What Nobody Tells You About Being a Best-selling Author http://ift.tt/1WWUiLm @jeffgoins #blogging

“What does your daddy do?” the teacher asked.

“He makes books,” my son Aiden replied.

Well, not exactly. But that’s the best my wife could coach our three-year-old at the time. And it works, kind of. I wonder if in a few years when he finds out I don’t actually make books, but in fact write them, that he’ll be disappointed. I know there are days when I am.

What Nobody Tells You About Being a Best-selling Author

Last week, an author friend emailed me, asking if I could promote her book because her publisher said she had a shot at “hitting the list.” What list? “Oh, I dunno,” she texted. I sighed and gave her a call.

Book launches do weird things to you. They can cloud your judgment, even make you a little selfish. As the author of four books, I’m speaking from experience. So I chatted with my friend a bit and convinced her that in the long run, it would be better for her to try to sell and help a lot of people with her book than to chase some best seller list.

The next day, I had a chat with another author who was about to launch his first book. Same kind of deal. Lots of pressure on the book launch. Lots of stress about becoming a “best seller.”

Redefining the best seller

Here’s the truth, though: being a best seller doesn’t mean what you think it does. What do I mean? Well, here. Let’s take a look at three hard truths about bestsellers:

  1. Most “bestsellers” hit the New York Times, USA Today, or Wall Street Journal best sellers list once and never sell more than a few books after that.
  2. The title “best-selling author” does NOT necessarily mean higher speaking fees, more consulting gigs, or more publicity around your brand. I have spoken with many best-selling authors about this, and they all seem to agree that this is a false assumption.
  3. There is no magic number of sales it takes to become a best seller. One author I know became a New York Times best-selling author by selling 3000 books. Another I know sold 20,000 in the first week and didn’t make that same list.

So does this mean we just shouldn’t care about becoming a “best seller”?

Not at all. Rather, we should redefine the term, or instead recapture it for what it should mean: a book that sells better than most books.

And what that means for you and me is that instead of trying to chase arbitrary titles like “New York Times best seller” we should instead seek better ways of reaching and serving an audience and getting a book (or whatever it is you have to offer) in their hands. And if the New York Times notices, fine. If not, all the better.

The point is, stop chasing things that aren’t real measurements of success. Focus on what you can control (like how many books you sell or how many people you reach). And do the best work you can when the world isn’t watching.

In the end, it’ll feel a lot better than spending $100,000 to hit a list and never be heard from again. Trust me.

For more on this, check out Tim Grahl’s free video series on what it really means to be a best seller. Click here to check it out.

Have you ever chased the wrong measurement of success? What does a best-selling book mean to you? Share in the comments.