer survey questions about themselves and their books. When I finished my original seven questions, I added one more…

How do you define success in regards to your self publishing endeavor? For example, how would you finish the following statements?

  • I know I am successful because…
  • OR I will be successful when…
What follows is a list of their answers. If there are quotation marks around the answer, it is a direct quote that I managed to copy down as the author spoke. Otherwise, these replies are taken from my notes and are presented from the best of my recollection.




I interviewed the authors in random order and I am presenting their answers here in the order in which I got them. At the end of the list, I have made some comments and suggestions.



Just selling a book is a success. But I also want people to respond to the ideals in the book.

I see the success in stages. First, I just wanted to sell my book. Now I want to see my bears in animation on TV or in a film.

"This book already is a success. It's given pleasure to the women we wanted to honour. They are pleased to share with their families. It is a memorial to some who have passed away.

"A lot of us came together and had a good time producing this book."


"It would be good if a publisher wanted my books. Oh, one did, but I turned it down.

"When I was a kid I wanted to be Ernest Hemmingway: fight bulls, write about it, and be famous. Not anymore." Now what I value is reader response.


Success to me is feedback from my book. It resonates with people. People find me and the connection is meaningful.

I covered the cost and more in just two years. Now I would like it to get into bookstores. More sales would be nice.

I found satisfaction in thinking about a book, saying I would write it, and then completing the book. Now I've done an e-version and two print runs. Further success would be selling books, finding the right market.

Success is making a difference. I enjoy helping people find a positive perspective. I open the door to a happier, healthier life.

Another aspect of success is to make money with the book.


Right now I have success on the Sunshine Coast. The local market is doing well. Next, I want to expand sales geographically.

I'm happy that people like the book. Covering the cost is important.

My idea of success has changed over the years. Now, I want to like what I've written. I want it done right. I want to be satisfied with my work. I feel good when people I know read what I've written and like it.

My first book was a national bestseller in three months. I was on TV immediately, and Canadian Living did a feature on me and my book.

"My vision has come true the way I hoped it would and I have a book. It's a huge accomplishment!"

I will be successful when I have steady income from this project so I can work less.

My book sold in seven languages and in the US.

"I have a book I am prodigiously proud of! I love the look in the eyes of people who pick it up for a peek!

"I'll be even more successful when I have sold all 5000 I printed and can do a reprint."


"I will know I'm successful when I've sold at least 5,000 copies and people contact me to give talks or workshops."

As you can see, self publishers define success in many ways. These seventeen authors have a variety of definitions for self publishing success. Some want monitory rewards. Some want only the sense of actually doing the job of creating a book. Some have different goals for different stages of their self publishing lives.

If you are considering self publishing, I strongly recommend that you decide going in how you will measure your success. Self publishing isn't easy. In a future article, I'll share more of what these self publishers have to say about their journeys. If you want to make money, but have no clear marketing plan, you could be in trouble. On the other hand, if you only want to hold a book -- your own book -- in your hand, spending a thousand dollars or more getting there may not be outrageous.

How Do YOU Define Self-Publishing Success?

Other visitors to this site gain a great deal by reading the self-publishing success stories of other writers. A big part of that is defining what the writer means by success.


Note that you do not have to have a book in print to have a definition of success in self-publishing.


When you share your definition here, you help others who are considering self-publishing.


If you have already printed your book, feel free to give whatever advice you can based on your personal experience. What worked well for you. What didn't.



If you think an editor would help you find success as a self publisher, I hope you will consider me. You can submit your work for a sample edit.

Some writers prefer to self-edit.

Return from Self Publishers' Define Success to Self Publishers' Survey.

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