My books have sold roughly 100 copies so far this year. If I’m being honest, 30 of those have been giveaways and free promos, making it closer to 70.
To some, this may seem like some pretty dismal stats. Truth be told, there have been times when I found myself incredibly upset at these numbers. I’d think about all the positive feedback I’ve received and find myself frustrated. Everyone who had read my work had told me how great it was. Strangers had emailed me asking when the next installment was coming because they just couldn’t get enough of Maggie and Aries…and yet, my sales were going nowhere. I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
I’d spend hours each day searching for ways to increase my sales and visibility. I’d pour over discussions in readers groups and sketch out all sorts of plans and ideas. I’d badger my friends and family members about how important word of mouth is in this business and how crucial mentions on social media can be. In my search for answers, a fellow author suggested new covers, which I agree would be a great step. However it’s a step that requires more money than I currently have to invest.
It was hopeless. I was stuck. My book was going nowhere, my blog was going nowhere, my social media accounts weren’t gaining any traction. With all this worry, I couldn’t find the energy to write anything new. My frustration began to affect the way I viewed myself and how I treated my family. I was snappy and irritable. Nothing seemed fun anymore. The symptoms of anxiety and depression began to set in.
For a while, I thought I should just give up.
Knowing how quickly things could spiral out of control, I decided I needed to take the reigns and figure out what was really bothering me. Was it that my dream was failing? Was I on the wrong path? Was the general (and often unavoidable) stress of life finally getting to me?
Or, was it something deeper?
I resolved to take a break from writing for a while and focus on isolating and solving the problem, knowing that when I returned the blank pages would still be there waiting for me to fill them up with a great story. Armed with a degree in psychology, a stack of self-help books, and a desire to get to the root of the problem, I dove into some heavy self-exploration and contemplation.
Part of the process involved clarifying what I really want my life to look like. Naturally, I want a (relatively) stress-free life where I spend my time doing the things I love and sharing my triumphs with the people I love. I want my bills to be paid and to have food on the table, and I want to do what I can to help others find happiness.
When I stepped back and looked at my dreams in their simplest terms, I realized I already had all those things. The problem was, I had developed this rigid idea of what those things looked like. I imagined overnight success and paying all my bills with money from my creative pursuits, and having enough left over to indulge in frivolous spending. I’d decided that I had to be a best-selling author right out the gate in order to be happy.
The problem wasn’t with my book sales. My problem was with my perception of them.
Suddenly, it didn’t matter. As I pondered this, I realized I’d never set out to specifically be a romance author, I just happened to be writing romance at the time. I’d also never set out to be the most famous author ever. I just wanted to do something I enjoyed and share it with others who might enjoy it, too. Due to my rigid standards of success, I’d allowed myself to lose the joy that I get from writing.
The more I thought about this, the more it became clear. The joy of creating something that wasn’t there before was all I’d ever wanted from anything I’ve endeavored. I just wanted to do something that makes me happy and put it out there for people to discover. Knowing that everything we do isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, it should naturally follow that the standard idea of success isn’t the best fit for everybody, either.
I decided to stop worrying so much and stop trying so hard. Seems counter intuitive, but in all honesty, higher sales isn’t the thing that’s going to make me feel good. Accomplishing a goal is.
There are so many things I want to do. So many books I want to write, speeches I want to give, songs I want to play, skills I want to pass on, businesses I’d like to start. To focus so much on how one lonely aspect of my creative whole is faring seems silly.
With this in mind, I can say that I’m proud of the amount of books I’ve sold since I’ve started this journey. I’m proud of the 5,000 views my blog has gotten. That’s more than I would have gotten if I’d never tried in the first place, and eventually it could do better. The next project I undertake may be the one that takes off. I just have to keep trying new things and doing what fulfills my soul, trusting that the rest will fall into place.
This small shift in perception has had remarkable effects on my mental health and on my drive to continue pursuing my passions, and it’s a lesson I wish I would have learned much earlier.
My challenge to you is to take a good, hard look at what you perceive as failures. Is there a positive you’re overlooking? Can it be reframed as abundance instead of loss? Is there another lesson to be learned that can help you move closer to your goals?
Most of the time, I think you’ll find the answer to those questions is yes. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Be proud of the lessons your failures have taught you. Carry that pride with you and continue striving towards the greatness you know is within you. Don’t let yourself get in your way.