Monday, February 24, 2014

What's the worst thing about book publishing?

Everybody is a goddam busybody.


Movie studios announce their "weekend gross" and the figures are published by Box Office Mojo -- an online reporting service currently averaging over two million unique visitors per month. Those millions can't possibly all be theater owners, actors, agents, producers, directors and studio bosses. Fans and groupies are intensely interested in ticket sales.

Box Office Mojo is regularly quoted in business publications like the Wall Street Journal, plus mainstream USA Today and even local newspapers such as the New York Daily News, and broadcast media.

It seems that much of the world's population has an intense desire to know the details of every commercial enterprise.

When people learn that I've written and published a bunch of books, the instant reaction is "how many have you sold?"

These people are friends, relatives and even complete strangers who would not likely ask about my salary, net worth or medical condition -- but they think it's fine to ask about my book sales.

I often feel like saying "It's none of your damn business," but the honest answer is that I don't know how many I've sold. And I don't even care how many I've sold. I make a profit. I pay my bills. Money comes in every month. The amounts go up and down and up again. I like what I'm doing and expect to have an income for the rest of my life.


Some folks seem to evaluate authors based on their bestseller status. Those busybodies can write their own damn books and see how easy it isn't. (A few of my books are bestsellers and one, strangely, was an Amazon bestseller on the first day it was available.)

And, unless you're an IRS agent or you want to make a movie based on one of my books, my sales figures really are none of your damn business.

I write primarily for personal satisfaction. After that come entertaining, informing and maybe changing the world. Fame is OK, too. I'm no longer 17 and searching for sex. I have plenty of food. I don't need to impress my parents or teachers. Making money is a very pleasant side benefit of writing, but it's not my prime motivator.


Many books about publishing (some that I've written) talk about the profitability of publishing, but there’s nothing wrong with publishing for pleasure. The cost of publishing a book may be much less than the cost of a boat, a vacation or even a pool table -- and nobody expects them to show a profit.

If you can afford to publish for fun, do it. If you can make money while having fun, that’s even better. Your motivation -- and your money -- are nobody's business but yours.


(Chart from BoxOfficeMojo.com. Pool table photo from StarJumper, licensed through fotolia.com

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