Now that movie studios announce their "weekend gross" for examination, evaluation and comment by the public as well as by Hollywood execs and theater owners, it seems that most 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. Checks come in every month. The amounts go up and down and up again. I like what I'm doing and I expect to gradually build book sales and have an income for the rest of my life.
Other folks seem to expect an instant bestseller. They can write their own books and see how easy it isn't.
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.
(Chart from BoxOfficeMojo.com. Pool table photo from StarJumper, llicensed through fotolia.com )